Saturday, January 30, 2016

one year, top ten

Last week, Dash turned one. The time has gone as fast as everyone promised it would. I spent four and a half years desperately wanting a baby, and then all of a sudden I had one, and now all of a sudden I don’t. I’ll wean myself from the word slowly, as Dash weans from his bottle.

Not a baby. A tiny bear. Possibly a sheep.
I always thought of parenthood as some special club, where people exchanged knowing glances, but the only real club is humanity, cliché as that sounds. Yesterday I listened to Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond interview Kate Bolick, the author of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, as part of Dear Sugars response to the many letters they get from women—smart, independent, thoughtful, feminist women—who are despairing that they’ll ever find the love of their life.

What's she looking for in that tea cup? Not a man!
Bolick said that she was a serial monogamist when she was younger, and then decided she wanted to be on her own for a while so she could figure out who she was. When she was done being alone, the dating pool didn’t cooperate. She was lovelorn. For years. And then she realized, as most of us do eventually, that you can either hinge your life on an external factor you can’t control, or you can find a deeper internal center that is tough to hold for more than a few minutes at a time. A slippery water balloon center that sloshes around but keeps you hydrated.

I feel lucky that I found that center before Dash came along. I had to. I had to believe the world was for me, whatever happened or didn’t happen. I’m not monk, though, or an angel. When shit doesn’t go my way, I’m really upset. And when it does—when I not only have my health and the kid of my dreams, but my lady is feeling good about life and no one in my family is in crisis and I even get to write now and then—I am happy. I might even strut a little. I’m also superstitious that it will all go away, although my semi-reconciliation with the inevitability of loss helps me appreciate what is good and not worry (as much) that I will collapse forever if things go wrong.

All of which is to say: I’m not wiser. But I have learned a few things from this year of parenthood:

1. Do not underestimate the pleasure of eating an Egg McMuffin in a parked car, scrolling through Facebook as your kid naps. This is heaven.

2. You will begin to understand how people might survive in times and places without indoor plumbing. Not that you’re ready to go on that 1900 House show or anything; you just get used to showering less and being peed on more, and you see that whatever is normal becomes normal.

This is from when we took him to San Diego and forgot his clothes. (Kidding! We brought four bags of stuff for him. But I forgot my toothbrush.)
3. Approximately 65% of parenting (at least if you are not a breast-feeder) is packing and unpacking. You are basically a roadie for a tiny band.

4. You don’t really have to teach your kid things. You just have to stand back and let him learn, and make sure there are no knives around. If you grew up with parents who planned everything—who not only believed in hard work, but seemed to believe that anything that wasn’t hard work was worthless—this is a revelation. Humbling and liberating.

High five, OC!
5. You will want to get your dog-crazy kid a dog. A special, immortal breed, because oh dear god, even though you love your pets so much, any future mourning of them will be quadrupled by witnessing your kid grieve. But our cats are all healthy for now la la la I can’t hear you.

6. It’s okay that your kid is not like you. He is a dimpled, extroverted boy who loves to throw a ball. You are a curly-haired, introverted girl who likes to read about 19th-century freak shows. He likes you anyway. It is so easy to trick a baby into liking you!

Parenting: The joy is real.
7. Some of the “universal” truths of parenthood aren’t true for you: You don’t mind leaving him at daycare. You don’t stop seeing movies in the theater. You don’t worry too much about germs. You don’t start loving wine.
It's midnight somewhere.
8. Some truths are true: You wear yoga pants a lot. You go to yoga less. You talk a lot about being tired. You take approximately 45 pictures of him a day. You are wistful about how tiny he used to be. You do drink more whisky.

9. Whereas you used to feel like this academically successful person who was mysteriously undeserving of maternal intimacy, now you wonder if you’ll ever publish a book again. The pang isn’t as intense, but basically you always need to feel bad about something.

OMG, he was so little.

Someday I will look at this photo and think, OMG, he was so little.

10. It is all subject to change.

1 comment:

thelastnoel said...

Wow, time does fly! I have yet to meet this little fella.