The morning after election day, I find Baby C standing up in his crib for the very first time—I am so shocked to come into the room and find him upright in his little blue sleep sack, tiny hands gripping the side of the crib, body teetering on legs that appear to be so awkwardly planted, hollering out with what seems to be, Where the hell do I go from here? I answer him, Into my arms, and reach down and pick him up. It is an incredibly strange day, and this moment contrasts so deeply with the devastation I feel over the election, this moment so removed, so tiny, so beautifully significant for my son’s little being, for my being, for this baby to somehow pull himself up to standing, for the very first time, on this particular day, perhaps despite of—or because of—or in absolutely no relation to—all of the energy and division and emotion that is happening in the world right now.
I am jolted back into my own life, into my own strange bubble that I am so privileged to have, so removed from it all—my existence of day-to-day living and working and trying to raise decent human beings. I stop checking Facebook and take a break from it all, because it is all just so sad. I focus my energy on my little ones who, at least consciously, know nothing about what the world is experiencing—J (who is almost five now) watches the movie Shrek and wants to know what is true love? At bedtime he says, “Mommy, I true love you.” He wants to know if space has walls and how do you build a pirate ship.
I feel nervous that I do not know how to answer all of his questions, so finally, I spend a Saturday afternoon meeting with a Parent Coach, a seasoned mama and grandma, who runs her own business meeting with moms like me who have a lot of questions. When I meet her at her office, I can immediately tell she is a kind woman who wants to help. She can tell that I am worn down from the world right now and asks me to write a list of activities that are “self-care,” which mean that they recharge me and make me feel good. Strangely, the first thing that comes to my mind includes eating breakfast in my backyard, alone. I realize how weird and maybe even pathetic this sounds and that I need some normal-person items on the list, like going out to the movies with friends.
The Parent Couch reassures me that I am still getting used to life as a parent of two kids. It feels like a relief to hear someone say that out loud, but also such an incredibly stupid thing to feel overwhelmed about, especially considering all that is happening in the world right now. Even though it feels absolutely ridiculous to give the following topic any air time whatsoever, I tell her anyway about my boys’ preschool Halloween parade—that Baby C was the only one without a costume and also happened to be missing a sock that day; and that I had not realized J’s skeleton costume was at least two sizes too small until I saw him from behind during the middle of the parade, the poor little guy with the biggest wedgie I have ever seen.
Then this wise woman tells me that the fact that I made it to the parade in the first place, on a work day, was amazing, and she says this in a way like she really means it. I agree with her and start feeling better about myself and remember that I also took J to a Lego workshop at the library earlier in the week, which was a very special time just me and him, and that afterwards, back at the house, we cut out little pumpkins out of orange construction paper together—which also made us both happy—and that during that silly parade, even though Baby C was the only participant without a costume and likely had one very cold foot, he seemed to enjoy himself—literally smiling the entire time.
So, having sorted some of this out momentarily, I guess everything is okay, for the most part, in my own little bubble, but there is still so much suffering and injustice for so much of the world and in the grand scheme of things. This makes it hard to write, hard to laugh, hard stay focused. I take the boys to the playground and watch J climb up the slide and dangle from the monkey bars and declare himself Spiderman. I let Baby C swirl his chubby little hands around in the sandbox and grab excitedly at piles of dead leaves and try to put sticks in his mouth. Their worlds are so small, like mine, and I am just like them—sifting through that sand with my hands, trying to make sense of it all.