Her Bad Mother

Friday, April 27, 2007

Love, Fear, Memory

Long before I ever got pregnant - long before I even knew that I would one day want a baby, desperately - one of my very, very dearest friends told me this:

When you have a baby, the one thing that you must never forget is that you WILL forget. You'll forget how scared you were, how anxious, how tired, how frustrated. But you'll also forget how tiny she was, and how she smelled, and what she sounded like and how she looked at you. So always, always - in each and every moment - try to commit what you're experiencing to memory. Remind yourself that you're going to forget the details, and that you will miss the details, desperately. Remember that no matter how tired or afraid you are, you are one day going to wish, hard, that you could have those moments back. Even the scariest moments, the hardest moments - you'll want them back. Never forget that. Try to cherish each and every one of those moments for what they are, and hold on to them as long as you can.

I've never forgotten that. Those words (which exist in my memory only in paraphrase) echoed through my mind and heart during all the long, wakeful nights of the first weeks and months with our new WonderBaby, during the first, excruciatingly painful and frustrating weeks of breastfeeding, during our first trip to the ER with our feverish infant, during the first bad fall, the first tears of anger, the first flailing of tiny, furious fists. During the depression. During the highs, and the lows, and all of the in-betweens, I remembered this: that I would, one day, forget, and that I would regret, to the bottom of my soul, that forgetting.

And so I struggled to commit everything to memory. Every sniff of her wee head in the dark of night, every sharp tug on a ravaged nipple, every bite, every giggle, every paralyzing moment of fear, every overwhelming instant of insecurity - I stopped there, in each of those moments, and tried to preserve them. I tried to really feel them, to really live them. So that I could remember them, all of them.

It didn't work, of course. As promised, I can no longer remember exactly what it felt like to be woken in the night by her plaintive cries. Nor can I remember the fresh new scent of her head, or what it felt like to have her mouth on my breast. But I can remember what I felt. I can remember that I paused, and that I let myself feel. I can remember thinking, and feeling, in the moments of my greatest fear or anxiety and in the periods of my darkest, most inexplicable sadness that these things bound me to her, and that they were woven tightly into the tapestry of my life with her, and that one day I would try to search out those threads, try to identify those threads and tease them out so that I could remember. I can remember thinking: you'll want these moments back. And I do.

But you can never get those moments back. You can only live them. And you only get to live them once, all of them, the good and the bad.

So love those moments. All of them. Don't be fearless: feel the fear and embrace the fear (and the anxiety and the sadness and the frustration) and pay attention as it weaves its way into the tapestry of this new, extraordinary life with this new, extraordinary love.

This, now, only echoes of a memory in my heart.

This post is dedicated to Liz and Christina and Tammie, on the occasion of their baby shower, and to fearless (or, better, consciously fearful) mothers everywhere.

Because you all know.

(Check out links to other dedicatory shower posts here, and the Mother-Talk Fearless round-up here. And read more about fearlessness here.)

(And prayers to Tammie, please, because she's started her tapestry already, and it's been difficult so far. Good wishes that there's not too much fear for her to embrace.)

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Devil Came Down To Toys-R-Us

(Edits and addenda below!)

Yesterday, Her Bad Father and I had a disagreement. About child-rearing. Which, of course, he has a say in, even though much of the time I try to pretend that I have sole authority on all matters WonderBaby.
Most of the time, we agree entirely on the terms and conditions of WonderBaby wrangling, and on matters pertaining to the day-to-day care, feeding and amusement of WonderBaby he leaves things entirely to me. This is not because he does not participate in the day-to-day care/feeding/wrangling - he absolutely does, to a greater degree than most fathers with his kind of schedule (unless a project interferes, he always does the morning and evening routines with her. And then he cooks me dinner. Which is to say, none of what I'm about to say should in any way be interpreted as complaint.)

But one matter that never fails to provoke an unsolicited opinion from him is this: any and all displays of real or perceived consumerism. Baby consumerism. Specifically, consumption of garish plastic thingamabobbies marketed to mothers of babies who are desperate for distractions and who are a little quick on the credit-card finger. More specifically, my consumption of garish plastic thingamabobbies that are marketed to me and my (allegedly) itchy credit card finger.

Once upon a time - before WonderBaby joined our happy household - Her Bad Father and I agreed that we would never - never - allow giant, brightly-coloured plastic kid contraptions to cross our threshold. Never. Instead, our child would amuse herself with environmentally-friendly, hand-crafted toys - fashioned out of wood or refurbished tin or free-range sheep's wool by happy, well-paid Swedish craftspeople or local artists or perhaps delivered to our modernist living room in the night by the Bauhaus Toy Fairy. That, or she would play with cardboard boxes and read books and frolic in the garden and knit her own hats out of hemp yarn that we would spin as a family on Sunday mornings. Also, she would never, ever watch TV, and would be breastfed until she was old enough to pour her own organic soy milk.

Which, ha. WonderBaby had been in our lives all of eight days when we gave in to my mother's insistence that she buy our nap-averse infant a giant, hideous motorized rocking bassinet thingy that took up two-thirds of the space in our hitherto minimalist living room. We only tolerated the thing for a matter of weeks before we had it spirited away lest the glowy rotating mock-aquarium at its centre suck our souls away, but it was too late. The Rubicon had been crossed. From there it was a downward spiral into a deep - but brightly coloured - pit of plastic and tinny music and flashing lights from which we only emerge to turn on the television and give her bottles and put disposable diapers on her bum and otherwise contribute to environmental degradation and global capitalism. Our - my - need for respite from the constant demands of a turbo-charged midget overcame our determination to stay the course of the modern, conscientious, overfunctioning parent. It was all over before it even began.

Still, we manage to contain things. We don't have any giant plastic kitchen sets or kid-sized toy cars or anything, really, that is bigger than WonderBaby. We recycle, we share toys with other parent friends, we do our part to not succumb entirely to siren call of Toys-R-Us. And so we're generally okay with the level of plasticky clutteredness in our household and with our well-monitored vulnerability to the marketing of such things as contribute to such plasticky clutteredness and the like. Or, at least, I thought that we were.

Yesterday, WonderBaby and I acquired this:

Creepy plastic baby not included.

And Her Bad Father had - how shall I put this? - a reaction. A quiet reaction - some would say passive aggressive (much furrowing of brow; much tightening of jaw; much pointed silence) - but a reaction nonetheless.

When prompted to explain what his glitch was, he said this: "I know that we've sort of given up when it comes to letting ugly plastic crap in our house, but when I see my 17 month-old daughter come barrelling out the mall (ed. which, yes, she did; she insisted upon pushing it out of the mall in which we acquired it, along with many pairs of socks and underwear and baby latches and some cheap wine, and I let her because my hands were full of bags of socks and underwear and baby latches and wine and it just made my life easier, okay?) pushing a SHOPPING CART (ed. he did use full caps here) I gotta worry about the whole consumerism- run-amok thing here."

Or words to that effect.

Which, fine. We do need to watch the consumerism. But here's my position, as I articulated it to him last night: it's not as though she came barrelling out of the mall with wee shopping bags and a cell phone and a baby chihuahua under her arm and wee sunglasses pushed back on her head and waving a credit card. It's a grocery cart. It came with plastic fruits and vegetables. And grocery shopping is only consumerist in the most literal sense: we must acquire foodstuffs to consume, and when we do, we usually put them in a grocery cart. And if credit cards must be involved in this ritual, so be it. (WonderBaby does not have a credit card, outside of those occasions when she steals mine to buy beer, so I think that we're good on the whole encouraging-responsible-consumption front.)

Besides which, WonderBaby loves pushing things and her beloved toy stroller just crapped out because it was cheap piece of shit from Toys-R-Us and needed replacing with some other pushable thingie so that I wouldn't be called upon to help her push chairs around every five minutes.

So, I think that he's unnecessarily projecting his fears about our souls being irretrievably lost to the Satan that rules the unholy dominion of Fisher-Price and Toys-R-Us and all the other circles of Toy Hell onto a relatively harmless toy grocery cart, which in any case - for the extra twenty-minutes of hands-free time per day that it's giving me - is worth a teeny bit of soul-selling.

I'm right, no? Or this all just evidence that my soul has already been irretrievably lost and I should just start stocking up on Bratz dolls now?


Still shilling for Blogitzer votes... now, not so much because I am ashamed of my one vote showing, but because I am now determined to give Dooce a run for her money. Her ass is mine.

Or not. If I can even get close enough to hurl some taunts I'll be happy.


In a totally different vein... my to-shop-or-not-to-shop problems and Bring-It-On-Dooce projects are the very definition of superficiality in comparison to what our current Basement blogger is going through. She really, really needs your support. Please go visit.


Late Breaking Addendum: you know that there's some showering going on, right? Check it. Play games, win prizes, drink liquor. And - most important - write a toast-post for Liz, Christina and Tammie (being induced AS WE SPEAK), and leave the link for me here - it'll go up on the shower site this weekend. (My post will come later - and it will be soapy as hell.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

If truth is pants, what are shoes?

This is a passage from a paper that I graded this morning:

Truth (can be likened) to a set of clothes, made to measure the man. In this way, man's measurements would be his own personal truth, and the clothes would be a form of living this out. Thus, the pants would be corresponding to his reality, and this reality would be the pants.
And you thought that the life of a philosophy instructor was glamorous. In actual fact, it is a life in which one is constantly quaffing aspirin to ward off the pounding headaches induced by forced exposure to the nonsensical abstractions of the average inattentive undergraduate.

(Add to this life a hyperactive WonderBaby jacked up on Cheerios and apple juice and you have perfect conditions for spontaneous mental combustion.)

If truth is pants, and you lose your pants, have you fallen into a condition of untruth, or have you cast off the oppressive trousers of dogma?


I just discovered that I was nominated (by the lovely and delightfully promiscuous Ms. Oh The Joys) for The Blogitzer, over the Bloggers' Choice Awards. Now, I don't usually go in for blog awards, not least because I don't like shilling for votes, but in this case I am going to have to be shameless and beg: I only have one vote, and it's really kind of embarassing. So. Please go vote for me? I'd like to have at least, say, six votes.


Have you checked out MBT lately?

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Time-Traveller's Life

Travelling can be a little bit like - bear with me here - popping yourself into a sort of time-machine wherein the space-time continuum is temporarily suspended: you get into a big metal flying contraption and find yourself some hours later in a different time and place where you fritter away the hours in a life that is not really your own, not your own real life, before getting back into the flying contraption and returning to the place - and, it seems, the very same time - that you left some measureless time ago. WonderBaby's hair is a little bit longer and she's little bit taller and her face is a bit battered from the exuberancies of vacation play, but you don't notice these things because time stood still while the two of you were away and nothing seemed to change, nothing at all.

The husband remarks upon the injured face and the increased height and the fact that WonderBaby has more words and a clearer voice, and you marvel at how these things seemed to have happened without your noticing, no doubt because they occured under a different sky. And you marvel at how these things could happen, these changes occur, this time pass, while everything at home stayed the same: same husband, same cats, same house. All the same, all so loved in their constancy, in what seems - in this moment, only this moment - their immutability.

And it seems to you, suddenly, that you have two lives: one, here, in the place where you chart and map and navigate the journey that is your adulthood, and where you have set the course for the journey of your family, your own family, your spouse and your child and your collective future. And another life, in another place, in other places, the places of your childhood and your youth, where an older journey continues to unfold, slowly, glacially, in intervals, in the interstices of the present. A life that is not quite a past, because it persists and because when you visit it you do so as the grown woman that you are, but also not a future, because it does not fully carry forward. It is a place governed by sidereal time, where everything is measured against the stars, fixed and secure in an unchanging sky. It is slower there. There, you bask in the warmth of nostalgia, frolic in breezy good feeling, dip your toes in the brisk cool of childish peeves and petty worries, shake yourself off and lay down again in the sun, curling your toes into the hot sand of here and now and forgetting. You forget that time is passing, that time has passed. There, you are far from the shade of diligent self-reflection, far from the wind, the gusts, of forward-momentum and directedness.

There, you are not given to foolishly sentimental reflections on time and the universe, because you are outside time, and so time doesn't matter, and, also, the sand gets in your keyboard, if only figuratively, and slows the babble. The foolishly sentimental reflections come later, when you're home, when you've gotten off of the plane and returned to your home, your real home, the place with all of the laundry and the sippy cups, and realized that you and WonderBaby somehow slipped outside time, for a time, but now you're back and time is flying by faster than ever, and that you'd do anything, anything, to slow it down again.

Why does the past creep so slowly behind us, and why does the now race so swiftly ahead of us, and why is it so hard, sometimes, to catch our breath?


We had a lovely time, outside time, catching our breath (when we weren't visiting aquariums with sweet friends or bumping into admired writers at airports or bonking our faces on sidewalks), but we missed the now and its much beloved inhabitants. We missed you. We'll be coming 'round to see you. Soonest.

(Why am I always compelled to include these assertions of affection? These implied apologies of social obligations ill-met? They're sincere, but complicated - what is it about the blogosphere that demands we make clear our intimacies, however virtual, and remain accountable to those intimacies?)

(Possibly, because you wouldn't otherwise tolerate me babbling about time-travel. Only among friends, these thoughts, no?)


FYI, we took a moment outside of time to reflect upon the space-age innovation that is the Overnite diaper. It is very possible that the slowness of the passage of time on our journey was entirely due to the efficiency of our diaper changes. Because, as you know, the space-time continuum is vulnerable to the toilet habits of very small children and the adrenaline levels of their harried mothers.