I want to remember the intensity of today because it was the best of times and the worst of times. We’re on day four of the nap strike of 2014: 20 minute catnaps once or twice a day is all we can coax out of these angry, screamy, teething children. It has been a loooonnnng day.
Today was also the first time I have felt like this whole motherhood gig was really possible. Possible for the long haul. For the 18 year haul. We made it out of the house this afternoon for a long walk and I had time to process the mess swirling in my brain: family relationships, grad applications and possibilities, to-do lists, baby development, marriage, meal planning and the clarity feels so HUGE after so many months spent merely surviving each day, snatching a few precious moments of giggles or snuggles before the next meltdown. Thanks to the beauty of the digital age, I can re-live those adorable moments (moments people. moments.) during the less-adorable hours/days and then the mommy hormones kick in so I forget all the screaming and poop and eagerly rush in to soothe the next screaming child.
It is so hard, this learning-how-to-care-for-tiny-people business. And, on top of the generally enormous child-development learning curve, I’ve found myself wondering at what age my own issues/insecurities/failings will really start to impact the twins (while skyping yesterday, my dad kindly assured me that they already are. so. sorry kids.) and how/if I can do anything to protect them from the worst of me. Mostly parenting feels like our 3 am pacifier hunts in the dark: frantic because of the screaming child, angry because we just smacked our heads on the crib again, exhausted because…3am. And then we turn on each other and I pick fights about how curtains should hang and the dirty socks on the living room floor. It’s messy, this new life. We are bad at it. We like to think we are nailing it most of the time but I am pretty sure that most of the time they are just being easy babies and we are watching netflix.
So here is our terrible awesome day:
This morning, after a blissful 5 hour sleep stretch and another hour + of sleeping in while dad/husband-of-the-year watched the babes, Drew left for work and the three of us took a lovely walk bundled in our first fall layers and there was even some snoozing along the way (and all of that wonderful introvert thinking time). Then I spent three hours trying to help these children nap, culminating in 20 minutes of blissful chowder and homemade bread eating while reading two chapters of a new book. Cue more screaming, nursing, and another fruitless hour attempting to recover the lost naps. I finally give up and plop both babies in a jumper. They are immediately adorable, jumping and jabbering at each other. I’m like..(!)…(?)…(!)…and plug in my sewing machine to finish some black-out curtains for their room. They happily bounce away for AN HOUR while I finish up my project, hang the curtains and eat a bag of m&m’s.
Of course, by now it is 4pm and the nap-less day has thoroughly caught up with everyone and I cannot stop the screaming. (Sometimes I worry that our neighbors will think I’m neglecting or beating them so I shout things like “I’m sorry Rowan that you have to be on the floor by yourself for a few minutes, I have to feed your sister first! I know it makes you so sad but I’ll be there in a minute!” and he’s like “maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam. (someone call DCFSSSSSS!) waaaaaaaaaaaaa“. Am I the only one who worries about this? Although I am capable of wanting to hurt my children in my frustration and rage, I promise I control myself! And I’m not starving them out!) Cue frantic call to Drew for rescue.
Anyway, it all ends amazingly with the babies falling asleep literally as Drew pulls into the parking lot, then one waking up to scream the minute he sets down his bag (total nap time: 2 minutes) while he shoves me out the door to enjoy the bliss of NPR, driving in the rain and grocery shopping for wine and chocolate and avocados.
(“I think the real reason we need to trim our grocery budget is so we can increase our wine budget.”- said Drew upon my return home. The babies, of course, were being perfect for Dad. No wine for them.)
But there was this thing that happened today where I didn’t just feel like I was holding on. I felt like ME. Like the old Julianne who has long since been buried under the extra 30 lbs of lingering pregnancy weight and the round-the-clock demands of nursing and the isolated suburban life. For that hour of happy bouncing children I listened to calming folksy tunes with the windows open wide to let in the cool fall afternoon and I was creative and creating and it was beautiful. And in that hour I realized that my former self and my mom self might be able to exist together in these unexpected times of peace and delight.
I’m not big on dualities and I trust that over time this new identity of Julianne/Mom will feel a bit more natural and my mom-shoes won’t give me any more blisters and I’ll remember to write birthday cards and thoughtful emails and knit gifts again. But for now I’m taking the small moments as they come. I’m too cynical to join the rest of you joyful people in those 1000 gifts/100 days of gratitude projects but I can be thankful for this day. For extra sleep and creativity and quiet minutes alone in traffic in the rain.
(Ann Voskamp would say something like “all is grace” here. So, that. Plus my motto: “wine and chocolate”.)