All told, it wasn’t technically a bad night. Last night, I mean.
We’re doing this update in medias res, I hope you don’t mind. (You’re a 21-month-old, and your reading vocabulary is still limited to one-syllable words about animals and your own name, so I’m going to make presumptions, even though you know what they say about presumptions–they make the pres out of u and ump, and that’s never a good idea. Anyway.)
Scale approximation of what it is like to carry you around and do the “CrossFit” dance to “Karma Chameleon,” which thank goodness you prefer your father to do.
Anyway. I hate writing introductions. I always have. I don’t think they serve much of a purpose. If you can tell me what you’re going to talk about effectively in three paragraphs, or one beensy first chapter, then you don’t need to write an essay or book, know what I’m saying? Just get right to it. (IRONY: that was my INTRODUCTION just there. Me=Derrida.)
Last night. It started well. As is your wont, you barreled straight through the day without the barest hint that you might want to engage in an activity as Plebeian as a nap, and then, in a miracle of delicate maternal line-walking, I managed to scoop you up and bring you into the bedroom just as you were getting tired, but not after you’d gotten so tired that, the minute you noticed you were being taken anywhere other than your current favorite place–ON THE COUCH!!!!–you’d degenerate into fifteen minutes of yowls that would at long last result in a refreshing nursing session that did little more than invigorate you for another two hours’ go-round, despite your having already been awake twelve hours. SO, given that I got you to drift off at the magical hour of 8:00 in the p.m. without so much as a whimper, I was feeling PRETTY good about myself, about finally figuring out something remotely resembling…dare I say…a routine, with my high-need, routine-averse offspring.
Sitting IN YOUR OFFICE at the library, playing some of the awesome 1997-era learning games they have, making friends with the new librarian, Ms. Elisha.
Turns out, I daren’t have said anything of the sort.
1:17 a.m. You are stirring, nursing aggressively. You seem to be drifting back off every five minutes or so, and, since I have a bladder issue that’s gone from persistent to emergent, I am more interested than usual in getting you off of me.
1:25 a.m. Every time I think you’re asleep and I try to pry you off me, you pop up to a seat and say your new favorite phrase, BOO BOO BUTT!!! which is from The Book With No Pictures, a gift from your beloved great-aunt Sarah. BOO BOO BUTT!!!!! you say. BOO BOO BUTT!!!!!!! I have no choice but to scoop up your boo boo butt and take you into the bathroom with me. You think this is delightful. This is not a good sign.
Your father’s foolproof drowning-prevention system at Forest Park. (That water is like seven inches deep; the worst that can happen is that you’ll try to drink it–though, honestly, that’d be pretty bad.)
1:37 a.m. You stopped sleeping through the night at around 15 months (or whatever “sleeping through the night” resembled; it is a far bygone memory at this point and I don’t even know what it felt like), and your likelihood of going back to sleep after a night waking is inversely proportional to your mood during that waking. On the nights you sit bolt up right, don’t even open your eyes, and just start wailing, perversely, your father and I know it will just be a matter of minutes before we’re all snoozing once more. If, on the other hand, your bolting is accompanied by clapping, verbatim singing of the Gymboree welcome song (which you only do when you are far, far away from Gymboree), the recitation of Herman the Worm (I ATE MY SISTER!!!!! I BURPED! BURPED! HAHAHAAHAHAAAAA!), or the recall of whatever phrase caught your fancy that day, we. are. fucked.
1:39 a.m. “THAT’S FANTASTIC!! THAT’S FANTASTIC!!! THAT’S FANTASTIC RIGHT NOW!!! THAT’S A FANTASTIC BIRD RIGHT THERE!!!!!!” Oh Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ.
2:05 a.m. Your father, with my blessing, absconds to the other room, so that perhaps one of us might visit Dr. Morpheus sometime in the Gregorian calendar of two thousand and sixteen.
Approximately once per week you take a nap. This usually occurs at 4:50 p.m. on days when there is something I would like to watch on live (streaming) television at the time you would normally go to bed, including but not limited to the apocalyptic presidential debates. I have come up with a PRECISE mathematical formula about just how that ill-timed nap will affect your bedtime and it is thus. IF b is for bedtime = 7:30, THEN nb (new bedtime) = 7:30 + automatic 2-hour nap penalty + 1 hour for every hour after 3 p.m. said nap takes place. SO, a nap that begins at 4:50 and ends at 6 will result in a bedtime of midnight. Honestly, if I know what’s ahead, it’s bearable.
3:25 a.m. Your father pokes his head into the bedroom. I say, “Please take a shift so I can go scream into a pillow.” I was not joking. This morning I am horse.
3:30 a.m. After your fiftieth nurse-fade-fakeout, it occurs to me: You’re hungry. As you’ve grown (improbably, given what you eat, or don’t), so has your typical toddler pickiness.
COUNTERPOINT: When and only when your father is eating something he doesn’t want to share (which is usually; he is a TERRIBLE SHARER), you suddenly develop a burning interest in consuming whatever that is. This is delightful for me, because it’s the only way I can get you to eat broccoli and also it forces your father to do something he hates.
3:35 a.m. Now, to any of you reading this just JUMPING to tell me how badly I have fucked up in “allowing” my toddler to subsist on Cheez-Its and kombucha (sipped OF A STRAW, the only method allowed), I will kindly invite your face to meet my fist. I am doing my level fucking best here, and some days, my kid just won’t eat. I provide her with a variety of wholesome and healthful foods multiple times a day, and she scoops those wholesome and healthful foods up and dumps them on the floor, and then demands SOME BUBBLES! BIG ONES!!! because doesn’t everyone blow bubbles through a Gymboree(TM) brand bubble horn at their eating child in a kitchen so that she will be momentarily distracted from how much she does not want to eat the wholesome variety of foods her better-knowing adult human has placed before her?
You shoulda seen the muppet what was on the other side of this fight.
4:35 a.m. Groggy and confused, you are sitting in your high chair in your pajamas, wolfing down parmesan crisps, raisins, and the aforementioned Cheez-Its, delighting in dumping whatever you can into the glass of almond milk you are intermittently SIPPING OF A STRAW when not jamming your fat hand into it. You were hungry.
This is Gymboree. We go once a week, out in the suburbs, and for every day we do not go, you talk about it incessantly. GO IN SPECIAL SEAT (your carseat). GO TO GYMBOREE!
4:35 a.m. After another half-hour’s worth of nurse-fade-fakeouts (many culminating in increasingly heated tantrums, which, need I remind my friends, is actually a good sign, albeit in this case a misleading one), you up and decide, Hey, I’m going to sleep now, and flop down next to me with no preamble or fade. Your father and I hold our breath for two straight minutes. Another of your favorite phrases right now is CHRISTMAS MISCHIEF. Why? No idea. I didn’t tell you about Christmas, and I certainly didn’t encourage you to confuse it with Halloween, though I definitely approve. “That was certainly some Christmas Mischief,” I whisper across the room. I can’t tell whether your father’s answering whimper is a laugh or a sob. Probably it’s both. Miraculously, we all drift back to sleep until 8.
THE most exciting development of the last month is that after several months of expert Craigslist sleuthing, your father found us this used Burley bicycle trailer in great condition, a top-of-the-line model we would normally not be able to afford (or at least not want to buy), at about a third of its purchase price. I cannot tell you how much this has improved my quality of life. There are so many new places I can take you (and have taken you) in it, including and especially all of the stellar free attractions in Forest Park, like the zoo, where we are at right–you’re riding the little choo choo train that goes around the perimeter, which you FUCKING LOVE. (Yes, yes, zoos are iffy and depressing, but the St. Louis one has pretty good habitats and practices, and when you have a little kid and a zoo a mile away, you go to the fucking zoo.) And, even better, I now can work out WITH YOU ALONG. I don’t have to scramble and beg for an hour of childcare just so I can limp off to the gym (only after sneaking out of the house and possibly having to double back three times thanks to your sixth sense for when I need to do something for myself). Mama can, as you say, “EXERCISE HER BUPP!!!!” and the weather has been amazing and autumnal, and it has been absolute, utter bliss. What’s even better is that you adore it in your “CORT” as you call it, and spend most rides yapping along delightedly, reciting all of your songs by memory, often putting in substitute words but keeping the meter and pattern correct. (“Ten little bubbles go POP POP POP” from Gymboree becomes “Ten little fishies go BLUB BLUB BLUB”). We’re working on the helmet. We’re working on it.
So the total hours I slept last night were 10:30-1:15, and then 5:00 to 8. That’s, like, IDEAL if I were an Ancient Greek. So it’s time to quit my bitchin.
The Diaper-Headed One agrees.
Because you know what? That was a bananas fucking night, but life is good. Last month at this time, I was bitching out strangers in Whole Foods and crying multiple times a day, and now? Well, in the words of my favorite toddler, I’m BLESSED WITH THE BEST. That is my favorite phrase of yours currently–you got it from listening to one of your Raffi songs, “Blessed Be,” and then realizing that “blessed” rhymes with “best,” and deploying that rhyme at every available opportunity. For reasons I do not understand, because you don’t have a lisp in any of your other language, you lisp it. BLETHHHED WITH THE BETHHHT. I have a slight lisp that I get from my dad; maybe you’re fucking with me.
Obligatory Midwestern Pumpkin Patch Photo.
But I really am blethd with the bethdt. You continue to astound me in your capacity to grow into a human, in your perplexing and outrageous preferences (currently one of the few things you will deign to eat is shaved parmesan cheese); in your continuing mastery of the English language your own particular way (when you want something, you just say that thing prefaced with SOME, or GO TO; SOME MORE STICKERS; GO TO THE ZOO, but when you describe something, you use full, robust English sentences: That’s a duck paddling right there. Look at him paddle!); in your consternation when, on the rare occasion, you don’t know the answer to a question; in your refusal to be anyone but your stubborn, intense, hyper-aware, always-moving, always-learning self.
Grand experiments in EATING LIKE A BIG-BIG, which your father is always eager to let you do, and I am always eager to swap out for a high chair so that I can sit down for five seconds and fucking eat something.
I hope that you always feel BLETTHD WITH THE BETHHD. I hope that every child does. I hope that everyone has at least some moments in their day, every day, when they feel like THE BETHHHDT. Not like in an everyone’s-valedictorian, participation-trophies way, but like THEIR best. Like the best they can be at that moment. Even if that moment is at 3:39 in the morning, and the best they can be is a mother who is screaming into a pillow.
Pillow-screaming and all, you continue to be the human incarnation of pure soul-ripping joy. I love you so much. Love, Mama.