I'm beginning to have an understanding of what my father felt when he came home after working all day, grabbed our baseball mitts, and stepped into my room to ask if I wanted to play catch. He would usually find me on the floor of my room, in the midst of a galactic battle between good and evil, Empire and Rebellion. Now that I'm a father, I find myself with two young daughters who have the same view of their father as their grandfather once held.
This is Offbeat Families's archive of Parent-Child relationship posts.
These posts explore the many facets of the parent-child relationship — bonding with your newborn, teaching your toddler, and tips for continuing to nurture your relationship as your kid grows from child to teen.
I was absolutely fine with keeping the sex of our baby a surprise. Really, I was. But then something happened to me around 22 weeks. I suddenly had a deep desire to know exactly what sort of babe was moving around in there. I felt detached and found it strange to say "the baby kicked me" and "do you want to feel the baby?" I needed a pronoun. More than that, I wanted a name. (We had a short list of lovely girl names to choose from, but absolutely no boy names. Which of course meant that we were definitely having a boy. In my head at least.)
It's been an uncomfortable adjustment to motherhood, this reality that not even if I wanted to, and don't we all want to, sometimes, I can't hide myself from him. Growing a person inside you, birthing them out into the world, it was heavy stuff for me. I wanted it, without a doubt, but I had no idea how much I'd crave being alone.
That's when I began to realize that during the first few months of my son's life, I would not be living out any idealized role of mommy; I was a mad scientist, trying to figure out which baby soothing techniques would make him stop crying: a combination of white noise and bouncing, pretending I was at a wedding and doing The Hustle or taking him outside for some fresh air.
I think my solution is to refrain from assumptions altogether when I'm in public. I'll stop playing along with other's comments about her getting married one day, or meeting a man, or whatever. At home, I'll adopt new words into my vernacular with her. I'll illustrate differences through play — I can show her two girl Barbies kissing and two Ken dolls kissing.
Now what's the catch-22? Typically, the kids are so desperate for my attention when we are together that they resort to whining and crying and just generally being awful in order to get that attention. Surprising absolutely no one, that kind of behavior only annoys the shit out of me and makes me irritable. Which means I'm short-tempered. Which does absolutely nothing for my ability to properly deal with their whiny behavior. Which means it only gets worse. Which makes me tell them to just leavemealone! And the cycle starts again.
While tucking my son into bed tonight I was flooded by grief and joy simultaneously. He is eight, so I am used to this. Every time he goes and grows up he leaves me with this memory of the younger boy he left behind that day, vanishing in my arms as I reach down to kiss him goodbye. Tonight is different though. Tonight, perhaps I am the one who grew up a little bit too. It's amazing what a call from school can do.
Most days as I push our stroller up a hill loaded with my son and a week's supply of groceries and feel the muscles in my arms and legs working, I am reminded of the total body workouts I used to enjoy at my local gym. Not that long ago I lived a very different life — one that included a husband, a charming little house that we owned on a tree-lined street, a fulﬁlling full time job, a fun fashion part time job, volunteer work as a board of director for two companies, four weekly gym workouts and a circle of friends for dinner parties or BBQs and occasional travel.