Cake and ice cream

“Cake?” It’s what C says first thing in the morning when he walks into our bedroom. “Cream?” And apparently he would like ice cream with that. What a funny way to wake up. First of all, I cannot believe C is now walking into our bedroom in the morning, because that’s how grown up he is now; and second of all, was he dreaming about cake and ice cream or does he really think this would make a good breakfast? He reenacted this scene several mornings in a row, maybe reinforced by our startled laughter each time. It was an improvement as previous mornings he would just stand at the edge of our bed and yell “eat!” in a frustrated voice until we woke up. At least cake and ice cream shows a little more creativity on his part.

Two-year-olds are definitely full of themselves, in a good way, and I think wanting cake and ice cream for breakfast is an example of healthy narcissism. Narcissism definitely gets a bad wrap, and I used to recoil at the word, but I’ve been thinking about it different lately, from the lens of depth psychology, in that only by embracing our natural narcissistic tendencies by being honest with ourselves that they are there, can we let go of defenses and be our full, loving selves. So I would say that me writing this blog is like eating cake and ice cream for breakfast, my inner soul craving some sense of indulgence, need for the spotlight, specialness. So I indulge and my soul feels honored, heard, celebrated.

Speaking of spotlight, J had an end of the year sing-a-long, and I definitely cried watching him up on stage with his class singing “you are my sunshine.” It was a lullaby my mom used to sing to me, and so I think anyone would have done the same if they were in my shoes. Plus, singing with hand gestures is just not his thing, but the fact that he was really trying hard made it beautiful to watch. At the end of the year, we were given a report card and he had good marks which made me feel proud, and we also got a letter from the school nurse saying he is red-green colorblind, which made me feel even more proud, for some reason, and in love with him, because it’s one of those quirky things that make up who he is.

When J asks “why do I have to go to school if I don’t want to?” I realize that I have that part of me too – that asks why do I have to do anything if I don’t want to – and that it’s important to recognize when this shadow part also shows up. Because I think if I deny it’s there, all that energy to hide from it can become exhausting and block making true contact with myself and others. I love the term radical acceptance (Tara Brach) in which we don’t necessarily agree or accept in a submissive way or shirk responsibility to make positive changes if we can, but we can surrender to fighting imperfections in ourselves and life, which we have no control over, in order to free up our energy and heart space to have more authentic contact with others and the present moment.

So that’s what’s new with us and my healthy narcissism believes there are readers out there who care and will enjoy hearing about it. And I hope that my own quirkiness or humor that I’m still discovering and letting out into the light will connect with yours.

J writes, “In summer, I will have a lollipop.”

Posted in childhood, Depth psychology, growing up, james hillman, jungian psychology, kindergarten, motherhood, parenting, psychology, Radical acceptance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Love tickets

“I wish I were zero years old so I didn’t have to know that happened,” J said when he learned about the Titanic, bringing home a picture book about it from the school library. The two of us were drinking hot chocolates together in a nice, cozy coffee shop because I was trying to do something good, and then suddenly we were reading about people freezing to death in the Atlantic Ocean and I’m thinking oh my god this outing has suddenly become more emotional work than I ever thought it would be, and that is parenting exactly.

We have crossed so many new bridges this year in kindergarten. Not only does J have his own backpack for the first time, with his own things in it, but he can get it on himself. Who knew such a task could be so acrobatic—this is how it went the first month—with a serious look on his face that said “I got this,” he would carefully put on the first strap and then his entire body would erupt into a wild-man-whipping-maneuver, flinging the pack up into the air where it bonked around for way too long, nearly knocking himself in the head, until he could finally reach it with the other hand and was able to safely secure the damn thing onto his other shoulder. Watching these early attempts, I experienced a strange sensation of fighting back tears while also the urge to laugh.

His younger brother, C, is now two years old, so I should probably not refer to him as “Baby C” anymore. He was probably no longer a baby the moment we were at grandma’s and I went to get him from his nap and found him somehow standing outside his travel crib, saying “uh-oh!” I secretly cried when, shortly after, I gave away that fold-up crib, marking the end of an era. C loves to play ball with dad and goes to toddler gymnastics with me, where he appears to experience pure bliss through the simple act of jumping around for forty-five minutes on different bouncy surfaces. It’s contagious and as a witness, I often feel giddy and happy inside. The first time C had ice cream, afterwards, he pointed to his empty bowl and said, “more brrrr!” When it was warmer out, he liked to pick tomatoes from the garden, carefully place them on the cement and then before anyone could stop him, stomp on them with his bare foot. Gross. Understandably almost everything he does makes J laugh.

The first week of kindergarten, J developed blisters on his hands from the monkey bars, and now, almost springtime, they have hardened into calluses. He knows true things about the world that make him sad. He colors little red hearts, cuts them out, and hands one to me, saying it’s a “love ticket.”  I try and remind myself I’ve been “love-ticketed” and this helps to recharge emotional drain, my own rawness around parenthood, my fear of wanting to do it right, and I am able to have some moments of peace, to settle into the uncertain muck and beauty of life that expands us.Love tickets

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Growing down

The other day I found my shoe hanging from the door (see picture below), which made me laugh out loud because it had been one of those days—the kind where you jam a toe on the baby gate so hard it immediately turns purple and then somehow that same toe keeps getting stepped on by your five-year-old, then rolled over by your own grocery cart, with your toddler in it, as your five-year-old asks for cereal, with chocolate in it, and you say “no” and you curse yourself for wearing flip flops and being so clumsy and believe deeply in that moment that your toe will never, ever, in this life, actually heal.  But of course it does, and somehow, we just do.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the image of an upside down tree, and what it means to “grow down,” my spirit grasping for something on this earth to take hold of, the idea that we start life with something in us from another world and eventually learn how to grow down, be grounded in the earth and become part of this world (from The Soul’s Code, by James Hillman, a Jungian psychologist.  At least I think this is what he’s been talking about, or else my mind just wandered off into a very weird place). I like daydreaming about his idea of the acorn theory, an energy pattern directing us from inside, something that has its own dimension that is somehow not on either side of the “nature versus nurture” debate of who we are and how we became that way.  And for some reason, this feels good to think about, like when I’m hiking alone or laying on my yoga mat listening to Pearl Jam a little too loud on my headphones. It’s a spacious feeling.

Lately, J has been asking me, “what is a party boat?” and “can we get one?” His little soul is definitely interested in learning how to have some fun here. He also gets a kick out of waking up before anyone else in the family so he can color and eat cereal and listen to his favorite music (Trolls soundtrack) without being bothered. Meanwhile, Baby C’s idea of a party is taking out all the shoes from the bin by the door, dragging them around by their laces, and then hanging them in ways I didn’t know was possible (the surprise shoe hanging from the door was his doing). He also enjoys dropping a wooden spoon off the top of the stairs while saying “uh-oh” and running down the sidewalk as fast as he can while shouting gleefully. Maybe these are examples of their little souls finding pleasure and excitement in this earth somehow, directed by an inner something, rooting down.

So I’ll keep thinking about my upside down tree, especially when there’s pain or constriction, in or around me, my spirit settling down, into, seeking out so it can do what it demands to do. I’ll continue to find my own version of a party boat or a shoelace trick, to ponder meaning, laugh, connect with others—family and friends and strangers who are also here settling in.

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Amazing.

 

Posted in carl jung, Childbirth, childhood, growing up, james hillman, jungian psychology, mom blog, nature versus nurture, parenting, psychology, the soul's code, toddler, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The clovers

“The weekend is only two days?!” J asked during his second week of kindergarten. Yes, he was slowly but surely entering into the realities of our world. This made my heart hurt and so I said, “Yes, it’s two full days,” as if to convince him, and myself, that it all really wasn’t so bad. “Humph,” he said, angrily. “Then when I grow up, I’m going to be a T-Rex!”

I thought about this later—about what growing up to be this particular extinct dinosaur might mean for him—and I thought, maybe, if you were a T-Rex, you were so powerful you didn’t have to abide by any adult rules, including the calendar, and that perhaps he was holding onto this so he did not quite have to swallow the realities, all at once, of existing in the adult world as it is and having no control over so many things.

On J’s first morning of kindergarten, he cried and held onto my leg and would not let me go. His little eyes scanned the unfamiliar room, and he said “Don’t leave me here, I hate this place!” I felt a sensation of being crushed, his sadness like a boulder on my back, pinning me to the ground. I tried to reassure him with hugs and kisses but began to feel panic growing inside as other parents eventually all left the room and my child still would not let me go.  In that moment, I felt so all alone, like I had missed something—some sort of critical information on how to do this, because clearly, J was not sitting nicely in his chair, ready to begin like almost everybody else, and so, in my panicked mind, a little voice (that I am not proud of) squeaked, what was wrong with us? Thankfully, J’s teacher knew what to do, and so the second the little guy allowed a tiny sliver of space between our two bodies, she snuck in and gently turned his shoulders to his seat and he resigned and I left. When I got back to my car, I finally let my own tears out, even though I knew he would be okay. It was just hard sometimes—experiencing his sadness and fear, and on top of that, feeling different.  I knew this was an unreasonable thought, even as I was thinking it, because, of course, everyone is different—at some time, in some way—and that certainly wasn’t wrong, and for God’s sake, I knew it was okay to cry on the first day of kindergarten. And yet…my heart still did what it does, and that is—it feels what it feels, sometimes despite some very good logic.

When I picked up J from school, I waited with the other parents as his class appeared, following the teacher in a neat little row like a trail of ducklings, all in matching hats they had made to celebrate the big first day. J happened to be walking at the front of the line, a serious look on his face. When he saw me, he ran over for a hug and then, very carefully, he opened up his little hand to show me that inside he held, so lovingly, a tiny, green clover. “There are so many clovers here!” He said, and his face lit up with so much joy that the earth wobbled a little bit for me suddenly.

And so, looking back on that day I thought about time spent surviving, working, doing chores, being away from loved ones, the world’s realities of pain and injustice and sorrow and fear that can feel paralyzing to me at times, silencing. And yet, somehow, these little clovers did appear. Which reminded me of the other evening…we were snuggling goodnight and J said excitedly, “Did you know the sky is blue ghost?” he smiled and explained to me that was why we could not touch it and neither could skyscrapers. And I thought, how beautiful.  And I felt, there was, somehow, joy in that, in the strangeness of it all—imagining the sky as this blue ghost all around us, and popping up at our feet these unexpected clovers.

J’s second homework assignment in kindergarten – self-portrait.
Posted in Childbirth, childhood, first day kindergarten, growing up, kindergarten, kindergarten homework, mom blog, motherhood, parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Where to go from here

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.

world from space with lights.jpg

Posted in childhood, growing up, holidays, holidays with kids, mom blog, motherhood, parent coach, parenting, Postpartum highs and lows, toddler, Uncategorized, working mom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Siddhartha’s messy love

When Baby C falls asleep on my chest, he’s this tiny nugget of warmth, breath puffing in and out, fuzzy little head, twitchy fingers, a smell of sweetness and earth and clouds that I could just curl up and inhale forever.  One day, I clip a smiling toy octopus to his stroller and he likes it so much he stares deeply into its goofy cartoon eyes until he falls asleep (at the time, I find this strangely hilarious).  The same week, he starts to respond to me and smile back and it’s like watching a meteor shower—flashes of sparkling eyes and open-mouth joy, one after another, shooting magically across the ordinary night sky.  He is suddenly here with us in a way he was not before.  And I want to ask him, where did you come from?

“Is this our baby?” J asked me in a serious voice, a few days after Baby C came home, holding up a small statue of a round, smiling Buddha that’s been collecting dust on our windowsill (see picture below).  I laugh and the next day he asks me this again.  When Baby C is all swaddled up—his chubby little face popping out of this roll of blankets, staring up at me with these dark, searching eyes, he does remind me of something out of this world. It’s like he’s this little god/spirit/buddha/creature sent here to teach me that it’s not about me, but about something else, a particular type of love that perhaps only a one-month-old human being demands.  And maybe we were all sent here to teach our parents and each other more about that.

It’s the kind of love that wakes you up at midnight, two in the morning, and then again at four, drags you out of bed, forces your limbs to move, ignores your body who is begging you back to bed. It interrupts you, slows you down, and forces you to learn to eat with one hand. It doesn’t care if sitting in a rocking chair is starting to make your back ache, because it wants to rock with you for a very, very, very long time, until it falls asleep, however long that will take—and it is as simple as that. It’s so simple that it makes you laugh about a toy octopus.  Or it makes your mind feel like an empty parking lot some days, makes you stumble over your words, or forget the point of your story entirely.

One night, while I was tucking J into bed, he announced solemnly, “I will close my eyes, so I don’t have to see you go.” And perhaps this is the love that our four-year-old bodhisattvas teach us. This type of love requires us to stand up to the magnetic trance pulling us together and say goodbye, goodnight, see you in the morning or after work. It’s like chopping onions, this love, it can make you cry but it is essential to the meal—believing they will be alright and therefore letting them grow up, that is. It forces us to face our biggest fears that our big kids won’t be alright when we say goodbye, while they are at preschool or in the other room—that when they are out of our sight we may lose what we cherish most in this world.  It makes us plow forward and take this plunge, day after day, night after night, learning to have trust in them and maybe something else too. That night, after an extra snuggle, the time eventually still comes. There is no avoiding it. “See you in the morning,” I must say and then I walk out of his bedroom and into mine. That type of love.

“Have I hugged our baby yet?” J asks one evening. “But how?” He says and together, we give Baby C a gentle snuggle. J is learning so much about the heart too and what it means to welcome this new life into our family, to share his mom and dad, to have some things stay the same and other things change. He is asked to whisper more and wakes up in the night when his brother cries. He sees his dad making goofy faces at the baby and that makes him laugh. He asks, “Where was our baby when I was born?” I don’t know how to truly answer him or what I believe. I’m sleep deprived so over and over I think about that Buddha statue and those monks who meditate while they chop carrots and how this relates to the diapering-feeding-burping-cleaning-diapering-feeding-burping-cleaning-madness that is our life right now.  And maybe, in some moments, I am able to see it all for what it really is—perhaps lessons in love, from somewhere mysterious and far away—and in which, day after day, night after night, learning them really is a messy, beautiful honor.

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My prize

Okay, this is going to be intense—trigger warning—and I need to start with the end, the craziest part, because for some reason this makes the most sense to me right now. It is the moment my mind keeps looping back to, not caring about time or order, up and down, around and around, each time the memory becoming slightly less intense, like a knife becoming dull after days and days of whittling.

So here goes…After nine months of waiting, a week of being overdue, two days of prodromal labor, twenty-four hours of pre-labor, and six hours of active labor, my body was finally, finally, finally ready to push this baby out! The hospital’s midwife entered with a small team of nurses, and she peered over her spectacles with these grey, wise eyes and told me to push and that my body knew what to do, and I felt like the entire universe was thundering right threw me and gave it all I got, and when I hit the “ring of fire,” I thought about the movie 127 Hours and powered through it like a wild fucking animal, and then the midwife commanded me to reach down and pull out my prize—out of my very own body—and I screamed while I did it, and then I saw and felt and heard him squirming and squealing on my chest and knew that the wait and preparation and pain was finally all over and here we were together, at last.

Wow, I know that was graphic. And maybe it was weird that I shared this very private moment, but I can’t get over how crazy birth is—no matter how it goes down—this moment in time when finally your child comes out of your body to meet the world. How do you process that? How do you keep it all to yourself? How do you move back into ordinary life? We all have our ways, I suppose.

When I first started having random prodromal contractions at home, which involved me occasionally clutching whatever furniture was in sight and breathing like a crazy person, J looked at me and said in a serious voice, “I don’t know you, but I love you.” I almost cried at the sweetness of this statement and I knew he was right—I was being transformed right before his eyes into this birthing maniac woman/creature that he had never seen before. I’m sure it was a lot for a four-year-old to take in, so thankfully, when it was really go time (at 4am) my cousin rushed over to be with him, and we left with our doula for the hospital for the real craziness to begin.

At the hospital, I was offered nitrous oxide—yep, laughing gas. I was unsure about this at first—I had never heard of this being used during labor and I didn’t want to screw things up because I was laughing like an idiot. But then I hit back labor pains and I decided, why the hell not.

“Labor is nothing,” said the nurse assigned to me at the hospital, “it’s the next eighteen years that will kill ya!” Thanks to the nitrous oxide, I did laugh. And I actually felt slightly removed from the pain, which freed me up to think about other things—like how much I loved my husband and how unbelievable the world was. Really, I thought about these things. Between contractions. It was wild.

Three days after it all, I sat out on the porch for a long time watching the rain and crying. It was all so much—this beautiful baby boy who was so tiny and tender and lovable and innocent—the feel of his skin, the little squawks, his eyes taking the whole world in, the memory of our birth together and day one, two, and three already slipping away…

“Why are you sitting out there?” J barged out onto the porch wearing his fireman pants and wielding a knight shield. I followed him inside where it was warm and where I needed to be. “HIYA!” he yelled, jumping on his dad, starting a wrestling/tickling match. I cuddled up with baby C and laughed, feeling okay again, and decided that the next day I would force myself to write and that would be my way of processing this whirlwind of emotion and enter back into the ordinary. I would get these moments out into the world where they could be held and shared and understood. And somehow this would help me freeze and process and celebrate this birth—the wild unstoppable animal that I was and that beautiful, tender, innocent, baby-boy-creature that grew for so long inside my body and then finally, finally, finally came out—those unbelievable first seconds and moments and days. And now, I am released to move on from it all, with a sense of relief and bravery, towards those next eighteen years.

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Posted in birth, birth story, Childbirth, childhood, Contractions, growing up, Labor, Laughing gas during labor, mom blog, motherhood, natural birth, Nitrous oxide in labor, parenting, Postpartum highs and lows, pregnancy, pregnant, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment