Sunday, June 07, 2015

graduation season

1. have faith in the blue lady

There’s a band called Rainer Maria (so you know they’re not one of those groups that considers lyrics an afterthought) and they have a song called “Ears Ring.” The chorus goes: Yoooouuu aaalreeeaady looooove her. B and I saw them play at the Troubadour years ago, and I swear the sexy lead singer was looking right at B and me when she sang.

Wikipedia says they're an emo band. That's okay. I'm kind of emo, I guess.
I did already love B. I had a lot of bad habits in the girlfriend department, like being passive aggressive and playing the victim, but a lack of love was not one of them. B didn’t believe it, though, and we broke up eventually.

But I still think of that song and its beautiful, easy fatalism sometimes.

2. avoiding the checklist

When Dash was born, one of my dad’s first questions was about his Apgar score, which is a number doctors assign at birth. According to the ever-calming Dr. Sears, it’s more of a directive for medical staff—like, if your baby has jaundice, get him a heat lamp or whatever it is they use for jaundice—and not an assessment of your baby’s overall health, but most people understand it as the latter. If I hadn’t been so blissed out, I would have been annoyed with my dad. Leave it to him to reduce the miracle of life to a judgey number.

A few weeks later, my sister asked if Dash was meeting all his developmental milestones.

“I’m trying not to know what those are except for in the vaguest sense,” I said. “If his pediatrician thinks he’s fine, he’s fine.”

“Isn’t there a checklist you can look at?” she said.

Welcome to my family. Somehow my parents managed to provide unconditional love and remain completely open-minded when I wanted to get an MFA in creative writing and or date people of the same sex, while instilling a simmering anxiety that I was never good enough, fast enough. Or maybe they just felt that way themselves and modeled for me. Or maybe (my therapist’s theory), as the older child in the family, I knew I wasn’t going to win any hearts by being small and needy, so I’d better be independent and a high achiever.

This child is a genius, but his/her parent uses Comic Sans.
My therapist refers to this as my need to “graduate early.” At times it has served me well. It’s made me unsentimental about the past, which is good if you don’t have a lot of storage space in your house. I’ve already donated bags of Dash’s smallest clothes. But it also produces a perpetual dissatisfaction with the present. So you accomplished your goal? That’s nice, now onto the next thing.

3. tig notaro fans will know what i mean by tumping

If I could be ninety percent like my parents, Dash would be in excellent shape. But this is one way I want to do things differently. I want to rip that imaginary checklist in my head—and the very real ones that are readily available on the internet and in baby books—into shreds. I want to practice Dash-centered parenting, where I measure him only against himself. Where I delight in the thing he’s doing at this moment instead of worrying about the thing he might or might not do in the future.

And yet, when AK took him for his four-month check-up a couple of weeks ago and the doctor told her we could start him on rice cereal, and the rice cereal package said it was for babies who were “supported sitters,” I exclaimed proudly: “Dash must be a supported sitter already!” And he is, kind of, although he tumps to one side without much provocation.

This baby is all, "I can sit supported only by this model's face."
“She didn’t mean start him on cereal this minute,” AK said offhandedly. “She just said sometime between now and his next appointment. We might not see her again till July.”

My inner Tiger Mom deflated a bit.

But Tiger Mom isn’t quite the right description. It’s not that I want Dash to be a genius or prodigy. Honestly, I’m still invested in my own genius—I’d rather write a brilliant novel than hover over Dash at swim practice, or whatever. I just want some kind of assurance that he won’t not make it in life. And I know there’s no such assurance, not really. Sprinkle in a little medical anxiety, and suddenly I’m hoping he’ll start crawling at four months just so I don’t have to worry about him not crawling at ten months.

But then I remember: I already love him.

The beautiful, easy fatalism.

What if he didn’t crawl at ten months? What if he never learned to walk? What if his skin turned into one giant toenail? (I have watched too many random YouTube modern-day freak shows late at night.) What would I do, return him? No, I would love him.

I would be sad, because life for the toenail-skinned is bound to be challenging. And I would try to find ways to help him. But I would never view him as someone in need of fixing. And once I realize that, some of my anxiety falls away. There is no difficult decision to be made, not in the grand scheme of things.

My task is laid out so simply: love Dash. That is one of the beauties of parenthood, at least for hand-wringers and over-thinkers like me. You can’t beat the clarity of purpose.

I recounted this epiphany to my therapist, and he said, “Well, yes. But you do want him to walk eventually.”

I want him to walk, but I don’t need him to walk.

No comments: