Monday: Nick is driving my father-in-law, who has been visiting us for nearly a week, to the airport and Desi goes along for the journey. I am solo with the baby. She is getting teeth and doesn’t want to be set down, but no longer tolerates containment devices like the Jumperoo. The Jumperoo has joined the Jetsons swing and the bouncy seat and the cosleeper and the baby gym in the mudroom, so that I can be visually assaulted every day by my own murky feelings of indecision regarding the end of my reproductive years!
The baby is easier in that I don’t have to make a legit meal and can eat cereal for dinner and watch TV shows with swear words and blood. And that I can chuck her in her crib and close the door and not lose hours of my finite lifetime to bedtime in what is called The Battle of Stallin’grad in my house, with um apologies to the million+ lives lost in that actual battle. But she is harder because I can’t set her down without her keening pathetically, so everything is done one-handed or not at all. The minutes until 6:30, when I can start her dumb little baby bedtime routine, are d r a g g i n g. I am just standing over her as she pursues with laser focus every errant bit of plastic film or clot of dust as though trained for this purpose, a drug dog but for crap. It’s well-tread territory to say that being obsessed with your baby to the point of wishing you could distill her down into powder and snort rails of her is not at odds with finding the care of her so boring you could just die. And yet!! I had kind of forgotten about this. Wow, I think to myself as I supervise her, This is what it is to just sit with my thoughts. I hate this! I put on a podcast. That’s better.
I get so excited about how I’m going to go to bed early after Jane goes down, by nine maybe!!!, that I accidentally drink three High Lifes from the 24-pack my father-in-law bought and scroll eBay and Poshmark until midnight.
Tuesday: Nick leaves for his conference. I manage to pack my gym clothes for work and do my training run on the treadmill at lunch so that my training schedule is not interrupted by my co-parent’s absence. I feel like hot shit, high on my own supply of competence.
Bedtime is the current scourge of my days. They are both in full-time care, so while the dishes and laundry will pile up all week, I am not being bleached into the spirit plane by full-time caregiving.
At 6:30, I put a half-hour show on for Desi and tell him he cannot ask for me until I emerge from the kids’ room after putting Janie down. I do bath, bottle, and sit in the rocking chair with her for longer than necessary. The light in their room is moody and diffuse because it’s east-facing and because today it’s overcast. I sing her “Walk the Line”, which is a song Johnny Cash definitely wrote about seeing yourself through your children’s eyes and wanting to be better.
When I finally deposit her in her crib, Desi is quietly sitting on the couch watching TV, an angel of obedience. Nick and I talk about “good listening” with him all the time and what I’m realizing is that we are using it as a stand-in for the retro concept of “obedience.” My parents were big on obedience, which seems outdated and yet...I want my kid to do what I say and I call it “good listening.”
Right as I allow the dangerous thought to creep in that bedtime is going so well because my partner is not involved, it goes completely off the rails. I move Desi to my bed to keep him from waking Jane. I am whisper-yelling at him about his inability to listen, which is really about my inability to control him. As a Hail Mary, I threaten to have my parents call off their upcoming visit. What? I will not actually do this. Now I’m out of control.
He asks me why my grandparents never visit. I’m assaulted by a smash-cut to the priest swinging incense at my grandparents’ Catholic funerals. I think of my one surviving grandparent, who shares Desi’s birthday, but who no longer knows who I am.
“Well, most of my grandparents are dead. Do you know what that means?”
We’ve talked about dying before but I see him really consider it, tucked under the covers of my bed. He sits up, panicked. “Will Janie die?!”
I tell him that Janie will die because everyone dies, but not for a hundred years.
I bring lunch to my friend on maternity leave and hold her four-week-old baby. I’m always awkward holding newborns I didn’t personally grow. She still has the smell. She is perfect and a calming, warm pressure on my chest. This is what’s being commodified with the popularity of weighted blankets, I think. I remember with a thrill that I still have my own at home.
I break my favorite mug trying to keep Jane out of the cat food dish that night. It was a wedding favor I received nearly ten years ago, handmade by the groom. Not the sort of thing you can replace. I hold her on my hip as I sweep up the shards.
There is a Buddhist teaching about appreciating your morning teacup because you know it is already broken. It’s about nonattachment; someday the teacup will be broken but today it is not. With my second baby, I can see her as the older child or adult she will someday be. I was never able to do that with my first baby. I know that she isn’t mine to keep. And then I am also out here literally breaking crockery.
I forgot to pack a sandwich for Desi for his lunch which is really the only thing he eats. He calls it to my attention in the brattiest possible tone in the car after I pick him up. I pull out an old waitressing tactic of treating confrontational, entitled people with over-the-top sympathy. It always destabilizes them.
“You know, your dad usually helps me remember stuff like that and when he’s gone, I don’t always get it right. I’m really sorry. How did it feel when you opened your lunch and you didn’t have a sandwich?”
He bursts into tears. (Got ‘im.) “I just….I just really like my sandwich.” I cry, too, in spite of myself. We are really through the looking glass now. For dinner, I serve him the sandwich that was left sitting on the kitchen counter all day.
The fuck is going on here, I wonder? I realize it’s been a while since my last period. Many weeks. I check my period tracker app and see that I’m a few days late. Wow, I am an idiot who deserves this!!! Haha I’m so fucked!!!!, I think. I get my period within the hour and celebrate by downing a few more yellow beers.
I don’t remember emailing a toddler sleep consultant last night but she has already emailed me back. My parents will arrive later today, another set of hands to help, and Nick will be home in a few days.
Desi is next to me in the bed and tells me I’m his best friend. I kiss his beautiful face but I don’t tell him that, sorry, my best friends are all adult women. “Let’s go see if Janie’s up!” he says and we do.
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