Friday, February 26, 2010

Spare the Rod

Jack has taken to spitting his food. Not spitting it out because he doesn't like it, just spitting it, loudly and all over the place, to signal the end of a meal.

I do not like this. As you can see from my previous post, living with messes has become par for the course, but having food spewed on the carpet, not to mention my clothes, is just pushing it a little too far for me.

So the other day, when Jack spit pureed green beans all over me, I calmly paused, looked him in the eye, and said firmly "No. We don't spit food." I didn't raise my voice, I didn't make a mean face, I simply used a stern voice.

He went absolutely catatonic for ten or fifteen seconds. Wouldn't look at me, wouldn't accept another spoonful of food, just stared straight ahead. And then he burst out crying. Big, sloppy tears, a real wail. And my heart turned to water, I swear it. Of course I immediately swooped him out of his high chair and held him close, but I felt so terrible.

The truth is, I'm no softie. We did cry it out, and when I was a nanny I never took any crap and was not swayed by tears in the slightest. But seeing my baby cry, not because he had to stay in his crib and didn't want to, but because he knew Mommy was upset with him--seeing that just wrecked me. It just made me think how the things we do as parents have such an enormous effect on the lives of our children. Not that I want to sit and freak out about it, but the weight of that... Wow.

I believe that discipline is important. I think order and rules are necessary to give children a sense of control and security, and I have no problem enforcing this. But what scared me so much when Jack cried was the idea that he could feel rejected by me. Not disciplined, but rejected. And I can't handle that.

It worked though. Now all I have to say is "No," and he stops. But I don't know. It's just so hard to think you hold someone's sense of self worth, even before they have any concept of self, in the palm of your hand. It scares the crap out of me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I get by with a little help from my friends.

I honestly don't know what stay-at-home mothers did before the Internet. Correction: I don't know what housebound stay-at-home mothers did before the Internet. Because having people remind me that my feelings are normal makes a huge difference to my sanity. Of course I know that many mothers feel trapped and bored and lost at times, but it's still all too easy to beat yourself up about it. Guilt is just something you birth with a baby I suppose. I never struggled with guilt issues before Jack was born, and now they seem to be my constant companion.

Still, this week has been muuuuuuuuch better. Two of my sisters have made the pilgrimage home for the week, and we've all moved back in with my parents for the duration of the visit, so that life is full of people and chaos (and help!) again. Which is just how I like it. Unfortunately, the Eating has resumed as well. The Eating is an unfortunate byproduct of time with my family. We love the Eating. We live for the Eating. We are wonderful at the Eating. Thankfully I am now doing pilates twice a week, if you can believe it (I can barely believe it), so hopefully the damage will be minimal.

An aside: I have thus far written 38,000 words in my "novel," which shall remain in double quotes until I feel I have earned the right to take them off. Let me repeat: 38,000 words, people. Not the 50,000 I was meant to have by Christmas, but it's something and I'm proud.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An alarming new trend

Jack has decided he no longer needs to nap. I am beside myself. I know I shouldn't complain, because he sleeps thirteen hours a night straight through. But I am alone with him for ten hours every day, snowed in, unable to go anywhere anyway because I have no car, and most of the day is spent following him as he crawls around and stopping him right before he puts something electrical/poisonous/small enough to choke on in his mouth. I think I might be going a little bit crazy.

After two or three hours I have taken to putting him in his high chair and feeding him puffs, one by one, while I surf the net. This lasts about a half hour. Later, I fill a box full of stuff and he takes it all out. Then we do it again. And again. This lasts maybe another half hour before he is tired of it. After that I put him in his pack and play with some musical-lighty up toys. I can get ten minutes out of that before he pulls himself up, bites the side, and proceeds to wail.

Five or six hours in I might try to watch a little television on the DVR. I sit him on the couch with me and give him toys to bang together. Sometimes I make it through a whole program. Most of the time I don't. How many hours to go now?

Yesterday I put him in the ergo and walked to the library because my brain was slowly melting. It was blizzarding. I had to squeeze my eyes shut because the snow was blowing in my face so hard. Don't worry, Jack was under about a thousand layers so he was snug and warm. My face almost fell off but my brain firmed up again. It was so worth it. Two hours passed that way.

The sad thing is I spend most of my day trying to keep my precious, beloved baby occupied so I don't have to pay attention to him. The lack of any time to think, to write, to do anything that reminds me of who I am means that our time together, all of it, is spent in a haze of me just trying to get through it. By the time David gets home, I hand Jack to him and crawl into bed for an hour. When I get up, the baby is fed and sleeping, the house that over the course of the day had become an embarrassing mess has been picked up, and David is more often than not cooking dinner.

I am so lucky. I know this! I am so lucky. But still. Is it awful that I wish I had less time with Jack, so that I could be renewed and alive enough to be able to give myself completely to him in the time we do have? Quality over quantity? I know one day, when he is grown (he grows so fast!), I will look back on these days and long for them. But right now I just feel like half of a person.

Wow, just read over this. It's unbelievably whiny. And it started out all lighthearted! Clearly there are some deeper emotions going on there. I know I am not unique among women in the way that I feel, but I can't help but wonder sometimes if I am missing some all-important mommy gene that makes women love every waking second with their babies. Because I don't. And it pains me to admit it.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Today is the first day of the rest of this blog.

I am really moved by all of the comments people made on my last post. Life is always such a paradox. The minute we stop struggling so hard, whether in love, parenting, or even blogging, is often the minute that what we want comes to us. In order to write something that resonated with other people, I had to stop trying to write what I thought might resonate with other people. I had to, as mothers have told their children forever, "be myself."

I know all of this. So why is it so easy to forget? How can it possibly be so difficult to be yourself? Because it is. It really is.

I went in search of an e.e. cummings quote I once heard on being yourself, and here's a few I found along the way:

Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess, and to gain applause which he cannot keep. ~Samuel Johnson

He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away. ~Raymond Hull

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. ~Oscar Wilde

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. ~Dr. Seuss

Most of our faults are more pardonable than the means we use to conceal them. ~Fran├žois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

Just being yourself, being who you are, is a successful rebellion. ~Author Unknown

And the quote I was looking for:

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings, 1955

If it weren't so hard, if it were just something that came naturally, than I suppose there wouldn't be so many people encouraging us to do it. The strangest thing, to me, is that for centuries great men and women, poets and artists, admirable people from all walks of life, they've all been telling us: Here's how I did it. Here is how I became great. Because I didn't care what other people thought, I cultivated a character that could withstand life's storms, I worked hard, and I ferociously fought to be an authentic version of myself. We have been provided with a blueprint! And still we try to do it the easy way. Get on a reality show. Be really hot and wear cool clothes. Have the right profession, say the right thing, be in the right place at the right time. We don't have to be great, just famous. Because famous is great.

I am teetering on my soapbox here, so I'm going to climb off. I'm just feeling really passionate these days about things I have lost, the biggest one being me. That happens a lot. But I'm on the mend, off to find it again. Fight the good fight! (insert fist pump here)

Monday, February 01, 2010

On Blogging: A Manifesto

Or: Why I bother blogging.

I started this blog for friends and family only. I wanted them to be able to keep track of me on my travels, and I also didn't want to have to send a million letters or emails because I am crap at keeping in touch with people. Thus this blog was born. It existed in various incarnations, and in various places, with various periods of dormancy in between for many years. The last of these dormant periods took place when I got pregnant by surprise and proceeded to fall apart. Then spring came last year, and a baby was imminent, and I was trapped in my house and lonely, and I started writing again.

But more importantly, I started reading other people's blogs. I'd done this before, loving the thrill of being a voyeur into the lives of others, but it's as if the blogosphere had become a new thing: Suddenly there were communities, and communities within communities, and followers and comments and strangers becoming cyber-friends and all these things that probably existed for years that I had never noticed before.

And there were so many people like me. Originally I was searching frantically for blogs written by people with unplanned pregnancies, and landed on Girls Gone Child and Mommy Wants Vodka, both of which led me to most of the blogs you'll see on my sidebar. I was ecstatic. I was not alone. Others had made it through.

So I started writing again, and commenting on people's blogs, and finding blogs I really liked and people I really liked. It should have been simple and easy, but I have an unfortunate tendency to make things complicated and difficult. Some days it was enough to write how I felt, and read how others felt. But other days, I would read a blog and see how many comments the writer received and think, I want that! I want people commenting on my blog, telling me to hang in there when I'm feeling low, and encouraging me to go for it when I want to do something crazy. And more than that, let's be honest--I want people telling me how awesome I am and how great of a writer I am. Seriously, the amount of ego-stroking that goes on around the Internet is unbelievable, and I wanted me a piece of that.

So my childish ego wanted recognition! accolades! fame!--and in the wake of that childishness came an even worse vice: Envy.

Envy is one of the big three for me, something I despise and try to keep out of my life along with Shame and Regret. These three little demons destroy lives from the inside out, stealing joy and creating bitterness, and I fight them with everything I've got. Most of the time, I succeed. But for the past year, when I've felt alone and bored and powerless to change my circumstances, Envy has taken up residence in my head, and it is a nasty tenant. And it feeds--my god how it feeds--on the ability to see into other people's lives through blogs.

I envied everyone. I envied people who seemed happier than me. I envied people who had perfect-seeming relationships. I envied people who were talented. I envied people who were funny. I envied people who had tons of commentors every day, telling them how great they were, how talented, how brilliant their thoughts were. Because wait a minute--I'm great, right? I'm talented! I've got brilliant thoughts!

How was it that someone could start a blog in March, and have a hundred followers by May? I've had my blog for nearly seven years! Why don't people like me? Why is everybody so much goddamn happier than me? Why do I suck so incredibly bad? And why, when I comment a million times on such and such's blog, do they never come to look at mine? Why do they hate me?

I would go through periods of commenting like mad on a bunch of blogs, because I knew that's how people got other people to look at their blogs. I did it even though it bothered me so much when somebody else did it, this fishing for followers. But eventually I couldn't do it anymore, because I have a really hard time being insincere, and trying to think of a comment just for commenting's sake was exhausting. Instead I found myself commenting over and over again on certain blogs that I enjoyed, or only on posts that really touched me. It was better that way.

But it didn't bring the masses to my blog. So there was still the issue of the Envy.

And finally, I had to stop and think. What do I really want out of this blog? What am I really writing for? Because when I'm honest with myself, do I really want a million followers? Do I really want the pressure of trying to be funny, or poignant, or profound, every single day? Sure I would love the attention, but do I really want to work that hard for it? Because it is hard work. To cultivate these virtual relationships, and to create like mad on your own blog, is a lot of work. And here's the thing: I don't want to do that. I am way, way too neurotic to have a large amount of people following my personal life. I want to be free to write horrendous shit, to be whiny and sad sometimes, to tell jokes that aren't particularly funny. And if someone should tell me I'm great, I want it to be someone who is, well, invested in me, the way I'm somehow invested in the blogs you see to your right.

I don't want a bunch of followers, I want friends. Because with friends you don't have to try, and you can just be yourself.

The truth is I work better in relationship with others, however that relationship is defined.

So how to create these relationships? For a long time, when I came across a new blog I'd add it to a folder marked "New Blogs." If I came back to it again and again and found myself going over its archives, I'd add it to my reader. If I didn't, I'd erase it. Now I don't do that very much because I pretty much know the first time I go to a blog if it's one I want to read. If I can't stop reading, then voila. If I can leave without looking at any other pages, then there's really no point in saving it.

So what keeps me reading? It's not necessarily snark or just being funny, because sometimes I get annoyed with blogs like that because I feel like they're trying too hard. I like funny, yes, but the kind that's like salt: it should flavor the blog, not dominate it. It's not necessarily beautiful writing either, because I'd rather read books if I'm reading just for the sake of lovely words on a page. I like blogs written by people who are authentic, who are kind, who sometimes struggle, who are open-minded and pure of heart, who have a good sense of humor and don't take themselves too seriously. But there are a lot of people like that. So they have to be, more than anything, people who I get. People who I identify with. People I would choose to be friends with should I ever meet them in person. People like that are the only ones with blogs I want to read, and the only ones I hope will read me. Should such people remain small in number, and should my followers be few but loyal, I will be happy.

Having determined these things I hereby submit the following resolutions:

I resolve to grow not a mass of readers but a network of friends, and to do so organically, not methodically, by sharing experiences and exchanging thoughts.

I resolve not to envy those who have worked hard and earned multiple readers, and to be happy for those who are talented, successful, and blessed.

I resolve that I shall no longer allow this blog to be a source of any neurosis, sadness, or frustration due to its readership, content, or lack thereof.

I resolve that this blog shall be a place where I can be myself, collect my thoughts, and document my experiences. Upon it I shall be free to write the worst drivel ever written without fear. It shall be a forum for cultivating relationships with like-minded people wherever they may be in the world, and it shall be used for the sole purpose of making me happy, not famous, successful, or even popular.

Hereafter, this blog will be something I control, not something that controls me.