this is a thing?
Daytime television is a land I mostly try to avoid. Working from home, it’s easy to get sucked in. You think you’re just gonna watch the news and then, suddenly, it’s on for four hours–as “background noise.” Luckily, doing what I do, I have to have everything muted–because I’m talking on the phone. But, in the morning–when I’m not working–it usually ends up happening. I’ll be lazing about–promising myself I’ll wake up in five minutes. Not noon. Because I really need to get stuff done today. Stuff like the five gazillion page final paper that’s looming over my head this weekend. Stuff like actually eating today. Stuff like writing and painting and cleaning. Most days, the bed wins the battle. But I still turn on the television, in hopes the loud drone of Good Morning, America will actually do the trick.
Today, though, I smelled braising meat. And it was hot in here. I have the misfortune of having eastern exposure, so I get the full-blast of sunshine in my bedroom every morning. My curtains are thin. No matter how much I squeeze my eyelids shut, light gets in. And I’m always sweating–despite fans and open doors. It’s like a sauna.
So, alright, I’ll wake up.
My roommate was still home. We chatted a bit. Talked weekend cleaning. I want to get started on the garden soon. We have work to do. Rilke cuddles. He cried. Nonstop. Like Tom Waits in a kitten. He’s a good boy.
Lunch for breakfast. Rice and chicken. Fanta. Orange.
Okay, I’m up. Turn on GMA.
Morning television news is some odd amalgamation of entertainment mixed with terrorist bombings and weather and Wall Street. Everyone is smiling. Everyone wears bright colors. People stand outside the studios–freezing and cheering.
This is how we wake up?
No wonder we all need coffee.
At 8 am, it switches over to the lighter things. Cooking segments. Fashion. Like that.
Today, the top 8 am news story was about Giuliana Rancic–an entertainment reporter who married Bill Rancic–who won The Apprentice.
I’ll admit I watched his season and had a crush on him. He was the only smart guy on there–probably even since. I’ve even watched their reality show a few times–mostly because I was bored and was procrastinating. I do that when I’m hating on grad school. Which is really every day. I’m too tired to think, so I tune out. Put on some background noise, and I’m asleep in 10 minutes.
But I did watch. A little. I liked their rapport. Banter. She’s a bit…overdone–but I like them together. The show is actually not bad and got more compelling after her battle with infertility and then cancer. The two decided to use a surrogate–who lived in Colorado. She gave birth at Rose–down the street from my apartment. I remember watching the birth episode–wondering why on Earth the Rancics were in Vail–driving to Denver. And then, I remembered celebrities probably don’t do DIA. Whatever. It was funny how they referred to mountains as Denver. Hey there, reality.
Anyway, the kid’s name is Duke.
Lady Rancic recently told someone or other that the key to her happiness and success as a mom/wife is that she puts her baby second and her marriage first. Which, apparently, got all kinds of mommybloggers in an uproar. Because your baby should be your world.
This is still a thing?
Now, I’m no Mama. Probably several years away from being a Mama. Didn’t want to be a Mama when I was a kid. People like to tell you you don’t know anything when you talk about these things and are not a Mama.
I don’t care.
I’m a daughter. And, like everyone else, I had the best Mama. The best.
She taught me absolutely everything.
She burnt dinner. She told me extracurricular meant sexual. She couldn’t multiply. She embarrassed me with her questions and her sharp observations. She held my hand. She dressed me in ruffles that rivaled Cinderella’s. And she was the best Mama a little girl could ask for.
So, I know Mamas. And I will be a good Mama when the time comes because I had her–because I spent a lifetime–26 years–watching her…taking her in, just as she took me in.
I will watch that kid like a hawk. I will fish-braid her hair. I will tell her stories about my Mama at night, in bed. I will build blanket forts with her. I will take her to lakes and museums and tell her about the mighty coelocanth. I will make her banana bread and put wet washcloths on her head when she’s sick. I will burn the pancakes. And I will take pictures of her every single day.
This, I know.
My Mama, as well-intentioned and amazing as she was–didn’t always give me what I needed. Like every other parent on the planet. Kids get dented. They bruise. They can’t always tell you what they need, and sometimes, you just can’t give it to them.
But they’re also a lot more resilient than we think.
The parent-child dance is complicated, but–even if you had the worst parent on Earth–it eventually makes sense. For you. And it’s the journey you have to take together. Accepting that all of us–every single one of us–is just doing the best we can. And, eventually–when it’s all over–you make peace with that.
That said, I don’t quite agree with Giuliana or the mommybloggers.
Parents should put themselves first. Fill your cup. Have a full, happy life. All your own. Take fifty million self-portraits. Drink mimosas in your underwear at 3 pm. Swim for 2 hours every day. Laugh with your girlfriends. Chase your dreams. Then, invest in your marriage. Be best friends. Have picnics in the living room. Take adult vacations. Then, your kid. Make their dreams come true. Be a soccer mom. Do PTA whatevers. Then, your community. Volunteer. Organize events. Teach your kids to be proud of where they come from.
It’s a lot, but it’s everything that matters.
I have a lot of friends with babies. It’s hard, especially for women–both mommies and non-mommies. No one talks about how people change. As a single, childless person, it’s easy for me to see. It’s easy for me to judge. My friends suddenly disappear. They stop talking about their lives and become Queen Mamas. Every conversation is about Child A’s milestone. She slept. She ate. We went to the market. I slept. I ate. Kinda. The Facebook feed becomes one big album of Child A’s first year. Like the memory book my Mama kept–full of hand-written notes about my stories or my injuries with envelopes of hair and baby teeth–and then more stories later–like the one about the day I got my first period. She kept that thing for 12 years–writing every detail of my life down–the way mommybloggers do.
I get it. I do. But where are the pictures of you? Where are your stories? I know you have them. So why aren’t they important?
I miss my friends.
I’m an obsessive personality. When I do something–especially something that’s important to me–I lose all focus for anything else. All I talk about is that thing. I lose–or find myself–in it. I make friends within it. I come up for air three months later to find I’ve abandoned everything in service of that thing. All my old friends. My old passions. My life.
I’m like that.
Of course, as a Mama, you should want to give your kid every part of you. Of course, you should live and breathe that child. There is no greater love or calling on Earth. None.
But–just like my preoccupation with my job–at some point, you’ve got nothing. Not a damn thing to give.
And that cheats your kid. It cheats you. It cheats everyone. Out of you.
You’re amazing. You’re much more than a Mommy. You are forty other things. Probably more than that.
My whole life, my Mama was my Mama. Who she was came through–despite her preoccupation with me. I’m grateful for that, but I didn’t know my Mama the way I wanted to. I didn’t know that she had a talent for photography–until years later, when I got into photography myself and looked at all the pictures she took of me. And I saw her. Finally. I didn’t know what she was like when she was in love. Or when she was going for something. She had few friends. She never pampered herself. She never did anything for her.
I knew her expressions–how she looked when she was worried. How she hid her shame. How she avoided questions. Her favorite color. How sad her family made her when she talked to them–even if she tried too hard to cover it up.
And it made her lonely. It made her hold on to me too tightly. I never learned about friendship from her. I become asocial myself. I hold on too tight, even to this day. I still don’t take care of myself, and I suspect it will always be an epic battle.
Even after I left the house, she didn’t change. When I moved to college, it was devastating for her–which made it hard for me to leave–and I eventually came back. I made choices based on her comfort rather than my dreams. I stayed in a place that kept me stuck. I didn’t go to the Ivy League schools I got into. I didn’t leave Westwood. I didn’t dream big because my dreams were meant to save her–not inspire me.
I loved her–just as much as she loved me. And I sacrificed for her–just like she did me.
And when she died at the age of 67, after years of never loving herself or doing anything nice for herself, I grieved her dutiful life just as much as her tragic death. And every day since then, I’ve struggled–hard–to not be dutiful and to chase my dreams like my life depended on it. Because it does.
Your kids, as much as they enjoy being doted on, just want you to be happy. They are happiest when you are happy. They learn how to be happy from your happiness.
It’s the same with marriage. Kids just want their parents together–loving each other–a family–somewhere to belong. It’s how they learn to love and how they learn vulnerability.
There is no higher gift. None.
I wish my parents had put me third. It would have changed everything. Don’t let your life–your passion, your identity–become background noise.