Tag Archives: parenting

So Much Love in My Life, and Still I Want More

27 Dec

2017-12-27_23-28-37

A colorful plastic star hangs on his crib and plays soft, soothing music, while pale pastel images are projected on the ceiling of his bedroom. He observes the images, wide eyed, with glee, and slowly, mesmerized, releases his grasp of awareness and sinks into a deep sleep. I sit beside him, my hand on his back, concentrating on his breaths, and on the soft movement of his back, like ripples in water, rising and descending. So small, I think to myself. How can I love something so small, so much.

Five years later, here I am, organizing the closet in the guest room, and wondering who gets the musical plastic star. I change the batteries and clean the toy with a wet cloth. PLAY. The soft ringing music is suddenly too much. Without warning, tears well up in my eyes. I’ll be 38 soon. He’s going on six. We have our cute little ground floor apartment facing an orchard filled with grapefruit trees, and our goofy dog runs around the yard, chasing away the cats (and mice) and getting into fights with a hedgehog every now and again. We have D and his girls, who spend time with us every week. And still, at the end of the day, it’s still just the two of us. At least it often feels this way.

There’s D. My man, the one who’s loved me for over three years now, who’s allowed me to truly get to know him, without censorship, who’s broken through the fortress that used to be my heart, who’s seen me cry, and made me laugh, who’s strong arms hold me on the nights we’re together, and when he’s inside me I sometimes can’t believe my luck, that I get to have my legs wrapped around him and experience such pleasure.

I love his two girls, although I don’t see enough of them, because we’ve decided not to live together. Or he’s decided and I’ve gone with it. Or I had to go with it, because it was non-negotiable. I’m not sure. And every time my period comes, I’m a little disappointed, because we’re not trying for a baby – that too is non-negotiable – but still I hope to somehow, accidentally get knocked up and ruin everything.

It sure would make things easier if I had another child. To begin with, I’d be so busy, there would be no time to think about my life and debate whether I’m content or if something is missing. Some things would definitely be missing: sleep, and alone time, and sex. But I would probably be too busy to notice. I also wouldn’t notice how my boy is all grown up, going on play-dates instead of listening to me read, and suddenly acting as if getting a hug from his mom after school is embarrassing.

But there is no baby, and probably won’t be another baby. Or – there can be another baby, maybe, but then I need to find a father. And I don’t want another father. I just want D.

I was reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to my son before bedtime tonight. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” Dumbledore told Harry, who was enchanted by the mirror of Erised.

I don’t want to forget to live. I don’t want to forget that even though he’s nearly six, he still crawls into bed with me on Saturday mornings. And that sometimes, when D is over with his girls, they crawl in too, and we all steal a few more minutes of sleep, all five of us together.

I don’t want to forget how even though we’ve been together for over three years, I still feel in love when I see him, and how he says things to me, like that I’m the second best thing that’s ever happened to him after his girls being born, and that he wants to love me for always and grow old with me by his side.

I don’t want to forget how lucky I am to be working in a place I find meaningful, to be affecting the lives of so many children every day, to truly like going to work in the morning and meeting my friends, who are my co-workers.

There is no baby. There may never be one. But I don’t want to stand there staring into my mirror of Erised and become addicted to the sight of a little bundle of happiness cradled in my arms, and forget that I can cradle my boy, or my man, or his girls, or my goofy, lovable dog.

He started reading now. My boy, not the dog. He’s outgrown all his clothes and shoes, and he no longer runs into my arms when I pick him up from kindergarten. But he does tell me about challenges and fears he’s overcome, and smiles at me with pride. He’s no longer obsessed with proving to me that he can do stuff on his own, and he’s not interested anymore in understanding how the world around him works. He now wants to understand abstract ideas, things that cannot be seen by means other than his own imagination. How did the universe begin, he asks. And what happens when you leave the atmosphere, and what is it like in space? And what will happen if I dig a very very very deep hole in the ground? I love how confident he is, not the way I was as a child, and so much more evolved than me – even as an adult. He knows his self worth, he loves himself. Looking at him I know I did a good job, and I know I could do it again.

I could.

But I won’t, I guess. And then when this saddens me.

And as I sit in the guest room, crying into a little plastic musical star, I think to myself that it’s unfair, that I have so much love in my life, and still – I want more.

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Tomato Paste Math

22 May

tomato paste

I love grocery shopping with my boy. This probably has to do with the fact that I love food and cooking, but also because almost a year ago, when he turned two, I realized I could actually get stuff done around the house, if I only stopped trying to keep him busy while I cleaned, cooked and set the table, and instead included him in all these activities. Since then, cooking together has become a ritual, and grocery shopping one of our favorite activities.

He sits in the shopping cart, and as we shop I tell him stories about where all food comes from. How the bread is made of wheat, and the strawberry yogurt he loves so much is made of milk that we get from cows and strawberries. That the pasta we buy is imported from Italy, but the tomatoes we use to make the sauce grow locally. I give him tasks: “Sweetie can you please pick out three beautiful zucchinis for me and put them in the bag?” And responsibility: “You are in charge of eggs. We can’t forget to buy eggs so when you see the eggs you have to remind me, OK?”

Yesterday, as we were shopping I noticed a sale on tomato paste. Six containers for a special price. They were small plastic containers, connected at the top in pairs and in fours. “OK honey, we need to get six of these. Let me see… Here, six!” I said and I handed him a pair.

He looked at them and laughed. “That’s not six! One, two.”

“Oh my, you’re right. Let me try again.” And I handed him four. “Six!” I said.

He seemed convinced this time, but he counted: “One, two, three… four! Mommy it’s four. It’s not six!”

“Oh no, what are we going to do?” I asked sadly, holding the pair in one hand and the four containers in the other. “We need six.” I brought my hands closer together. “And we only have four and two.”

He looked and the containers. Without saying anything else he began to count: “One, two, three, four, five, six! Mommy there are six!”

“Oh my, you’re right! Together there are six! Four and two are six!”

And that’s how my son got his first addition lesson ever at the supermarket.

“Those Ritalin Kids”

21 May

Yesterday afternoon there was a party at my son’s daycare. The theme was a farm, and it was super fun, from songs and old McDonald, to milking a cow, and petting a goat. The party ended with a huge inflatable castle that the children jumped on with joy. It was loud and exhausting and took place in the aftenoon, by which time I had only limited energy left. It also happened to take place on one of those workdays that just sucks all around, not to mention I was premenstrual as hell. But I kept it together, and I enjoyed seeing my child participate in the activities, raise his hand and wait his turn (and he’s not even three yet!) By the time the jumping began, I sat down on a little stool, staring into mid air, glad the day was almost over.

It was the end of the party, and most of the younger children had already gone home. The older boys were still going nuts on the inflatable castle, jumping, crashing and screaming with joy, when the teacher said it was time to get off. One of the mothers then said, jokingly: “You can fold up the castle with the kids in it. The ones that are still jumping are the ones whose parents wouldn’t care anyway.” Another mother heared this and laughed and added “Those ritalin kids.”

Now, I am a fairly cynical person, and I can take a joke. Really, I can even take a hollocaust joke every now and then, and I’m Jewish. But having a person who does not even know me, joke at the expense of my son was too much. I know I was overly sensitive, but I was so insulted I couldn’t let this sentence out of my mind for the entire evening, and here I am blogging about it.

First of all, it’s ignorant and stupid. Three year old boys on an inflatable castle are not supposed to behave any differently than how those children behaved. They are supposed to be happy, jump and scream, that is the whole point of the activity. Secondly, even if it were a group of hyperactive three year olds, who the hell are you to joke about how their mothers feel about them and how much they care. Thirdly, as a teacher, I have met children who really needed medication to overcome attention disorders, who were much happier as a result. It is rare. And those kids are ten, not three. Really, ritalin and other medications are SO overused, it makes me angry that people talk about it so lightly. Lastly, uhhhh I could just keep talking forever about how ignorant, stupid and disrespectful what that mother said was, but it’ll do me no good.

I should have told her off, I would have felt better. But since I didn’t, I’ll do the second best thing and write it down, so I can stop thinking about it. Oh, and thank god my boy has a mother who knows better.

Girls Gone Wild Memorial

1 May

bird

The narrow wooden gate opened and we fell silent for a moment. Stepping through the gate and onto the huge deck, we took in the view, the ocean, the caldera, the little white houses on the slope of the mountain, the breeze, the birds that chirped all around and wandered along the breakfast bar, in search of breadcrumbs. It was almost too much. It had been very, very long since I’d seen something so beautiful. Long enough to forget that beauty like this existed.

Twelve hours earlier, I had taken my Boy to see the fireworks. It was his first Independence Day that he could really grasp and might actually remember, now that he was almost three. He was so happy and excited, and he fell into a deep peaceful sleep on our way home. Straight to bed. No shower or teeth brushed. That could all wait.

On tiptoes, I made the final arrangements. Washed the dishes. Checked my bag for passport and ticket. In a couple of hours my mom would be coming over to stay with my son and I would be off to Santorini, a place that my only connection to was M. It was the money she’d left us. It was the directions she’d given. To go to where she was at 18, when everything was possible and there was no glass ceiling to life. To where she’d been hoping to go with J, between treatments, before she ran out of time. It was a carefree spring break. It was a trip down memory lane. It was our Girls Gone Wild Memorial.

Like he was synced with my plans, two minutes before my alarm went off at 1:00 am, my Boy woke up with a bad dream. And that was that. He remembered suddenly that I was leaving. He was beside himself, clinging to my shirt, hysterical. Finally I had to go. So I did, and left him crying with my mom, telling myself to trust her.

Taxi with E. Picking up J. Meeting G and the airport. Us four. We used to be five.

Tickets, passports, security, duty free, overpriced coffee. The excitement was building up. If only my mother would text me to say things were OK. They’re sleeping, I told myself. And then the flight, laughing hysterically, talking way too loudly and being inappropriate. Landing in Athens, layover, freaking out since my mom hadn’t texted yet. Finally hearing from her. Everything’s fine, I shouldn’t have worried. Boarding. More inappropriateness. Landing. Finding our driver. More inappropriateness… And then traffic, and lots of it…

By the time we got to the hotel, we’d been on the road for almost ten hours and were exhausted. But then that gate opened, and from that moment on, there were no worries. No crying children and fretting over them. It was just peaceful and lovely. And by lovely I mean beautiful, but also full of love.

black sand

If I could possibly be less cynical, I’d say she was there with us, M, laying on the black sand, drinking smoothies and cocktails, dipping her feet into the frozen infinity pool, enjoying the out of season weather, assuring it would never get too warm, rolling her eyes at the look on my face when I saw a lobster on my plate for the first time, and had to ask J to “deal with it”.

She would have chatted endlessly with Vicki, the almost over friendly receptionist that made it her life mission to assure we had the best possible time, ate the best possible food, and sweetly joked about her tendency to eat too much. “There is no moderation in Santorini!” She’d said. M would have loved that.

The end of the last day, standing on the deck again, looking at the water glistening in the sun, I wanted to cry. It was an end to our trip. And though I knew there would be others, I couldn’t be sure that M would be there for the rest. So vivid in my heart, the way she had been in Santorini. Please, I thought, stay with me. Don’t fade away into a distant memory. As we stepped into the taxi that would take us to the airport I clung to her, like a child clinging to his mother’s shirt. But it was time to part, again. And I realized that I could probably continue parting with her forever. Saying goodbye again and again, just as it had been when she was still here.

Her birthday is coming up on Tuesday. Will I be saying goodbye once more? Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe instead of saying goodbye, I should welcome her memory into my life, as a permanent tenant, that lives forever and never goes on vacation.

I should.

And I will.

But not just yet.

Letting Go of Disclaimer Girl

4 Apr

When BD and I were together, for ten years, unmarried and without children, people would delicately pose the question: So… Are you thinking about marriage? And I’d say, oh sure, but no need to rush. We don’t want to get married right now.  And later on, oh yes, we’re getting married but don’t get your hopes up for kids anytime soon. We’re not at all ready yet.

It was a lie. I was ready for marriage when we were together for four years, and were travelling through South America. I was 23. And I fantasized secretly about him popping the question on one of those magical deserted beaches in Brazil, with the little crabs popping out of their holes in the sand and running around sideways.

Once I even said something like one day we can come back here for our honeymoon. He could have shrugged it off, but instead he got really upset. What do you have to go ruin everything for? It was one of the only fights we ever had in our 13 year long relationship.

After that, I learned that some things were better left unsaid. That patience was a virtue. That like my mother, it was my duty to make sure that the man in my life was happy, because that was the secret of long lasting relationships. It was. BD and I could have probably continued on our merry road of quiet content, if it hadn’t been for my desire, that could no longer be suppressed to become a parent. I pushed him into marriage, and he rose to the occasion. And then I pushed him into having a child. We’d been together for 12 years. I was turning 31. I told him stories about biological clocks and how these things took time. And I got pregnant ridiculously fast. Like my body had all these eggs lining up throughout my life, waiting for anything that loosely resembled sperm to impregnate them. I’m pretty sure even porn could have knocked me up, my body was so ready for a baby. A week after the first time we had unprotected sex, my breasts were sore and I was nauseous as fuck.

I used to be Disclaimer Girl. The one who could never accept 100% fulfilment. Happiness came with a warning: “Don’t get your hopes up to high.” It came with a but. Without warnings, without buts people could get disappointed. How’s the new job? Oh you know, it’s great, but who knows how long I’ll be there. They’re not doing so well financially, they’re constantly laying people off. Oh that’s a lovely dress! What, this old thing? I’ve had it for years. I bought it on sale. It makes my butt look big doesn’t it? But yeah, I guess it works. It was a mediocreness of emotions. It restricted how high I could go, but it also protected me.

That changed when I first peed on that stick and saw those two little pink lines. I could not restrain my happiness. I couldn’t put a disclaimer on that. No buts when it came to my love for that tiny fertilized egg that would soon enough become my son. BD was not as thrilled. He was highly protective of me, as always, made sure I ate all the right things and didn’t do any heavy lifting. He did all the right things but he did them with a stiffness. He was freaking his shit out.

When I was three months pregnant he started talking about going abroad for work. He would be gone for three months, weeks 22-35. It was a great opportunity for him. It could mean more money and a secure future for us both, well, us three. I didn’t think twice. I wanted him to go. Because I believed with all my heart that he would return a changed man. He would be excited about becoming a father. He’d rise to the occasion.

How’s the pregnancy? Amazing. I’m sick as hell and alone. But I love it. I wasn’t lying. I hated the nausea and constant puke fest. But I was excited for a life that I was going to have, soon, if I was patient. Wow, you’re so wonderful to let your husband go abroad for so long when you’re pregnant. I didn’t think I was being wonderful. I didn’t think it was my right to tell him not to go. I didn’t want him to go. But that’s because I wanted him to not want to go. I wanted him to want to stay with me. But since he didn’t, what was the point of forcing him to stay?

Three months past and I got used to doing things on my own. Useful experience for later on. Then he was back, in body at least. He worked crazy hours. I barely saw him. He was there for the birth, and I have to give him credit, he was 100% present there. But shortly after the birth he went back to being a workaholic. Staying late at the office, leaving bath time and bedtime to me. Apologizing over the phone. Saying things like, I’m here with the gang, we had a long day and decided to get a beer. That’s OK right? I can leave if you want. Knowing that I would never tell him to leave his friends and come home. Because, even though I was responsible for a new person in my life, it was still my job to keep my husband happy. If he could find balance, if he was not too overwhelmed, if I could somehow make it so that this was not too hard for him, than he’d rise to the occasion. He’d be the father I knew he could be. He’d love me like he was supposed to.

It was around that time that he stopped wearing his wedding band. It was around that time that when I told him I loved him, he stopped saying it back. And quickly after, he was gone.

How’s motherhood? They asked. Amazing. I’d answer. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

And that wasn’t a lie either. I was happy. I had always wanted to be a mother. So even though I was dead tired, even when my Boy was sick and I was taking care of him all by myself, I quickly learned that there was a difference between easy and good. My new life wasn’t easy, for sure. But it was meaningful. It was important. And that made it good.

So there were no more buts. Not when it came to my family of two. We were one complete unit and we could listen to Led Zeppelin and dance around the house and love one other to the moon and back without a single disclaimer. It was safe to give him my all.

It was harder to implement my no buts policy to other aspects of my life. Oh I like my job, sure, but I don’t really know where it’s going. I mean, I am signing that five year contract, but it doesn’t mean I’ll stay. I can always back out of it. I like this apartment. It’s easy for me to stay here. Sure, it used to be ours. There are some rough memories there, but it’s OK. Yes, I really Iike this guy, I might even love him, but it has no future. We don’t want the same things. It’s good for now. The sex is amazing. Anyway, I’m not going to be careless this time, I’m not going to get too attached. 

Objectively speaking, some utterly crappy stuff has happened to me when I’ve let down my guard. I allowed myself to believe BD and I would be together forever and raise our beautiful son together, and he left. I allowed myself to believe M was going to get better. She didn’t. It is very difficult for me to simply believe that things will be good. To be happy with no buts. To relish the moment without preparing myself for tomorrow’s disappointment.

BUT, and this is an important BUT. I’m trying to change that. I know that at the end of the day it is my choice. I can choose now, to put disclaimers before every aspect of my life and make sure that I never get hurt so badly again. It makes sense, for someone like me to do that. Or I can fall blindly in love with my life. I can love my new home, I can trust that preschool will be good for my Boy, I can decide to love my job and embrace its difficulties. And if I want to, I know that I can also love this man, whom I introduced as my boyfriend to my sisters and friends on Thursday, and felt my chest burst with excitement. I do love him, but there are still about 10,000 gigantic disclaimers there. His girls. My boy. They need to be protected. They can’t be let down twice. And there’s the other thing. That it’s easier to believe that love is never forever. It always ends at some point. And so, merging lives is, by definition a bad idea. Better to keep things simple.

Thursday night I threw a birthday party and he came. We got plastered and danced and he met my friends. It made me want, for a moment, to forget about buts and to just love him. And I have this picture now, that my sister took of us that I look at and think… What if? And that thought excites me and scares the crap out of me. But I think it’s healthy for me to allow myself to think it.

So I do.

Neither Here Nor There

1 Jan

It was Sunday that I said goodbye to her. Not really goodbye, only almost, because she is still here, but will have no visitors. I miss her so badly. I want to grieve her loss. But she is not really fully gone. Sleepy, under the influence of vast quantities of morphine (vast enough, I keep hoping), she’s neither here nor there, and so are the people who love her. If she were gone, there’d be a funeral, I’d be skipping work to sit at home and cry, people would ask me “how’s your friend” and I’d whisper she’s gone and break down. It would feel OK to break down. It would feel a duty to break down. It would feel respectful to break down. 

It does not feel OK. It does not feel a duty. It does not feel respectful. It feels like weakness. It feels like an inconvenience to everyone who’s counting on me to keep a stiff upper lip. 

December 31st. Class field trip to the dessert. Seventy rowdy children screaming and shouting with joy. I put on my happiest face. I made it thought the day heroically. Got back in the evening and picked my Boy up from the babysitter’s. Supermarket (because milk and eggs still need to be bought). Shower (because, you know). Bed time stories, back patting. I sat in my dirty kitchen eating pasta and thought about 2014. Jesus Christ, what a year.

Here’s a recap: I don’t need no man. Maybe I do. Getting back together with BD. Breaking up with BD. Getting used to M’s cancer and its routines. Deciding to move. Meeting A  and chatting for two weeks. Moving. Sleeping with A on first date. Dating. Boyfriend. I love you? Potty-training. Talking! New Day care. Becoming beighbors with one of my closest friends. End of the school year, report cards & play. Cancer getting worse. Three magical days in Budapest. Breaking up with A. War. Sirens, shelters, hooking up with BD. Trying to get back together. Surgery. Montessori training. Writing Papers. Trying to break up with BD. Promotion. More Sirens. Trying to break up with BD. War over. New school year. Excitement. Exhaustion. Breaking up with BD. Liberation. Wanting to date. Cancer getting worse. Meeting a guy. Magical evening playing music at the park. Rushing too quickly to like him. Getting disappointed. Cancer getting worse. Attempting to date. Cancer getting way, way worse. Lonely. Depressed. Hitting rock bottom. Morning after pill. Wanting to never date again. Cancer steadily getting worse. Talking to boys online and scaring them off by telling them my friend is dying. Meeting a man who doesn’t scare easy. First date. Second date. First kiss. Fuck you cancer. Third date. Fourth date. Sex. Fifth date. Boyfriend. Telling M all about him. This can’t be the end of you. I love you. Freaking out. Pulling myself together. I love him. Freaking out. Pulling myself together. Hospice. Fuck-shit-stack. Parent teacher conferences. I can’t, I can’t, I must, I will. Seeing M every day. Saying goodbye. Saying goodbye again. This time goodbye for real. Falling apart. Pulling myself together. No more visits. Missing M like crazy. Allowing D to comfort me. Knowing she’s still with us. Falling apart. Not able to pull myself together.

Limbo is a bad place for me to be. It’s a bad place for anyone, but me especially. I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.      

The C Word: Compassion, not Cunt.

26 Dec

At 16:55 on Wednesday I arrived at daycare, just in time to pick up my boy. But he wasn’t there. And that’s because my mother had gotten confused, picked him up and took him to his dad’s, which she was supposed to do on Thursday. BD rose to the occasion, thankfully, left work and took our son to his apartment. So I had a spontanious free night, and I spent it working, doing laundry, cooking, learning new Russian phrases, and inviting D to spend the night with me, when he got off work at midnight.

But a couple of hours into my sudden freedom, I became extremely gloomy. It was nothing specific, it was the whole of it, this thing called life, which sometimes presents a bit more of a challenge than I feel I can handle. I stared into nothing for about half an hour. There was something sharp pinching me in my gut, hurting me physically, whispering all sorts of forgotten phrases into my ear: you’ll never get through this; you’re not strong enough; you’re not good enough; you don’t deserve any better; you’ve made too many mistakes which cannot be corrected and finally, the untilmate you’ll die an old spinster (and you’re allergic to cats too, you’ll make a horrible cat lady).

Snap out of it! I imagined myself slapping me accross the face.

And then something wonderful happened, something that made me realize how much I’d evolved in the last year. I felt compassion towards myself, and for once, I was able to be kind to myself. It is, objectively, a hard time for me, I thought. And I am entitled to my ups and downs. I’ve been through bad times, and I always get through. I’m stronger than I give myself credit for, but even the strongest have moments of weekness.

The first thing I did, was text my principle and tell him I wasn’t feeling well and needed to take the morning off the following day. I never miss work if I can help it. I’m the kind of teacher who comes to school with a stomach flu and infects everyone because she’s too much of a workaholic and a control freak to stay at home and let a sub teach her class. But this was neccessary. I took a long hot shower, wore comfy pajamas and made myself tea. And already, my mood had begun to improve.

Then I texted D: Hey, I know we’d said you’d come over tonight. But I just wanted to give you a heads up that I’ve been walking around with a dark cloud hovering over my head all day. I’d love to see you, but don’t bet on me being too much fun tonight. He texted back immediately: Of course I’m coming. You don’t have to be or do anything. I’ll just come give you a hug, and if you want, I’ll stay. Then he added: You should go to sleep, I’ll wake you when I get there.

And that’s what I did. I fell asleep at once. And when I woke up he was knocking on the door. He came in and hugged me. We stood there for a long time, holding each other. Then he stripped down to his T and boxers and pulled me into bed. There was no sex, just hugging and chatting, and kissing for a long time, after which we both fell asleep.

The extent to which I felt comforted, got me thinking about compassion. It’s easy for me to feel compassion towards my son. Everything is always forgiven and forgotten. He will forever be loved and contained. The other day though, my mother began crying in the middle of a conversation we were having and I found myself telling her off: “You can’t cry now. This is MY thing. You have no right to cry about this. You’re supposed to strong for me.” (Not me at my most compassionate, clearly.) I don’t know why I couldn’t show my mother the same compassion that I show my son every day, even when he is throwing cerial at me because it’s not the right kind, or the right bowl or the right spoon. I should have been kinder to my mom.

D may not say I love you, but he is able to show compassion towards me, to be comforting and to not expect anything of me when I’ve got nothing to give. It’s not the L word, but it has weight.

More remarkably, I’ve learned this week that I have he ability to be compassionate towards myself. To put judgment asside and be kind to myself at times like this, when kindness is all that is really neccessary.