This is the year, Bebe. The year I start to feel the weight of what it is to raise a daughter.
There’s something about this year – kindergarten, the oldest of the gan years, first grade prep, heightened self awareness, heightened emotional intelligence, deeper self expression.
Taking more responsibility. Finding love in different places.
Volunteering to try new things. Speaking up.
Finding a sense of style. Preferences for patterns of your own design.
Giving of yourself. Thinking of others.
This is the year Bebe. You’re getting to be a bigger, bolder kid. You’re thinking things through. For better or worse, you’re aware of what’s going on around you – the good, the bad, the scary. The uncomfortable. You’ve figured out privacy. You’ve figured out whats makes a kid ‘in’ or ‘out’. You want to fit in. You want to be appreciated.
Just keep nurturing your ability to speak up. To speak against injustice. Learn when to step in. Learn when to step up. I will help you. It’s hard for me too. But this is the year, Bebe. So much learning and growing. You teach me every day, too.
“Ima, why do adults always look at their phones?”
“Oh, I… um… it’s…”
Because if you think kids have no self control, you’re kidding yourself. Because adults have no self control. Because it gets lost over time. Because we’re so misguided. Because we’re just awful.
Because we adults get addicted to things. Because we are needy and insecure. Because we cannot control our basic instincts to become completely absorbed and obsessed and self centered. Because instant gratification is a too sweet. Because too much of a goof thing may make you sick but sometimes you just keep doing it because you’ve lost the ability to feel good or bad. Because we make a lot of rules but don’t follow them. Because we learn but we don’t internalize.
“And then I see them looking at their phones and then I look too and then after a few minutes my eyes hurt and it doesn’t feel good… so why do adults always do it?”
Because your eyes are young and hopeful and capable of seeing the brightest of bright colors, colors we cannot even see anymore after years of sitting at a desk or reading books or watching TV or becoming cyborgs, staring at phones. Your eyes are young and your brain is youthful and you have everything ahead of you except eventually it will be staring at phones. Or whatever that comes to mean. But it won’t be color. Not these colors, organic wholesome natural colors. LED colors. Artificial coloring.
Because I used to be able to sit in a car or a bus for hours and think and day dream and plan and focus and wonder. And now I can’t even go a minute or two without feeling for the phone.
Because deep, personal, intimate creativity has been cut off for so many of us by broad, global innovation.
Because adults have no self control. Because adults feel they must be in constant control.
Because we’re screwing it up everywhere we turn. Because a generation ruins it all for the next one. Because we are a species that denies nature and facts. Because we don’t deserve nice things and we’ve evolved to sabotage ourselves.
Because even though your question is a punch in the gut, I don’t know how we will stop.
There are three things I know to be true:
- There are types of self confidence that cannot be bought or therapy’d into you.
- A kid who is comfortable being choosy about cake is going places.
- This is going to be one hell of a year.
So here we go.
The hills are alive… with the giggles of Nettles…
And where dresses are worn, all the time – to gan, to bed. The dress phase. I know you.
We’ve really gotten to know Nettles, the younger sister. The younger sister who looks up to her older sister as her dear leader, her mentor, her worldview.
We’ve also come to know Nettles, the older sister. The mistress of torture, the distributor of aggressive hugs, the doting cartoon character who squeezes her beloved puppy too hard.
And for a while we’ve been very familiar with Nettles, the tag-along. The one who wants her fair share but then destroys it because really, none of this matters anyway, amirite guys? Guys??
The Nettles who gets ‘er done. The Nettles who doesn’t cry over spilled milk. Nettles doesn’t even see the spilled milk. Nettles pushes forth and gets what she wants. Which is disgustingly limp cornflakes.
Oh hey, Ima, look – milk!
One hell of a year, Nettles. Keep on moving.
(See? I told you I’d be up in your face making you crazy-laugh again…)
The sun and warmth and faint smell of spring have started to creep up around us and so your winter sniffles and spotty sleep schedule have started to melt away. Literally, right now, we’re on the floor together, you’re up on your knees, grabbing me by the collar, getting in my face and smile-saying “Ahhhhhhhhh!!!!” as if something hilarious is on my forehead.
This month you’ve really woken up from a wintry infant slumber. You’re finding things funny but also making things funny. You’re paying attention and grabbing attention. You’re speaking non-stop (did you actually tell me ‘toda’ yesterday after I gave you something?).
There’s a cautious curiosity about you, but you’re not stopped by fear. You also know what you want (and most of the time, it’s to get out of whoever the hell thinks they’re cuddling you and back into my arms). You’re clear, you’re focused, you’ll make yourself heard.
Meanwhile, the calaniyot are not safe around you (and neither are the crumbs on the floor from being consumed, my skin from being lovingly pinched, anything your siblings own from being destroyed).
As befitting a bilingual baby, you’re reaching a little higher than you need to. A little more to figure out in the world.
And of course, curiosity has fully set in; not like I’m at all surprised.
There are months when I take a million and a half pictures of you, where I’m up in your face covering you in kisses, where I tickle torture you until you snort. Zooey this was not one of those months because there’s so much going on. But I’ve missed you during late nights at work and the good thing is I’ve done this enough to know it’ll end and the month will go on and you’ll be snorting in laughter because of me soon again.
I work full time, and there are days when I’m in back-to-back meetings all day. There’s never enough time to get my work done, because if I’m not at work, I’m picking up my kids and starting the second half of my day. And when that’s over, preparing for the next one.
The reality is there are days that I end up with a rushed 20 free minutes midday and I have to make a choice – find food because I’m about to collapse, or pump.
Why am I bringing it up? Because I feel like when we talk about working moms and how insane it all is, we don’t get into the messy awkward stuff. Like boobs exploding in pain in the workplace. Like having an extra personal, physical thing to take care of during the day aside from feeding ourselves. Like feeling disappointed if I didn’t pump one day because I prioritized meetings over having extra milk for my baby. Like getting over knowing that all my coworkers know where I’m going when I walk away from my desk with my bag, and the answer I give is ‘no’ when they ask if I’m leaving for the day.
I guess I’m sharing this because 2.5 years ago I decided I wanted to normalize pumping in the workplace to help the next set of moms coming up under me. It was harder last time around (I was the first and only one doing it, hello freezing server room), but this time I do feel change, both in myself and the company.
Today, my workplace is very pump friendly, and there are four of us now, and though it gets crowded, they keep adding new locks and shades to close off private offices.
So here’s to normalizing pumping, friendly workplaces, and hungry, tired moms overcoming the added daily challenge of exploding boobs.
On the one hand, you make your opinions known.
My baby ate my homework.
On the other hand, you have to constantly watch your back.
And that’s a lesson in how to survive in your family of six.
I had an unexpected emotional trigger when, as I walked toward the office fridge to grab my pumped milk at 18:45, I saw the fridge door already open, with its glistening empty shelves, and the cleaner standing in front, putting new garbage bags in the trash cans.
The office manager had emailed earlier that everything in the company fridges would get chucked today at the end of the day… I frantically asked the bewildered cleaner if it was really all gone, ‘no, I don’t need milk, it was my pumped milk, mother’s milk, that was in there, in a special bottle,’ and he did feel sorry for me… and had been just doing his job…
I left and stood by my car watching the other cleaner toss the day’s garbage bags into the parking lot dumpster. I debated looking through them. I debated crying. I debated going home.
It wasn’t a lot of milk and I have more bottles. But finding 30 minutes during the day to put my baby first is hard. Every. Day. And finding time to give her special attention is hard. She doesn’t even drink it… she eats it sometimes, as a meal. She never accepted bottle feeding.
She’s nearly nine months and I’m sad to come to terms with moving on from pumping. Because it’s just another little chapter to close up in our lives together.
[UPDATE January 16 2017: Is now a good time to mention my frozen stock just fell to the floor and cracked and broke?]