Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On And On

I do recollect people telling me that being a mom is hard work, but I had no reference point before having Ishmael. People kept asking me what the biggest change was after having him, or expecting me to be extremely sleep deprived. I was sleeping pretty well after 2 weeks and I didn't feel like that much at all had changed in my life. What a chill mom I was... 

Now he is four months old and I feel like I'm on the verge of a grown-up tantrum. The sheer amount of time he requires leaves almost no time for me to do anything I could do in my "previous life," recreational or necessary. He just requires constant attention! And the worst part is, how did I not realize that this is what raising kids would be like?  I keep expecting him to be an adult in a tiny body.

I want to train him not to whine and manipulate but still realize that he is a child, but I haven't found the perfect rhythm yet. I'm pretty sure there isn't a perfect rhythm when it comes to kids. Instead, it's curve ball after curve ball  Even with Jonas by my side, we get to end of the day and have accomplished little more than going to work and avoiding a total meltdown on Ishmael's part. Although most days, he has a meltdown anyway, so I guess that leaves us with having accomplished making some money. 

It boggles my mind that I could literally spend 12 hours just tending to one human being. I'm not even exaggerating when I say that I can't go 10 minutes doing something other than entertaining or otherwise soothing Ishmael. I worry that he's walking all over me, but the alternative seems unbearable. I can only steel myself against his blotchy face, shiny gums through wide open mouth, and teary wails for so long, while wondering inside how much longer I can be patient and try to reason with an infant intent on being upset. How much of his whining his normal kid behavior and how much am I ruining his future by being a push-over when I pick him up (or indeed, do anything I can think of) when he threatens to go bananas. 

Am I providing an environment that's so unstimulating that he goes from whimper to scream in 30 seconds? And in case you didn't know, going from scream to whimper takes at least 30 minutes. I love to play with him, but he clearly has a ton more energy than me, and I know I have nothing but more lessons in store for me with a child who loves nothing more than to be in the thick of any action. 

If only someone would pick me up and soothe me if I started screaming that, "I am not a patient person, and I'm not ready to become one!" I start to think to myself, "If I can just get through this, I won't have to deal with it anymore." Not so. As the Dowager on Downton Abbey put it, "Parenting... the on-and-on-ness of it!" I just want to collapse in a heap sometimes when I realize my life with never really get easier. 

The other day, I made some mistake (I can't recall what) or ended up feeling foolish about something I'd said or done, and was suddenly reminded of how young I am and I felt totally unfit to be a parent. Not that I'm not responsible for my actions because of my youth, but the idea of having to qualify for the responsibility of raising another human being is starting to sound quite sane indeed. Yet, I somehow have been granted a child and have not been granted the liberty to flail on the ground, crying, "I don't want to be using my time this way!" 

That probably sounds so selfish, and that is just what I am. I know this struggle is inside of me because I am selfish and I need to get past some of that. It's somewhat miserable to realize that becoming selfless isn't something that just happens to you. I wonder about my friends who planned their babies and if they feel more ready somehow. I wonder if I would feel like less of a wreck if I had chosen this path on my own. I don't think the reality of raising a child would be any different, but I'm still struggling with the fact that the life that has been handed to me is not the one I had planned for myself. Right now I'm envisioning myself as Jacob, wrestling in the night with Jesus/the Angel... and totally getting my butt kicked. 

I had felt some of these feelings after I found out I was pregnant, but then found strength in the "realization" that I still had a life, I now just had a baby to take along with me. But here I am, realizing that I don't exactly have a life. At least not one run by me, for me. Which I guess is the way it's supposed to be, but I'm probably going to stop telling people that having a baby is no big deal and you can just take them along for the ride, any old place. Forget concerts, forget dinner with friends, forget traveling. Technically, I can take Ishmael with me everywhere, but I have come to realize that I am not cut from a clothe that makes that particularly feasible  Being a parent is exhausting, grueling, 24-hour/7 day a week work. And he will probably not appreciate much of what I give up for him until he has his own child. That's 20 to 30 years of swallowing my pride. 

Sometimes, I'm relieved to be at work and not having to deal with my other job of trying to decipher what every end-of-the-world shriek means. But then I can't suppress my joy at seeming him again or terror at the thought that he may need me and I'm not available. 

[photo: I took Ishmael on a walk with me during our trip to Nebraska. I think he's enjoying this phase in our relationship about as much as I am.]

I used to console myself in bad situations or when anticipating something I didn't want to do, "what's the worst that could happen?" The worst outcome always ended up not being that bad (not to mention that it never happened), even if it was something dramatic like losing my job or getting arrested or something. But now I've realized that it's impossible to fall back on that once you have a kid because the worst case scenarios are suddenly far more terrible. Every mini-drama makes my mind leap to the possibility of Ishmael's death, and then I'm crippled by the thought. 

I think the only way to possibly raise a child and keep one's sanity is to let go a little and let things happen, but then I am tortured by guilt when things do happen and I realize I hadn't been watching as closely as I could have been. We are almost ready to move Ishmael into his own room, but last night he started choking in his sleep, and did so about 5 times throughout the night. Each time, I would bolt up in bed, snatch him out of the bassinet and smack him on the back until he was breathing normally again. Now I feel compelled to tip toe in to check on him every time he stirs. 

I'm just having a hard time balancing cool mom and ape-shit (pardon me) crazy mom. 
Let me just add, I think people can only possibly decide to have children on purpose when they're in the cool-mom or not-fully-aware state. A sexy spouse will do that to you - beware! 

Since I'm in this on-and-on whether I like it or not, I'll figure it out eventually, right? 

Sometimes when I let him sleep in my arms after feeding (bad me!), I just cling to the beauty of him being quiet. That's as much as I've figured out. 

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