I am {maybe} crying over a carseat

I don’t get overly sentimental when the girls outgrow clothes and toys. There’s a sweet nostalgia in holding up teeny jammies and shoes as you sort them to make room for bigger sizes, but that feeling has never made me sad. I always find it more remarkable, incredulous that they were EVER that size, like it’s some sort of optical illusion.

I’ve found hand-me-downs to be one of the greatest gifts throughout parenthood, and I get overly excited to donate the things we no longer use, like I’m initiating another baby into a bizarre, circle-of-life-type ritual.

But tonight, as I packed up the Graco infant car seat and base to pass along, I felt my guts being ripped out. I carried that awkward, back-cramp-inducing contraption across the house on its final flight for our family and felt a crushing wave of emotion.

It’s not because I want another baby, or hadn’t realized we’re fully past the days of wee, squirmy creatures. I think what I felt was recognition of the journey — both literal and figurative — we’ve been on since we purchased that carseat.

It was the first “big” thing we bought while we were pregnant with Lila. It was a stressful trip to Buy Buy Baby where I had no idea what we needed, or how to put a baby in it, but insisted it *had* to be a gender-neutral color.

We carted it home in a monstrous box where it sat until a few weeks before my due date when I insisted we have it installed and ready to go. Because, you know, “they won’t let you leave the hospital without one.” A final attempt at control before all control was lost.

That carseat safely carried each baby girl home from the hospital, to countless days at daycare, dozens of pediatrician appointments and the occasional trip to urgent care. It lulled them to sleep in the car, endured their screams and witnessed their giggles. It was an 8-pound plastic vessel I cursed on so many occasions because it was difficult to maneuver and a hazard to carry in heels.

A conduit to playdates, parks and museums, it was present for the hardest days of post-partum depression and the most fulfilling early outings. It was where, just one time, I forgot to buckle you before driving partially down the street and pulling over in one of the worst moments of guilt and shame in my life.

It’s a carseat, you know. Not a special blanket or holiday outfit or treasured lovey. But it’s woven into more early parenthood experiences and memories than any other object.

I’m thankful for the memories, grateful for the protection and ready to pass it on. But I still feel like sitting around and crying about it.

Local Phoenix peeps: if you have a carseat you’ve outgrown that has not been in an accident, AZ Helping Hands will gladly take it and pass it on to a foster family, which is what we’ve chosen to do.

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UNLESS

Last week I had a chance to read to Lila’s pre-k class, an experience that was equal parts terrifying (25 unfiltered small children in my personal space) and rewarding (25 people giving me their undivided attention with zero judgement).

We read The Lorax, a current favorite, and when I say “we,” I mean it – sister co-narrated the entire book with me. It went really well — until the last page. The page with the quote this story is always known for:

UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, It’s not.

Literally out of NOWHERE I totally choked up reading it: tears, croaky voice, etc. I managed to semi-awkwardly finish and my adorable audience didn’t seem to notice.

I’ve read this story no fewer than 40 times and I’ve never reacted that way before. I don’t actually know if I’ve ever had an emotional response to a children’s book. It felt completely out of character and I spent the evening analyzing wtf had overcome me in that classroom.

And honestly, I think it was the fact that earlier that day I’d heard a gut wrenching NPR story interviewing survivors of various school shootings. The raw emotion of that segment was enough to bring anyone to tears, made infinitely worse by the fact that beyond thoughts and prayers, I have to wonder what we’ve actually done to keep our babies safer.

I saw the article below the same day and recognized that ultimately, what I experienced in that classroom was a profound sadness about an inevitable loss of innocence — of safety and protection — that’s been kept sacred within those walls.

I’m not just talking about violent acts, though.

Lila and her classmates — many of whom I’ve known since they were babies — will go to kindergarten later this year. And no matter where we obsess about sending them, and how many school tours we endure, every one of them will start a new chapter. Each of them will shed the last remaining traces of toddlerhood in exchange for full-fledged childhood.

And it’s amazing. And exciting. But also so, so, sad. This change marks the end of a beautiful, insulated stage of life and motherhood. One that’s been challenging, sure, but indescribably wonderful.

That Lorax quote though…it makes me question if I (or anyone, really) is caring enough — a whole awful lot — to make the world a better place for the next generation. And for better or for worse, that’s enough to make me cry in front of two dozen small humans.

 

 

 

Do we get to do it because we’re women, or do we have to do it because we’re women?

My favorite outfit in third grade was pairing my turquoise denim overall shorts with my elementary school t-shirt, which was gray with a turquoise coyote. I wore the overalls with one strap up, one strap down, in solidarity with 90s Will Smith. I was so fierce when I wore this. I even rocked it for my school pictures, so luckily it’s been preserved in yearbooks for eternity.

Looking back, this is all kinds of horrifying. But it’s an example of how your identity, standards and story will evolve over time.  The essence of what you know to be right and true one day might completely change when you’re prompted to see things differently

I’m 35 now and my fashion sense, while still questionable, has changed. My thoughts and ideas about lots of other things have changed, too. Age makes a difference, and becoming a parent creates some wild mind shifts.

These days, I spend a lot of time considering the type of example my choices and identity are setting for my girls. I often wonder how to teach them what really matters, and how to know their worth. I want to help them discover what they should accept in life and what I hope they’ll challenge. It’s easy to have convictions about all of these things, but when faced with modeling them in real-time, it gets harder.

Life can be messy and mean, and society creates terrible pressures. Women face this in uniquely challenging ways.

Maybe it’s impossible to spare my kiddos from any of the madness, considering how pervasive it is, but if I can’t do that, I’d at least like to equip them with the tools to navigate through it. If they can’t be immune to something, I hope they can they be thoughtful about it.

This thought process has prompted me to rethink how the subtle things they see me do each day might impact how they perceive themselves.

For example, I wonder what they think when they see me put makeup on before work: is it a rite of passage they’ll partake in one day, or something they need to do to be more appealing to the world? Is it a perk of growing up, or a massive industry telling them they’re not enough? Do we get to do it because we’re women, or do we have to do it because we’re women?

What do they see when I straighten my hair? A chance to show up differently, or pressure to conform and take up less space?

What do little girls think if they see their mom do these things – make efforts to appear differently to go out into the world – and their dad doesn’t?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. I genuinely don’t know how I feel about them. There are contingencies and nuances in every direction, but this gets to the crux of what I’m sitting with.

I don’t think wearing makeup or styling your hair any way you choose is wrong – I still do these things. But lately I do them less, and I think about them more. I’m trying to find the balance between feeling worthy on the inside, and demonstrating that on the outside, in a way that feels authentic and right.

 

Maya at 20 Months

Dear Maya,

It’s ironic how accurately the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, There was a Little Girl, depicts you.

There was a little girl, 
Who had a little curl, 
Right in the middle of her forehead. 
When she was good, 
She was very, very good, 
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

It’s safe to say that 99 percent of the time you are an absolute a delight. And that other one percent? I wouldn’t call it horrid, but you can let out some very emphatic NOOOOOs. And if something truly displeases you, the mood transition from sunny to stormy comes quickly and without a filter.

Fortunately, the vast majority of the time you’re nothing if not easygoing; always smiling, cuddly and goofy. You are happy to do anything your sister does, and also wonderful at playing by yourself; you can stay entertained for great lengths of time looking at books, playing with puzzles or fixated on a particular task. Despite being more of a little girl than a baby each day, you love to snuggle and be held. You laugh and laugh, deep belly laughs and hilarious giggles and there’s no sweeter sound on earth.

Your curls have a mind of their own, which I understand all too well. Seeing how everyone reacts to your ringlets with such glee makes me contemplate why I ever straighten my own.

We’re astounded by your vocabulary and ability to string together words already, although commands are still your forte, especially STOP and MINE.

You’re a great eater, and particularly enjoy hard-boiled eggs, apple sauce, fruit, hummus and dipping anything into anything else…I mean, I’ve seen you dip blueberries in ketchup, for example. You don’t share your sister’s love for raw tomatoes or salmon, but you both love yogurt, shakes and carrots with a passion.

I sense you’re an introvert based on how you process changes in social situations, new people and unfamiliar surroundings. No matter how many times you have been somewhere, you still need time to acclimate when you arrive. Once you have a 10-minute period to warm up, it’s off to the races.

You love the park, particularly the slide, and are a big fan of climbing and coloring.

You are not a fan of having your face washed or going to the doctor. Can’t blame you, sister.

You give deep, intense stares at new things, and are obsessed with dogs (wuff wuffs), Good Night Moon, Baby Shark and hide and seek.

We are so proud of the tiny person you are becoming and feel blessed beyond belief to be your family.

 

Maya at 18 months. But also, sisterhood.

Before I wrote this, I re-read Lila’s 18-month update, and the similarities are uncanny, even down to favorite words and activities. And while this is a post celebrating Maya, it would be incomplete without a proper tribute to the ongoing bond between these two girls. Nothing makes either one happier than the other. Lila has insane patience with Maya, endlessly committed to making her laugh, and soothing her when she cries. She talks to her in a special voice reserved just for her sister, and strokes Maya’s cheek and tickles her neck any time she’s sad.

It’s so fantastically heartwarming. Nothing beats it. When we came home from swim class a few weekends ago, Maya was at the grocery store with Jim, and Lila sat on the kitchen floor in distress. “I don’t like it when Maya’s not here, momma, it’s too quiet. If she’s not here, I won’t be happy.”

Maya has a similar affinity for Lila. Every morning she wakes up and points to her bedroom door repeatedly commanding “thith-ter” until we take her to Lila’s room. The same thing happens at school pick up – I always get Maya first, and she immediately starts saying, “thith-ter, Yi-la,” and pointing to her classroom – where she makes a beeline straight toward her. And they hug* and squeal and I’m not kidding this happens every day and is life.

*Nine out of ten times Lila hugs Maya too tightly and then when she releases her, Maya falls and cries. We’ve grown used to this and I don’t think it’s changing any time soon.

The favorite game these two play is every night after dinner, when they’re freshly bathed and on the dangerous cusp of being super exhausted and really, really hyper. They chase each other around the kitchen island then collapse onto the dog beds yelling “night night.” Over. And. Over. Again. And we’re fairly confident one day soon this will cause a head injury, but until that day, party on.

But this was supposed to be a post about Maya and it got hijacked. Enter the plight of the second child.

Maya – you are unbelievably sweet. Despite entering full-on toddlerhood, you love to cuddle and be held. Your teachers describe you as “melty” because you have this amazing way of melting into someone who holds you.

You talk non-stop, and are extremely verbal and expressive. The words we hear most often are yaaa, no, mah (more), agua, mama, dada, go, bye-bye, hi, ca-ca (cracker), poo poo and a host of animal sounds. But we also get dozens of other words and expressions. Emphatic oh-nos, shrieks of the dogs’ names and even da-da-doo-doo because that effing shark song is everywhere.

You are a quiet observer, and my sense is you’re an introvert, because after you’ve had a lot of activity you often slip away to look at books in your room, or play by yourself. You take time to process people and situations before engaging and are selective about who you will let hold you. The way to your heart is, ironically, chasing you – because this is VERY FUNNY.

You love to make us laugh, and have a solid mischievous streak. When you’re told, “no,” you often grin, laugh uproariously and run away. This makes it difficult to scold you.

Your hair is as curly as can be and you still refuse to wear shoes, despite an obsession with putting them on and taking them off.

You eat just about everything and also delight in chucking fistfuls of food across the kitchen and at the dogs. You adore books and being read to, and turning the pages yourself. You love to give running hugs, spend time outside and dig in dirt and sand.

Thank you for all the magic and joy you bring us on a daily basis, and for keeping us present in a world of distractions. We love you.

 

One of those mom letters.

My girls,

I want you to know that weekday mornings in this season are fast and furious. Getting both of you dressed and fed and out the door by 7:45 doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, but somehow, it is. Which is why it’s usually 8:05 by the time we actually head out. And every morning when I inevitably end up rushing you a bit, I feel so very guilty. Guilty that I’m preoccupied knowing I’ll be the last one on my team into the office. Guilty that my limited time with you is being diverted when I pause to scan emails. Guilty that your days are longer than mine.

I want you to know that every morning we pack water bottles, extra clothes, a wet bag for the clothes that end up too dirty to wear home, diapers, wipes, and a lovey for nap time (who absolutely must travel to and from school everyday, despite attempts to have him reside in your cubby). You get probiotics and non-toxic bug spray, your hair is done and your clothes (occasionally) match. You get so many hugs and kisses at drop off (and a kissing hand or love rock or whatever other ritual is encouraged at school). We do our best to be at your Halloween parades, Valentines lunches, Mother’s Day breakfasts and parent reading days. Your dad and I have taken turns chaperoning  some crazy field trips over the past four years.

I want you to know that when both parents work out of the home full time, things can be hard and messy. The systems in this country fail to honor these precious caregiver roles as they ought to. But I accept those challenges, because I want you to know what you are capable of, what you can pursue, and that I didn’t lose myself when you joined our family – rather, I grew. Most of all, I want to fight in my own small ways to change things in the world, so that maybe they can be better, easier and more equitable for you.

I want you to know that not a night goes by when I don’t check on you. I re-tuck blankets, put away stray toys and stare at you in awe. I end every single day with a fully overwhelming sense of gratitude for you both. For your health and happiness, and for the gift of being your mother.

There’s no standard to which one can reach as a parent and exhale with any sense of certainty. I’m not perfect and I don’t want to be. I want to be perfect for you, and that’s a journey that continues one day at a time. One bedtime story and band-aid and sippy cup at a time. And for all the things I could do better, more patiently or with fewer deep sighs, I want you to know how deeply my entire identity is built upon the endless joy, laughter, snuggles and lessons you both bring to our lives everyday.

Maya at 16 months

Maya, you are 16 months old! And a non-stop whirl of chattering and activity, full of joy and with lots of new words and interests every week.

You are expressive to no end, very clearly letting us know what you want, don’t want, and would like us to do. You point at things with the precision of a marksman, clearly indicating where you’d like to be carried, or what you want us to bring you.

You adore your big sister and are her constant shadow, often disrupting her carefully planned activities only to become distracted and barrel off in a different direction. She is endlessly patient with you, telling us all the time how much she loves you and that you’re “so adorable.” Lila smother-hugs you every day, and delights in any new skill you master or word you begin to say – she is truly your biggest fan and the pride she demonstrates over you is unexpected and goosebumpy and just really lovely.

Your word count continues to evolve: for a long time the regulars were: mama, dada, mah (more), hi, uh-oh, yay and ni-ni (night night). You call Molly Ma-La, and have a distinct way of pronouncing Bruno that’s more a combination of sounds than actual syllables. Recently you’ve added, bop (stop), noooooooo, bye, cheese (for photos), peace (please), shoe, ah-wa (agua), go, my (mine), shh (chair) and ha-ha-ha-ha which is a combination you derived from watching us say “hot” and blow on food. And you graciously say poo-poo when you need a new diaper.

 

You are silly and endlessly snuggly. You love dancing to music. You’re generally the most complacent, happy baby (toddler?!) I’ve ever been around and everyone around you remarks on your sweet, easy disposition.

If something displeases you, you have the vocal chords of a herd of elephants, and the ability to go completely limp – rendering your body very difficult to hold onto.

You also have an endless mischievous streak. Laughing and running away when we tell you no, and peering at us with a grin when you do things you know aren’t allowed to do, like climbing up ALL THE FURNITURE.

You make a beeline to your chair when we say breakfast or snack, and rush to your room when we say it’s time for a change. You love dirt and water and being outside.

We adore you and your magical energy, sweet Maya.