From 2 to 3, just like that.

img_2638Last night I went to say good night to my not so terribly little daughter. I curled up next to her, wrapped my arms around her, and begged her to close her eyes and go to sleep. I wanted to drink her in and, for once, have her fall asleep next to me. She’s never been able to do that. Countless times, she’s fallen asleep in my arms, back when she was my nursling.But even then, I had to get her in bed before she’d been out too long because Edie was not able to stay asleep anywhere but in her own bed. Once, somewhere around her second birthday after she’d moved from a crib into a twin sized bed, I snuggled up with her hoping that with this new found space, maybe now we could doze off together. But after a few minutes, she patted my cheek and said “Mama, go see Daddy.”  I was able to laugh then and be on my way, but last night, I was trying to hold time still and keep her at two for as long as I could. But, it’s not a child’s job to soothe her parent, and I managed to leave my not-at-all-sleeping kid before she wondered what I was up to.

Because she would wonder, before long. Nothing distresses her more than seeing me in distress.The handful of times I’ve banged my head or stubbed my toe with such force I wasn’t able to laugh it off, she’s oftentimes fallen at my feet, trembling, waiting for me to smile. These days if she thinks I’ve hurt myself, she jogs over chanting, “It’s ok. It’s ok, mom. It’s ok.” Half reassurance, half question. When it’s physical pain, I am quick to let her know that it isok, but I have a harder time when what’s wrong is day three of a grinding headache caused by her screaming brother and exacerbated by exhaustion. I don’t want to shield her from all negative emotions, but I do want her to trust that her mom, in the end, is always ok. Usually this takes the form of an explanatory talk once cooler heads can prevail.

My sensitive girl. I know that I’m toughest on my Edie, pushing her behave, speaking to her like an adult, pressing her to explain her thoughts and feelings, and encouraging her to play on her own. But this does not mean that she does not both break and light up my heart, nor is my toughness itself always the right call. Just a few weeks ago I saw her dancing around near a group of her friends, looking hesitant and wide-eyed. I stepped closer and heard a classmate whom I know Edie adores say “This is only for big kids. You can’t sit down.” And I may have wanted to let her work this out, but instead I said flatly in my best Tony Soprano-esque low voice, “She’s big enough. Go ahead and sit down, honey.” Best believe that no one argued with me.

When Edie woke up today, I pulled her into bed with me. Again, looking to hang on. I whispered “happy birthday” and held her tight. But Eli woke up, and the school day was approaching, so I had to chase her- and drag myself – out of that warm bed and get started on this day that would tick by, just like all the rest. I’d made her a birthday present: a “this is your life” style book that chronicled the highlights of her first thirty-six months. It crushed me to make, but I knew she’d love it, since she had been asking all kinds of questions about her life since her brother was born. Edie has wanted to know about her birth story, where she’s lived, and what she’s done. So this was my way of telling her. I couldn’t wait for this evening to give it to her, so I brought it out before breakfast. She climbed in my lap and I read it. Half way through, I looked down at her face and saw she was getting really overwhelmed. I said, “hey, what’s up.” Then the tears began to fall. Quiet sobbing, not in pain or anger. I asked her what was wrong – a silly reflex, considering I don’t think adults are typically capable of fully grasping the “what” in that question during the heat of the moment. She mumbled something about a beloved water bottle that she had lost and missed.I held her tight and promised I’d get her a new one. I asked if she wanted me to keep reading and she nodded fervently. So I did. And then it was over, too.

In a flash, she was out the door, armed with her new book and a lunch filled with her favorite things, and her Dad balancing two giant containers of minicupcakes for her class to have today. Tonight, we are getting a sitter for two hours to come and watch baby brother so Edie can have a dinner of undivided parental attention. And I am so grateful that for the moment, that is still in the future.

I’m not even really a baby person. I like my own babies (though they confuse and frustrate me to no end), and I have an appreciation for the babies of family and friends. But I’ve never had baby fever. I’m a kid person, and my Edie is truly a kid now. It is fun and only getting better. I joke that my kids took my youth and beauty. I mean, I joke, but it’s true. But they take so much more than that. They take your armor, expose you to the truth that you control nothing. And that has been a bitter pill for me to swallow. That it all goes by so fast is a cliché, no doubt. But what else is there to say? Nothing this hard, this magical, this grueling, this gorgeous could do anything but pass quickly, or else no one could bear it.

Happy Birthday, Edie! If I had it to do over, I think I would. I don’t know that I could do better, but I can’t lie and say I wouldn’t want to try. I love you so much it hurts, but I’d never want to go a moment without it.

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Get a job, woman

Not sure how much longer hubs can be the only one working for the man. 
Or woman. 
Or sock monkey.

Today, like too many days, I drank coffee in order to a fill a hole where sleep should go. This left me jittery and even more spastically talkative than usual.  I went to a gathering of some neighborhood moms, and over the course of a half an hour, I overheard that another mom there was a lawyer who is now staying at home with her child. I proceeded to think she was someone I’d already met (she wasn’t). I then immediately segued into proposing we set up shop together as contract attorneys, deftly using our legal skills and our maternal gifts as time-management geniuses to make bucks while raising the youngin’s.  Since she had resigned not three months prior, and her child is five months old, she rightfully backed away slowly as I let my caffeine-haze pummel her with my misplaced enthusiasm.  Besides just tired and socially-awkward, though, I am always secretly hoping that if I keep my feelers out, the universe will sweep in and pull me in the career path I was destined for.  Alas.  This time, it may end in a restraining order instead.

Is 2013 the year of the job for me? It goes without saying that being a stay at home mom is work.  But, in case it needed saying: it is work.  Lots of work.  Bottomless fount of über-repetitive, cyclical rather than linear work, with tons, and tons, of bodily-fluid clean up involved.  By “job” I mean to refer to something that fits into the capitalist framework of fee-for-service.

I won’t get into the ways in which I am challenged being home with the kids.  Because that’s a sort of never-ending side track for me.  Suffice it to say, I’m challenged in ways I’d never encountered; in ways that have nothing to do with intellect, adult social interactions or validation. But there is one aspect of it all that is a bit of a crutch to me is that I have long-harbored the fear that I could never really be employed long-term.  So, being a stay at home mom has stoked that fear, keeping me out of the career loop as I hear about my friends and former classmates climbing the ranks, while my resume rots and my meager skills evaporate.  I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.  But it is a nagging and dark place in my thoughts, this whole job thing.

So, then, why go to law school?  I honestly don’t know.  But I don’t think many fully know why we do what we do.  I think we backwards rationalize our decisions to give ourselves a satisfactory narrative.  I mean, I like the content of a legal education.  So I guess that’s why I did it in part.  And that being a lawyer meant that working for “justice” in some grand sense was possible.  But I did not ever have a concrete sense of what kind job I saw myself in.  What I do know is that I am very decisive.  I don’t him and haw. I do.  This is not to say I am always (or ever) pleased with my decisions, from what to order in a restaurant to what house to buy, but, dang it, I fill in that circle on life’s Scantron sheet and I turn the page.  And therefore, I applied. I attended. I got my JD. But when it comes to committing to gainful employment, I am running scared.

My fear is that I could never stay put in one job long term.  I’ve been employed in some capacity or another since I was 15.  Since 12 if you count baby sitting jobs. (Yes, people let me babysit at the age of 12. And in turn they got a super-enthusiastic sitter who – armed with a precocious sense of responsibility as well as a comprehensive knowledge of childcare based on the informational series The Babysitters Club –  arrived with lesson plans and games in exchange for sweatshop wages.  In sharp contrast to 17 year old baby sitting me, who let your kids run amok, and got them in bed as soon as possible so I could talk on your phone, eat your snacks, and watch your glorious cable television.) I have always doubted my own stick-to-itiveness when it comes to a real grown-up job. I’m 31 now, and between a lot of years of school and these past three at home with the kids, I’ve certainly not proven myself wrong yet.

Right now, Eli is six months old.  Edie is a few weeks away from being three years old.  Though I’m in the thick of it with little Eli, Edie is on her way to being a full time school-er.  And while he’s six months now, this baby time is so so fleeting.  Not just in a wistful, ‘where do the days go?’ way.  Also in a temporal sense that is making me ponder my next move.

On any given day, I have an entirely different sense of what I want to be when I grow up.  I want to be a lactation consultant.  I want to open my own practice for family law.  I want to get back into public interest, working for equality, providing access to legal services to the under-served. Maybe I want to homeschool my kids.  And, I want to do none of that but instead focus on writing and blogging and somehow turn that into a career.  I do wonder whether I will ever be able to pull the trigger here.

My husband and I, we want to retire one day.  And one day, his sad old little car will die and he will need a replacement – at a minimum a sound mule or a pair of roller blades – to get to work.  These things, among others, depend in part on me getting a job.  I also know that I want to work outside my home, to be challenged in ways that involve little-to-no bodily fluids.  And I know that this is no small goal, given the sad state of the economy and sadder state of my skillset. 

It’s too scary to commit to 2013 being my job year.  I’m not there yet.  But I do want to take some steps, mental or tangible.  Because it’s getting to that point.  And I think if I try to take another bar exam to put this off much further, I may get arrested for fraud.  Three is enough, Rach.  Saddle up.