And again

I don’t even know what to do. She slept for an hour and a half after my last post, then woke up crying again. I’m really exhausted. That’s always the part critics on the sidelines aren’t experiencing. 

I couldn’t sleep after the 4am tanrum. I often can’t. I was almost there. The curtain was falling. 

And now. And again. 

Oh wait. 

This is when she normally wakes up. Do I go in and rock her or let her cry? Do we start the day? I really wouldn’t mind a little extra sleep. 

I’m not really asking anyone the question. I’m already holding her. She still seems tired. But maybe we just go do breakfast like usual. 

If I sit down or lie down, she screams. If I stand here in a daze, she relaxes. 

Parenting is so hard.

Solo parenting is so much harder. 

You’re left with a half a brain. That’s it. 

And then you just get right back to it. You walk downstairs and pour the bowl of cereal. Because no one else is going to do it. 

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4am Resilience

She screams like a soul condemned to hell when I slip her back in the crib. Five nights in a row. 4am. 

I did the ten minutes, but she was wailing. The one time I stood firm for too long, I left her in a sea of poop. So I went to her and calmed her at my breast. But when I eased her back into her crib, the abandoned soul began howling into the abyss. 

Clock ticking. No relenting. No eye rubs or collapsing to the matress. 

I am a parent and I want better for my child. I imagine each of us have a different better based on the lens of bad we see in ourselves, our families, and our experiences. 

I want my daughter to be resilient, to be a master of her emotions. I’ve battled for years to grow into a steady champion, to shed the childhood whirlwind of screaming matches and games of trying to make me cry and belittling sarcasm meant to serve as guidance and siblings out out the house with all their things stacked in bags on the front steps. I’m almost at a point where those are legit not the memories I remember. 

Sometimes my resilience feels like a mask. Sometimes it feels like part and parcel of who I am. 

I want resilience and steadiness to be part and parcel of who Aria is. 

How I handle these moments of tantrum feel so important in this quest. 

But I’m exhausted. 

How can I be a teacher when all I want is to curl up in bed? 

I plod back to her room. I pick her up. 

She is too far gone to be relieved. 

She thrashes and spins in my arms. She pulls toward my nursing chair and screams for my suckling breasts. 

As safely as I can, I set her on the floor. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

A new decibel of fury trembles through her lips. She whirls and turns and climbs up my legs. I lift her and shush her. 

As safely as I can, I set her on the floor. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

Blind madness rages as she tries again to climb up into my arms. Her back arches as I heft and turn her. 

I set her down again. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

Get rage turns to gasps and wails. The devil has escaped her and left misery in its ashes. She flops onto my knees and sobs. Sad, exhausted sobs. 

I stroke her back. 

“You ready?”

Another sob. She reaches up. 

This time when I lift her, she takes in a couple trembling sobs. She tucks her head against my chest. 

I hold her for a minute as her chest ripples with the last vestiges of her misery. 

I’m so tired. In my exhausting victory I’m ready to call retreat. Walk back to my room, lay her on my bed, and let her tear up my nipples like a pacifier. 

I drop her down toward the matress. Her tantrum reignites. 

I pull her back up and start to put her on the floor.

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

She quickly suck in a breath to calm herself. I pull her back to my chest. 

“Time to go night night,” I remind her. “Tell me when you’re ready.”

She curls up as close to me as she can, resting her face in the book between my chin and chest. A few more desperate wails moan out from her lips. 

I want as much to hold her like this forever ask desperately want to go back to bed. 

“Tell me when you’re ready,” I say wearily as I lean over the crib. 

She takes a deep breath and hugs herself to me. 

I lean closer. 

“Tell me when you’re ready.”

She turns her head to the bed and sighs. 

She points to the crib. 

I take my own deep breath and set her down. 

She rolls to the side. Without another son or protest, she closes her eyes and goes back to sleep. 

Does any of this teach her the self-mastery I yearn to cultivate in her? I don’t know. I hope she grows up so much better than me. 

Hmm. 

I was about to write about all the things I don’t think I’ll be able to do because of my weaknesses. 

But I look back at how incredibly far I’ve come. Personally. Emotionally. Professionally. I am light years ahead of that girl who left home for college fifteen years ago. Still playful and quirky, but a woman who stands so much taller, literally and figuratively (thank you roommates who pushed me to fix my ape-like posture!)

In these moments I teach Aria, I stand taller even still. 

Whomever I help her become, she’ll have choices far beyond that. 

Maybe we can both be better than we started, 

even in these tired moments 

at 4am

when we should both be sleeping…

Another morning

Listening to the rain
It rumbles on the deck
Baby listens, content
In mother’s arms. 

Cleaning up the kitchen
It demands respect and care
No dishes to pack lunches
Crumbs on the floor.
Can’t really do this one-handed…
Baby watches, content
Eating some cheese
In mother’s arms.

Playing with her toys
Rain still falling 
Collect and return, set bum down. 
Mom cross-legged.
Send the box down the slide;
Drum the xylophone. 
Baby plays, content
In mother’s arms. 

Work heralds
Rain is louder
Baby clings tight

And so does mother.
No rush
Just us

Holding on, content
In each other’s arms.

Okay, she’s probably pooping (yep, definitely pooping)
Holding me this tight
Needs lots of cuddles
As her butt works out its plight

That’s okay
I loved the morning

Every minute

Caring and being cared for
In my daughter’s arms 🙂

Orlando

Dear Aria,

The day you were born, your daddy had friends pick up a newspaper so you would know what was going on in the world on the day you were born. When we received the paper to weeks later we’re a bit disappointed. It was covered in pictures of an ISIS training camp. Instead of pictures of Curiosity on Mars or a landmark Supreme Court decision or a scientific discovery, your birth was marked by terrorism and the threat of those who have been raised to hate. 

I wanted for a long time to go to some library or archive and find you a better cover. Today I see how right that cover was. 

That hate, celebrated by  black ISIS flags flying over cities your dad once fought to free from a dictator, has come home. 

San Bernadino. 

Paris. 

Orlando. 

Perhaps worse, that hate now permeates our politics. Us and them is being redrawn so our nation can unify in our anger and ignorance. 

But your daddy doesn’t go and serve abroad because of hate. Soldiers don’t hate. They serve and defend. 

I remember the first time your daddy told me he planned on deploying many times over the course of his life. I was so angry at him. We must have taken a dozen laps around his apartment complex battling back and forth. 

Until I understood. 

I thought he was going because he could never be attached enough to a wife or child to mind leaving them. 

I learned he was going because his power to love was far deeper than I’d ever realized before. 

He kept it so private and locked up inside. I had to pry his heart open to see and understand. 

When your daddy asks to deploy, I know he needs to. He needs to because it is one of the ways he shows his love and one important way he fulfills his small place in this world. 

Yesterday 50 people were murdered at an LGBT club in Orlando. The hate that man must have had. Not just to kill, but to violate the safety and security and belonging that club represents for our country. Fear and loss will permeate that community and all their brothers and sisters and children and friends for a generation. 

My hope for you is that you will find your own way of fighting the hate in this world. My hope is that in your fight you will wield the weapons of love and wisdom, the weapons me and your daddy use. I fight hate by empowering young black men and women to celebrate their identity and harness their education to realize their dreams. Daddy fights hate by dedicating his career to the service of our national defense. 

May you find your own path. 

Perhaps because of you there will be one less Orlando or Freddie Gray or Travon Martin. One less Denver or Sandy Hook or 9/11 or Columbine. 

One less black man shied away from in the street or in a job pool. One less movie where interesting or remarkable women are an exception or an afterthought. One less Hispanic data analyst or ultrasound tech judged as ignorant because of their accent. One less family or individual pre-judged or excluded from a conversation because of their religion. One less transgender kid assaulted in the streets. One less black kid suspended for disrespect. One less refugee fleeing the ash and blood and chaos of war. 

One less speech insisting it’s doing us a service by spouting stereotypes people are afraid to admit they have.  

Love and respect and waking in our neighbor’s shoes. The people in the Middle East need that from us as much as we need that at home. 

And hope. Hope for a better world. Hope that mutual respect can bring us together. Hope that we can be better than our enemies. Hope that our democracy and freedom continues to mature and blossom for generations to come. 

Hope for those who lost loved ones yesterday. 

Hope for Orlando. 

I love you no matter what, little lovely. Stand tall and be someone I can admire too. Someone who loves and serves and exults in life and all its possibilities. Someone who makes her little slice of the world a better place. 

Love,

Mom

The best moments

I realized today that the best moments of the past year and a half have been the moments where I didn’t rush time with the ones I love. 

Right now I have to wake up in the middle of the night on the weekend to see​ my husband’s face and hear his deep, soothing voice. It could be easy to rush it, to insist on sleep. But the nights when I just savor the flavors of a rich conversation, I feel deeply renewed and healed from the loneliness of a week without my confidant and partner in all things.


Sunday night, when I could have spent hours pouring over the tasks ahead for the week, I spent and hour and a half talking to my best friend. She is lovingly called “PraRa” by Aria, who adopted her name as the fifth word she would consistently use. We talked about life and husbands and Aria and education policy. She listened to my challenges in navigating some changes at work and advised me with patience and wisdom. Friendship, like partnership, is best left unrushed. 


Last night, after a long, thirteen hour day of work + commute, I could’ve just gone straight to bed. My dad was there watching Aria for me like he does most Tuesday’s. He probably should’ve gone straight home. He was wiped. But I had a kitchen I’d gotten in the mail for Aria. And my dad was there. How could we not build it together? Dad and me. Building together. It was like being a kid. 

For three and a half hours!


I loved it. We were both crazy proud of the final product. Aria noticed the kitchen halfway through breakfast. Her curiosity won out over bran flakes. 

I watched her play for longer than I’d planned. Though I felt late, I was still the first one into the office in the morning. 

​


And then a simple, but perfect evening with Aria, which is what actually inspired this post. While Aria is a little person with her own little agenda, and often in her own little toddler world, it could be easy to see time with her as more of a referee than a relationship.  

Tonight, instead of rushing home, we just took a long walk and then ate dinner together at the grocery store. We giggled as we passed a be a piece of paper back and forth with our teeth. I enjoyed her revelling in her teriyaki tofu as we did laps around the grocery in one of those race car hybrid shopping carts. By the time we got back to the car, it was well past bedtime. Instead of rushing home, we sat under the last rays of the sun on a grassy hill. 

As we say there, I noticed how she has this layer of hair that’s almost 2 inches long. It sits on top of the rest of her hair. The funny thing is this top layer rustles in the wind and the rest sort of stays close to her head. It’s just adorable and awkward and Aria. 

And then I realized I had not thought about work since I got the Aria’s daycare. I hadn’t really thought about anything. I’d just lived in the moment. 

I spent a lot of time last week fretting over work and not a lot of time being successful at it. This week I spent a lot of time not rushing time with my loved ones. 

I feel so much happier this week. Even with the stuff at work I’m less excited about. 

The best moments are the moments unrushed with the ones we love. 

And the best moments are like taking your life from inside a dark and dank building and into the sunshine. They bring light into everything in your life. 

Like a child

If I could give a theme of Aria’s life over the past three months since DH deployed, it would be the early metamorphosis from baby to child. 

It seems so foreign now to think of her supermanning on the basement floor. Or waving her arms about in the baby pool at daycare. One year, six months. At this age , those are full lifetimes of change. 


It felt so sudden. All of the sudden she was a child. The playground became a real place to play, not just to visit. 

I watched her take her first steps. I was taking a picture of her smiling for her dad. And then she just kept moving toward me. 

But to be honest, steps never changed my perception of Aria. They didn’t make her more or less baby; she moves as quickly now as she did when she crawled. 

What makes her feel like a child is her playfulness and independence. 

Like when she hopped on my niece’s Barbie off roader and accidentally sent herself careening across the living room floor. 

Or maybe even more, it is her expressiveness. There is this blossoming look of intelligence and joyfulness, mature in its expression, that heralds a new phase of her short existence. 

She loves carry things around with handles. It seems like such an adult thing to do. It’s like she’s got her briefcase in hand and is headed off to lead a board meeting. 

At the play area, she doesn’t worry about how little she is. This girl, like me when I was small, loves to climb. Even when she tumbles, she gets right back up. 

And then of course are all the things she does. Things I didn’t imagine her doing until her life began interesting with the years of my own I could actually remember. 


I remember a couple of weeks ago when I looked down. Aria had taken the cap off a highlighter and was drawing on a piece of paper. I was stunned. I don’t know when I thought babies began to draw. Sometime far off. 

So I made her a chalkboard at home for the fridge. Who is this kid? Who knew they were babies for such a short moment in time?

And then before you know it, they’re the ones leading the way. Walking and talking and making decisions. 

Like a child. 

Because that’s exactly what they are. 

Savoring the Moment

No photo can capture the feeling of being cuddled up next to an infant as she nurses. Warm and connected. Needed and loved. Like all phases with a child, these moments are numbered. Treasuring the memory like a five star meal, except I’m not the one eating!