January 8, 2014

Many a weary foot since ...

A new year … hmph. I’m inclined to think of a “new year” much like Janis Joplin describes “tomorrow” in “Ball and Chain” — Tomorrow never happens, man. It’s all the same fucking day, man.

It’s another day to get it right or continue fucking it all up.

At the beginning of last year, I was pregnant, planning for the day when my son would be born and the magic of childhood would start. I think I’m still waiting for the magic to start. Childhood may be magical for some. In my house, it is a lot of work, tears (mine and his) and feelings of inadequacy.

I spent much of the year adjusting to living with the new stranger and his little baby stranger habits, like his need to rub his feet on everything or waving anything he grabs with his chubby hands.

There are so many things no one can really explain about becoming a parent. First, you are given a complete stranger and asked to take him and make a complete human of him. Then comes the reality that you and the stranger do not always see eye to eye. In fact, much of the time you feel you are fighting the equivalent of two octopuses struggling for the same fish. Your friends who are parents never warn you about fingers up your nose, in your eye, in your mouth; illnesses that come in constant waves; and being creative when it comes to scraping excrement from the tiny octopus, your furniture and yourself. Oh, the magic of childhood. Wah-wah.

I can’t pretend that I’ve mastered parenthood. I think I’ve done the opposite and failed something awful most of the time. I rarely feel warm and fuzzy — more like gross, depressed and sleepy.

As 2013 came to a close with the yahoos firing their guns, fireworks and Civil War cannons, I sat on the floor with baby octopus as he climbed up my chest, clawing me indiscriminately, wanting to pull my earrings. I didn’t wish him a happy new year. He’s always happy. He doesn’t really know any other way to be except screaming, but, even then, happiness is a bottle of milk away.

I don’t feel happy about the new year. Age is making me apathetic and maybe a bit nihilistic. Plus, I think I was fonder of a few years before this one. This time, it’s just the transition to another day that I have to fill with someone else’s nonsense, all the while peeling the octopus from my arms and trying to get five minutes to myself.

If you think you are ready to be a parent, you aren’t. You never are. You just do it and constantly assess how you measure up and why you did it in the first place.

Then you look into the face of the tiny octopus, who, by 9 months, has begun sprouting teeth in the middle of his chubby face that is irresistibly surrounded by the most perfect ringlets of brown hair, and you feel horrible guilt for questioning the life of something so perfect and cute. He is happy, and who am I to take away the dignity of that for him? His joy is complete, and I have no right to get in the way of that.

Parenthood is 60 percent guilt. The other 40 percent is divided amongst fear, angst, exhaustion, love and reluctance.

To all of you becoming parents for the first time, be ready for sheer terror.

I worked with kids for many years. I got to send them home. I thought this prepared me for the insanity of being a mom.

I was prepared to change diapers, start a routine, and I even knew a few songs to sing. The other variables were infinite and I didn’t have a clue about them.

I’m sure about many things in life, but this is one thing I’m not. I don’t know that I’m the right lady for the job, and I think it is probably a good idea for me to start saving for his therapy now. It is all but a guarantee that he will need a really skilled professional to help repair the damage after his years spent living with me.

My kid is lucky because he has a great father. After I’ve thrown in the towel and stormed away from my son’s tantrum, the husband is calm and gentle. I know the magic of childhood is still pending, but the magic of marriage is in the moments when I can do no more.