Thursday, September 23, 2010
I remember a mother at the pool telling me this would happen when we spoke of it back in June. Her daughter was turning 4 in July, and I actually had thought to myself a time or two this summer that her daughter was so much friendlier to me than she had ever been in the past. She had seemed to be a tad broody before, and I kind of thought that this was her personality. But not this summer -- this child had really come out of her shell around both other adults and kids alike and was really a pleasure to be around. She was engaging and just happy. Meanwhile, my formerly sweet toddler was sitting on the side of the pool in one of many time-outs while this conversation was happening. I was telling the mother how hard I thought the "threes" were, making the terrible-twos like look a cake walk frankly, and she agreed. But she told me it is a flip of the switch when they turn 3.5, she said to me that she actually felt like she had "the daughter I always wanted."
And indeed, in our time of crazy transition with my new job, a new nanny, a lack of any strict schedule all summer for Sadie turning to preschool 5 mornings a week -- out of this emerged a wonderful thoughtful little girl. And I thought the cupcake costume that she picked for Halloween this year embodied that. But I am sure that the remnants of being a cranky kid will resurface from time to time and we are not out of the woods yet. After all, she is insistent that this costume is not of a cupcake but of an ice cream cone, regardless of what the tag says. I can handle strong willed and thinking-outside-the-box as personality attributes however.
I started to read an article this summer that philosophized on whether mothers and daughters could really be friends or were destined for a difficult relationship. I do know plenty of people my age who have a true friendship and admiration of their mothers, but probably far more woman who share stories like mine of being somewhat of a daddy's little girl (and an abhorrent teenager to her mother). I stopped reading the article, as I see that I share some of the "helicopter mom" personalities that seem to create these difficult relationships. But heck, I am up typing this now because I am still freaked by the two new episodes of Law & Order SVU that I watched last night both of which involved (1) examples of child abduction and (2) examples of little girls feeling unloved by their mothers in a horribly abusive get-under-your-skin-and-don't-let-you-forget-it kind of way. Maybe it is because I had difficulties getting pregnant, or because she's my only, or maybe it is just in my Cancer personality make-up, but I can't ever imagine being distant from this child.
I am not sure that we did anything differently to bring on this happy phase of 3.5 that we weren't doing at 3. We got a little firmer with bedtimes maybe, I finally for the first time since I returned to work from maternity leave leave her to go to bed at night when she is awake, instead of not waiting until she falls asleep (either by rocking her as a baby, or laying with her even when she was in her own bed). I read the books advising let your child learn to fall asleep on their own, but I figured she was only that age once and I needed to be there for her (my parents, for all of their strictness on some matters of our own youth, were appalled when I suggested I might sleep-train Sadie and let her cry-it-out). And as a result, as my good friends reading this know, Sadie has been an objectively difficult sleeper from about 4 months of age and I have pretty much been up with her at least once a night for over 3 years. Until this summer that is.
Would I tell someone else to do things differently than I did? Probably, at least if I had a glass of wine in me at a party, or maybe if I were chatting on the internet... but maybe not, not to Sadie at least. I do not really have any regrets with how we have spent many (any) moments of her life. And part of it truly is an age independent thing. Just in the last month she has learned to not call us from her bed when she woke up (which we taught her to do instead of climbing out of her crib, which her 5 year old neighbor taught her to do too early). Now instead of calling us, she will come and find us. The first time, that was startling as all get out, having her standing by our bed in the middle of the night for the first time. But now, she doesn't get up until she is ready to really get up and thus, is is almost always cheerful instead of whiny (and amazingly, so am I). Maybe I could have taught or encouraged some things earlier than I did, but still, no regrets.
And I am sure that our honeymoon of this current phase will dissipate soon enough. While she doesn't fight over our rules or order for things so much now, she has a million questions and I can see her mind working through and finding different ways to approach things than Mark or I do all of the time. But just last night out of the blue she told me on the couch that she is glad that out of all of the moms she could have, I am the one that is her mom. So for now, I guess I can just sit and enjoy the sweet days filled with this cupcake, I mean ice cream, personality.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Very soon thereafter (probably later that day), I learned the trick of luring her into the crate with the reward of a small nip of peanut butter, from a Skippy jar which I then kept on her crate. She never minded the crate much, if at all, afterwards (and she, like me, is a peanut butter addict). In fact, when I had her spayed at around 8 months, she came home with her lampshade collar on and went straight to the basement door, which I opened for her out of curiosity and she followed her nose, bump thump bump thump the collar knocked against the wooden stairs all the way down them, to find her old crate which I had put away and stored down there 3 months earlier. She yelped just once for me to come down and open the crate door and in she went, in the crate on the cold basement floor, a place of known safety when the real world felt particularly raw and painful.
After the horror of September 11, Daisy came into my life as something that I could nurture and love. And like every animal love before and after me knows, she gave me back ten fold at least over what I put in.
I have several friends who don't have children, either by choice or by circumstance, but with just one exception that I can think of, all of them have dogs. One friend on Facebook will post the most wonderful pictures of her dogs, no more often than I post pictures of my Sadie, and she posted a comment to her picture one day a few weeks ago admitting that her dog was like her child (and thanking us all for understanding) since she couldn't have a baby. Another of her friends remarked to her that she should consider adoption (of humans). I have thought about that friend (and her friend) a lot since that week, and it pretty much consumed me in my run this morning (during which I artfully wrote this blog in my mind, and I am regretting not typing it out 8 hours ago when it was most fresh).
Before Mark and I succeeded in getting pregnant, we had people offer all sorts of advice, and I used to wonder if they might think we lived under a rock and hadn't thought about every darn alternative there was in the universe. I know the advice giver was well intentioned, but instead of everyone saying to me "it will happen one day", I kind of wish someone has said instead "if it doesn't happen, you are going to be just fine!" I have plenty of friends who don't have children, and without exception (even the one without a dog) they have lives that are just as fulfilling as mine is, perhaps even more so some days! And I say this after having a great day with Sadie (not from the frame of a tired mom). She has added incredible experience to my life, but I would never suggest that someone who doesn't have children (out of choice or circumstance), holds a life of less value or meaning or depth than my own does. And this friend (whose friend made the comment) might not have meant that either... it just struck me and took off in my own mind.
Back to Daisy though. Daisy's had a tough week. While Sadie really did adjust to the new nanny without much trauma (well, Thursday appears to have been a really rough day, but I thankfully didn't hear all those details until Friday which was much better, the corner having been turned!). While our new nanny seems to be just as deep of an animal lover as our old nanny was, we have no way of explaining things like this to Daisy, and every time old nanny's name was mentioned, Daisy would run to the front door expecting her to be arriving any minute and to take her walking or to throw ball. By Friday afternoon, Daisy was just plain spooked and wouldn't come into the house without much luring with treats, and wanted to return out back the next minute. This happens from time to time (Daisy has a great fear of both the oven and the grill... she must have died in a fire in her first life) so I didn't think much about it. But Saturday morning she was worse... she would follow me around the house and just stare at my face whenever I turned around to look at her, in a really unnerving way. Mark and I guessed that she wanted treats (she is a yellow lab after all, largely motivated by food, or the chance to go throw ball) and we have been trying to train her (after 9 years) not to beg for food, so I would ignore her. But she was driving me batty. And Sadie and I had a list of things to get done, Mark was down with a cough and cold, and Daisy just got in the way, a lot.
Finally around 3 yesterday afternoon I said to Mark that I was taking her for a walk. I should say here that Daisy doesn't tinkle or poop (sorry for the terms, with a 3 year old I live in these terms) in our yard, which has no grass and is largely a stone/paver patio with much and plantings on the sides. But she had been walked in the morning, by me when I was still half asleep perhaps, and nothing seemed odd. But at 3, it was apparent that Daisy was in distress. And there I was walking with her, trying to get eye level to her rear-end as she marked every 3 feet or so to see the tell tale signs of a urinary tract infection. Not to be gross, or hyper technical, but if you have a dog who has had one, you have seen your dog with blood in her urine and know what this means.
To add insult to injury, I practically sprinted home with her once I saw the blood. My poor dog wanted nothing but to linger in the grass and try to relieve herself to stop the sensation, but not me, I wanted to get her to the vet as soon as humanly possible. I was the one who had missed the signs... dammit I was the one who actually saw the signs and remarked out loud "This dog is neurotic and driving me crazy!"
We spent about 3 hours (and $217) at the emergency vet yesterday afternoon, Mark and I took turns and Sadie stayed the whole time. The antibiotic was first given last night around 6 and like clockwork, she was more herself by her second dose this morning and even better after her evening dose tonight. She will be just fine.
I have never had a cat, and I have only had one dog from birth (Mark's dog was one he adopted when she was 3, and she died at 13) and my "step dog" Lily was a constant in my life for 10 years. But our dogs have offered us unconditional love in a way that no toddler does. While my love for Sadie runs deep and is unconditional, she is still learning how to love, and like, me back (she came out of me needing me, a skill that was perfected from day one). But Daisy... Daisy has been my rock for 9 years.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
You would never know that I was good at running except that I find ways to remind just about everyone I meet (especially those that look at my muffin belly or my wider backside and indicate some doubt in believing that I used to be very fast) that I qualified for the Boston Marathon the first time I ran a marathon (which was the Marine Corps Marathon in 1999). I had some 8K and 10K times here in Richmond (the beauties of google, they will be preserved forever!) where I ran sub 8 minute miles (for 5 or 6 miles) (in a row). I do brag about it when given the opportunity (and sometimes, I create my own opportunity). Why?
Because me being a fast runner, an athlete, a marathoner... these are all things that I never imagined I could actually be. I exceeded my expectations and my beliefs, my dreams. People compare training for a marathon like taking a bar exam, you put in the time and you will pass. I agree to a point, having done both. My second marathon was almost 40 minutes slower than my first one (my first one was 3:40:52 in case you cared) and the second one was like the bar to me --- long, painful, slow... to the point that when I was done with it, even though I finished, I wasn't proud. I was just done.
But my first marathon, and several shorter races that I have completed over the years... those were times where I overshot my wildest dreams. And that is such an incredible feeling.
So anyway, my point in this posting, is that I feel like I can still call myself a runner now, even though I don't dare try a race again because I don't want to disappoint myself. But I get out there and put in the miles. Several days a week, every week. I stopped running (exercising at all actually, never even lifted a jug of milk) when I found out I was pregnant with Sadie. And I didn't start running again until Easter weekend when she was a year and a month old. It took me her whole first year to feel like I was ready to do something for me again, and not something that would immediately give some tangible benefit to her. But I have run ever since, sometimes with her in the jog stroller but increasingly, by myself.
And I truly do love it. Every day I get in a run... I am a better person. A better mother, a better lawyer, more patient, just happier.The days that I don't get a run in (or any exercise) are days where I feel like I am trapped in a shell of a body. I get moody, I get nasty, I just get irritated. I just need 45 minutes. Maybe an hour.
Tonight it occurred to me that I feel like I have been running a marathon, but it is far more like my second race than my first one. Not a good feeling. These changes... anticipated as early as last Christmas so basically 9 months in the making... have been like one long unforgiving tedious impossible run. A really long one. The job change, the nanny change, this crappy economy that never seems to be on the upswing longer than a week or more. I feel like I have just kept my head down and trudged through the miles, over and over again, for a really long time.
Now our race is over. The economy might not be back, but I am in my new job, and I am really starting to enjoy it. While I know that Sadie (and all of us) misses our old nanny, she has adjusted amazingly well to our new hire, who also seems just great. The time of great flux is finally over. I can stop running. I should feel relieved. I should feel proud.
Instead, I want chocolate. I want s'mores actually, and a big glass of red wine. I want College Deli cheese fries, and a pitcher of beer to sit out on their patio with. I went through every cabinet in our kitchen, to no avail (my healthy eating kick of the last year resulted in the ban of processed food). I found a gallon size container of goldfish (Sadie's?) which didn't hit the spot. I looked at the bottles of wine in our cellar and decided that they were too expensive to open just for myself. Then I remembered that the cleaning lady was coming tomorrow and I have a chair in our bedroom that I tend to lay clean clothes in for a week, and tonight is the night I need to take the 30 minutes to put them away. I felt silly for thinking of drinking alone. And I figured in my mood I would spill it upstairs. So I ate some goldfish, and some frosted mini wheats. And now I am up here (staring at said chair piled high with clothes)blogging.
I guess there are good runs, and not so good runs. Runs where you qualify for Boston and surprise yourself. And other runs where you feel like you were in a sea of sand without an ocean breeze and you just never feel strong, at all. Runs that feel like they will never end, and when they do, you say you won't ever run again. This is one of those runs. We all survived. We made good decisions, we thrived actually. We didn't burn any bridges, and I truly hope I will keep my Troutman friends and our wonderful relationship with our former nanny (who is meant for greater things and will achieve them, as will our current nanny after she is with us 2 years, I have no doubt). Everything went as good as we could have hoped.
But I am just so darn tired.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Incredibly routine. And without exception since I can remember dressing Sadie, has happened when I was in a hurry. Who gets a three year old dressed with a leisurely attitude? Not at this house. I was always hurrying, to (a) get to the office, (b) get Sadie to school, or (c) on the weekends, get Sadie to a daddy-daughter-date morning so I could go exercise. We might have leisurely breakfasts any of those mornings, or morning play times, or story times... but getting dressed time was never fast enough for my liking. Not sure why it turned out like this -- for there have been enough mornings over the last three and a half year that this child has woken up before the sun and we have had ample time to get dressed in slow motion and without stress... but that has never happened. I have lingered over plenty of cups of coffee, but never over getting her dressed.
And then in the evenings... somehow we seem to hurry through the getting undressed and back into pajamas with the same sort of hurry. We slow down for stories (we read four books every night and then I tell her two stories on top of that... so we are well practiced in 40 minute plus bedtime routine). And Mark has incredible patience with delay tactics in brushing teeth and getting just the right amount of water in a Dixie cup for drinking, or washing her feet to get the remains of Meadow Park dirt off, or finding the moon outside of one of our windows.
But again, the concept of dressing and undressing always seemed rushed.
Until sometime earlier this summer. Sadie discovered the feeling of taking the t-shirt (or nightgown, as the case may be) most of the way off, but just so the neckline gets caught up around her hairline, just like in this picture. Gone is the panic that a baby or toddler feels when mom (or dad) isn't visible and child is STUCK in the shirt. Sadie relishes in this simple action now. The feeling of the shirt pushing her thick hair straight back; the feeling of the hem of the shirt or nightgown cascading down her naked back. The first time she did it, I had to laugh... remembering the feeling I had myself when I did it as a child. I told her that I loved that feeling too when I was a little girl.
"Hello..." she says, in the exact same tone, every time the shirt is in the exact right place, "I am the bride."
I stopped hurrying the first time, the very first time she said this.
"Who are you marrying?" I would ask. "You" she replied. The moment was worth it. I froze it in my memory.
Mark will ask her the same question, and without fail, she doesn't vary her answer. "Mommy" is who she is going to marry. He is lucky, she does agree to invite him to the wedding. But I still get to be the one who she celebrates with first.
I try not to have regrets with Sadie. I have always known, from the moment that we read the pregnancy test, that she was a gift. But life does happen quickly, and as I admit above, a lot of our routine is indeed, rushed. But not the taking off of the shirt, at least not this summer. She is elated to be getting married, and if it happens 100 more times like this before the "real event", I will know that I am lucky to witness it, in whatever role she has me.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Does Sadie look a little different to you? Perhaps you can't tell from this angle, but she has a certain new look about her. In this picture, Sadie has a baby in her tummy! And pretty much all day, every day, Sadie has at least one, and up to three, "little ones" that are waiting to be born. Some are animals, most though are dolls, and they are placed under her dress, tucked into her waistband, and usually mommy and daddy are given one or two to tuck into our clothes as well.
Several months ago, Sadie started the age-appropriate-obsession with having a younger sibling. And at first, this 41 year old mother also obsessed with how to answer these pleas. Do I tell her honestly that I would have loved nothing more than to have given her three siblings, as her father and I planned when we first got married to have four children like the families from which each of us came? I feared that this answer would make her sad, and see that we were sad, and indeed we can't give her everything she (and we) want -- isn't it too early for her to learn that we are actually mortal? Or do I tell her that we only wanted one child, just one just like the one that we have, and didn't need another because we had achieved perfection the first go-around? This answer might cause her to believe that her parents are in absolute control of fate and destiny, which is also a lie (not to mention encourage an ego of great proportions!). Or do we do, what we in fact did, which is go between both answers depending on the time of day and the energy we have for explanation, leading the child instead to perceive that her parents are totally inconsistent and don't have a uniform approach to even the most important questions?
Yes, that's pretty much what we did. I was afraid that she would notice the "crack in the armour" and perceive, for the first time, her parents didn't really know how to answer such an important question. But she rolled with it. Sure she asked it again and again, but she didn't seem to hold our answers against us, which I guess is what unconditional love is truly about.
But more recently, Sadie came up with her own way of looking at the question that really stunned Mark and me. And demonstrated once again that even the biggest questions have a way of demonstrating their own answers, and working themselves out in a way that no amount of planning could ever yield.
Sadie's obsession with having a sibling has subsided. A few weeks ago she was asked by a neighbor what she wanted to be when she grew up. Typical answer had been that she wanted to be a mommy, with anywhere from two to ten children. But this time... her answer came out clear and concise without a pause for thought "I want to be a doctor that cuts mommies' tummies open and gives them their babies for the first time."
And she has repeated that every single time that she has been asked, since (which is a lot). The only variance is that one time she asked me if she could have that same job but do it in outer space? To which I said, indeed, she could.
While both my father and Mark's father are doctors, we never suggested that Sadie undertake this occupation. This obsession with being a doctor that gives C sections (she knows no other way of delivery, as we have told her of her own birth story) is just something that she came up with on her own.
And so this picture shows me that there are indeed, always multiple ways to view a situation, and indeed they can be polar opposites of each other. The grin on her face, at least this time, is not the grin of one expecting to give birth to a child, about to experience the life changing event of being a mother. Indeed, not. She is grinning because she was watching me play the role of the doctor who was going to pretend to cut her tummy open and lift the baby up, immediately run over and place her under the light and count her fingers and her toes, and then prepare to return her to her new mother (who instead of laying there basking in the enormity of the event was instead sitting up and preparing to sew herself up, since that was the really fun task).
Sadie has heard me tell her many times a day how being a mother, and being her mother, is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me. She knows that. But she has taken her difficult question of "why aren't there more?" and turned it on its side. My daughter (and her father and I, as her nurses and assistants) can give birth to dozens of children a day, and no one is sadder or troubled by those outcomes.
Motherhood is full of hard questions and coming up with an honest answer is surely a job that I will have a thousand times over. But it sure was nice for now, to have this slight reprieve. Instead of the pressure to answer, I got to see my daughter herself come up with another way of solving it. And for that, I am most proud.