“You look just like your mom.” Those are always the first words out of anyone’s mouth who knows my mom and is meeting me for the first time. Admittedly, my mom and I have many things in common. Namely, a talkative nature and knack for strong opinions. But lately, I’ve been noticing more and more the ways that I’m like my dad.
On first glance, my dad and I don’t seem to have much in common. My good high school friend once half-joked that he had never heard my dad talk. That was obviously false, but had enough truth to it to be funny.
But for all that our personalities are different, his influence has definitely rubbed off on me.
“Going to the movies” read the text from my husband. I shook my head. He had told me earlier that he was planning to go to the movies, but it still annoyed me. Logically, he had every right to go. He had led one of our preschool’s clean-up days all morning, the kids and I were out, and he spends a ton of time with them as a stay-at-home dad. And yet, it still felt wrong. Whereas I and many other women would have used the free afternoon to tackle their to-do lists, his first (and probably only) thought was re-watching a movie he had already seen. In the world of 28 million blog posts about why moms should be taking “me time,” he was living the dream.
Ants. So many ants. They were crawling all over the seat, fabric and metal bars of my bike trailer. I poked at the swarm with a leaf, but they just scattered. I sprayed them with Lysol, but that didn’t seem to faze them. Finally, after hearing many proclaimations of “Ew!”, Chris stepped in. After spraying the whole trailer with the hose and shaking it upside down, he declared that I would not be bringing Little Bird on his first ever bike ride that day.
Before I became a mother, I had dealt with a lot of problems on the bike, from flat tires to thigh-grinding hills. But never ant infestations. This was only one of the many times I’ve had to adapt one of my major passions after becoming a parent.
Bing! The chime on my phone rings, indicating a new message. It’s a video from Chris, reaching across the country to me while I’m on a work trip in New Mexico. It starts focusing on Sprout, being a lump on the couch with his red velour blanket over his head. The camera then swerves to Little Bird, who is walking towards it. Walking! When the hell did that happen? At that moment, I realized just how long a week away is when you have young children.
As I night weaned my younger son, I wanted to sing a song that could comfort him in the same way my body did. While I had been playing recordings by Fleet Foxes and John Denver, I wanted something I could sing. Something beautiful, simple, special. It simply had to be The House on Pooh Corner.
The House on Pooh Corner and I go way back.
“So what time do you get home?” I asked. I desperately wanted to know how my friends had managed to solve the conundrum of living in the suburbs with young kids – how to spend time with them while also getting them to bed at a reasonable hour. They had just told me that they got their one-year-old to bed by 7:30 pm, a feat that has never happened at our house.
“6:30,” my friend replied, shrugging. “We grab her something out of the fridge and do the bedtime routine.”
I blinked. They didn’t have dinner together. Or much time together at all on weekdays. I literally had not considered that possibility.
For all the hoopla, I didn’t mind turning 30. But 34? Nobody warned me about 34.
34 is definitively in your mid-30s – a milestone that I denied last year on my birthday. At that time, I felt surprisingly sanguine. Despite 2015 being a pretty terrible year, I felt confident about the future. I was pregnant with our second child, was dreaming about potential future jobs, had a handle on my volunteer work, and was balancing work and life reasonably well.
Then the world threw me for a loop.
I was never cool. All of those things women lament about giving up when they have kids? I never did them. Instead, my transformation as a mom has been more subtle but no less radical.
I never went out clubbing. Okay, I did, but I usually complained that it was too loud or too crowded or played music I didn’t like. My husband worked nights and weekends for years and I wasn’t going to go alone, so it was a rare occasion at best.
I never dressed up in perfect makeup and stiletto heels. Mascara makes my eyelashes stick to my face. Lipstick makes my lips feel weird. I’ve never even tried to wear stilettos. The only time I’ve ever been in full makeup was my wedding; it felt like a mask.
Standing on the National Mall in the February cold, I stomped my feet and tried to ignore how sore my lower back felt. Watching the stage, I strained to listen to the speakers, from Silicon Valley billionaires to Native American activists. I was at one of the biggest climate change protests ever, focused on defeating the Keystone XL oil pipeline. While it attracted 12,000 people, it’s unlikely that many were in the same situation as I was: five months pregnant.
Despite the cold and a serious lack of bathrooms, I marched in hopes of shifting the tide against climate change. Now, with the election of Donald Trump for president and the Republican domination of Congress, I find it more important than ever before to be an activist mom.
Blank. Just blank. The empty page after empty page of my eight-month-old’s baby book stared at me in accusation. Even his name wasn’t filled in. Really? Crap.
I specifically bought this book because it was supposed to be “easy.” Just a page a month for the first year. How much time could that take? Apparently too much.
Was it that I didn’t love Little Bird enough to bother chronicling his important moments? While the guilt that beats at my brain wanted that to be the right answer, I know in my heart it’s not true. I adore my children. And I’ve spent a ton of time and effort capturing their childhood. I probably have hundreds of photos of Little Bird alone, much less those with his brother.