thing from today
Whooping cough at my daughter’s school. Right now I’m in favor of making a list of names of people that opt out and forcing vaccines on them.
I’m pregnant. My doc was super wrong and looks like I wrote all that sappy shit for nothing! Miracle #2 drops in April…
Maybe someday, in a book that hasn’t been written yet, I will still use this little guy as my bookmark. Maybe I will prop my pillow up on my bed and settle in, sun streaming through my sheer curtains. Maybe I will remember the morning she spent quietly drawing a little person and taping him together in pieces. Maybe that day will be a good day, and I will remember these afternoons with the sun and windows and pillows and quiet and I will sigh and be okay.
Back when we lived in Chicago, we went to a White Sox game. I was about 20 weeks along, barely showing, but just starting to feel Caroline move around. I didn’t even know she was a she. She wasn’t doing much yet. Later in my pregnancy, she would stretch way out, longways across my belly, arms up over her head (as much as I could tell), the same way she slept as a baby and the same way I catch her sleeping every now and then. This position kept me from looking pregnant for a long time, I really only looked overweight, puffy faced and wide stomached. It was a hot night and it had taken forever to get to the stadium, and would take even longer to get home on a work night. My back ached in the hard seats and I wanted to go home.
The White Sox scored a home run and fireworks went off. It was very, very loud, and suddenly Caroline started going crazy. She moved around way more than she ever had and seemed to be kicking very rapidly. Without thinking, I moved my hands to my stomach and rubbed them around, the way you might comfort a newborn by rubbing its back. It was in this moment that I first got a glimpse of myself as a real mother. Comforting my baby in distress would be something I would come to know well, something I have done now thousands of times, sometimes literally in my sleep.
Her kicking slowed under my hands. The fireworks continued to blast, then subsided, and I hoped my baby was no longer scared or frantic or whatever she was feeling. What I know is that she was responding to an outside stimulus, maybe out of fear, maybe simply neurological.
That baby, who stretched her tiny body across the inside of mine like a cat in the sun, felt something, reacted to something. That means something. I was 20 weeks pregnant.
By far the hardest part of being a parent is allowing your child to experience pain. Today two little bitches were mean to Caroline at a birthday party. Luckily, she didn’t hear what they said about her, only I did. What I wanted to do was pull the little c-words down by their ponytails and stomp them. What I did was nothing. If it is possible to literally feel your heart break, I might have felt that.
I have been reflecting so much on the significance of Caroline starting school. Mostly, I think about what it means for me, how it means that I have to let go and relinquish the control I have had over every aspect of her life for the last 5 years.
But it’s really about her. I think how she will learn that some people aren’t very nice. I think about how this is the very beginning of her learning to navigate her own life. Sure, I will still be here as her mother, to help her figure these things out. But it’s beginning to be on her. She will experience the pain of a friend being mean or leaving her out. I won’t be able to take on that pain and deflect it from her. It’s killing me.
As a parent you recognize your child’s faults, but they are still so precious to you. To me, Caroline is so sensitive and sweet. She’s definitely a little weirdo, but to me it’s endearing and unique. I have forgotten how truly awful children are, and that all we’ve taught her that makes her a little eccentric might hurt her. But that’s good. As a parent, I need her to learn that some people aren’t very nice. It is so crucial that we let them out into the world, little by little. She has to learn who the mean girls are in order to identify her real friends. I truly hope I can give my child the confidence to find the nice kids, to be a nice kid herself.
Growing up as a parent is very, very hard. Watching a little person become a bigger person is amazing, but knowing all the pain and hard stuff that’s coming is almost too much to bear at times. Setting a good example, being the better person (NOT curbing two five year olds at a birthday party) and being there to soothe the hurts are all part of this deal.
I don’t know how we all survived childhood. I really don’t.
A few weeks ago we got some news that means, with some certainty, Caroline will remain an only child. This news wasn’t really shocking, but it was upsetting. As we have had some time to let it sink in I have come to better terms with it. I have to say, the hardest part has been being on Facebook. I took a little break from it all awhile back, took the app off my phone and didn’t check in for a week or two. But then I slowly started checking back in. The main thing I felt like I needed a break from was the group of people I know from college who are all steadily building their own little armies of children. Good for them, really. Great for them.
However, every last one of them cycles around the same set of articles about how the entire world is against them, what they believe, and how hard it is to have a large family these days. Every careless comment from a stranger about the many children they are toting around seems to indicate something extremely upsetting. Certainly any jerk drawing attention to you in a negative way is embarassing. I know this. At least once a week I am asked when we will have another child. I am told by strangers in the park, restaurants, the bathroom, that my daughter needs a sibling. I do not sit down a write diatribe about what this means about our society and its values. If anything, what it says is that people are very rude and feel completely comfortable saying anything they want to perfect strangers.
And these dear, smart, funny people are all falling apart. All of them, at some point has mentioned how horribly difficult it is to have so many children. Each shattered milk cup, diaper blowout, sleepless, feverish night is another indicator of how we bear a cross for the cause of being open to life.
And this is ok. It is a sacrifice to stay home with kids. But it’s also a sacrifice to work, at any job, with or without kids. Being an adult isn’t fun. We all want to sleep more, we all want to travel.
The life you are living is the life you have been given. Live it. I fully realize that I can unfollow these people, stop reading the articles, stop using every cry for fellowship from these lonely and tired mothers as a reflection of how I’m failing. I’m not failing. They are not failing either.
In September Justin will attend grad school full time. I will go back to work. Caroline will start Kindergarten. These things would be much harder to juggle with more kids. Money will be tighter and our time together will be less frequent. I’m ok with this! It would have been much harder to work through the decision for Justin to quit his job if we already had another kid. It’s hard to not think these things fell into place for a reason. Maybe they did, but maybe it’s just the life we have been given. We are struggling through it like anyone else.
It is hard to not think about the future, to think that some day I will sit back and wish we had had more. But more of what? More happiness? More love in this family of 3? It can’t be possible for my heart to be any fuller than it already is. There is no hole waiting to be filled. And if it is a “miracle,” as my doctor said, that I even have Caroline, then I will take that miracle and go forward. We will be ok.
There is nothing novel or surprising about the fact that after seeing David Sedaris last night I have only good things to say. I’m sure many people would consider him too big now, too mainstream, which is an attitude I reject. Like most reading people, I’ve read all his stuff and find it hilarious and moving. He spoke last night for over an hour, to an almost packed house at the Dallas Winspear Opera House. He read from his new collection, (which includes essays he has written specifically for teenagers participating in Forensics, after being told by many of them that they perform his work all the time. This delighted Justin) some new stories he’s working on, and musings from his diary. The audience was was great, an often tough feat here in Dallas. After the show he stayed for over 4 hours signing each and every book put before him. He stayed so long because he spent a good five minutes talking with each person who came up. Justin and I brought a book from home and purchased the new book there. When it came for our turn, he opened my book to discover that I had left my niece’s “Flat Stanley” (which I had brought to take a picture in front of the Opera House). His fatigued eyes lit up, “Oh this is so cute!” he said. I explained what it was and he signed my book accordingly.
I can’t say enough good about this author known by the entire world. His tour is putting him in a different city each night, and he brings such a genuine, gracious attitude with him. His anecdotes between stories were clearly off the cuff, which made it seem like a conversation with close friends. The time he spent chatting with us during the signing was endearing and kind. He seemed genuinely impressed when I mentioned Justin was starting SMU’s MFA acting program in the fall during our discussion of Forensics and theater. He asked what our plan was, what I would do, and laughed at story I told about our daughter.
To engage with an artist that has no monetary incentive to visit with fans in this way is remarkable. I’ve been reading Sedaris since college. His work is so personal that I feel like I know him, and the genuineness translates so palpably. Even though he is widely read and known, it is restorative to see so many people delighted by an author. In this age of smart phones and dearth of human interaction, it was wonderful to see so many people waiting hours just to engage with an artitst whose work means something to them.
In 2007, filmmaker Werner Herzog dedicated his documentary Encounters at the End of the Worldto Roger Ebert. At one point during Herzog’s commentary track, he calls Ebert “a warrior of the cinema.” Ebert responded to the compliment in a letter to Herzog.
My favorite part of Ebert’s letter:
I believe you have never made a film depending on sex, violence or chase scenes…You have avoided this content, I suspect, because it lends itself so seductively to formulas, and you want every film to be absolutely original.
You have also avoided all “obligatory scenes,” including artificial happy endings… And you don’t use musical scores that tell us how to feel about the content. Instead, you prefer free-standing music that evokes a mood: You use classical music, opera, oratorios, requiems, aboriginal music, the sounds of the sea, bird cries, and of course Popol Vuh.
All of these decisions proceed from your belief that the audience must be able to believe what it sees. Not its “truth,” but its actuality, its ecstatic truth.
You can read all of Ebert’s letter to Herzog here.
Still from Encounters at the End of the World
This is really beautiful.