Tuesday, April 21, 2015

baby FAQ, year one


A: Unreal, I know.

I forget that I'm a mother sometimes. Not because I'm spending so much time away from my child, or because I'm heartless (correlation is not causation!), but because I just can't think of my motherhood as our society wants women to. When women give birth, they're supposed to become Mothers more than they are anything else, even though our style of containing multitudes may not work that way. I have always hated having to define myself with a single label, mostly due to the huge pressure there then is on you to be perfect at being that label, since it's your sole identity.

I'm not a mother more than I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, a data analyst, a trainer, an occasional blogger, a voracious reader, a friend, a dog owner, and so on. It's another thing I am, not the thing I am. Would I prioritize Perdita over those other things if some horrible Sophie's Choice situation arose? Of course, but the semantic distinction is important. And the same way that being in romantic love shouldn't make my sole identity Berowne's Girlfriend / Wife, having this amazing small person in my life and loving her as madly as I do shouldn't make my sole identity Perdita's Mom. I don't believe in having a sole identity of any kind, because people are many times more complicated than that. No one has just one interest in life and no more. Interests and time allocation are not the same thing, of course, and being a parent does change your time allocation enormously, but it hasn't changed that much about me. Probably because well before parenthood I didn't go out at night or stay late at the office or have any reaction to the word "spontaneous" that didn't involve anxiety-induced eczema. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

That said, life with a sedentary baby was SO much easier than life with a mobile one. Jeezum.

Q: Milestones?

A: Um, well, I actually haven't looked at a list of what she's "supposed" to be doing in a long time (go me!). But I'm sure somewhere on that list are throwing food everywhere, saying and waving "hi" and "bye", running, knowing what the command "sit on your bum" means (most of the time), responding to "what does the wolf say?" with the most adorable little "ooooo" imaginable, and making your mother cry because when you sit in your high chair, with your long legs stretched out and real sneakers on your feet, you don't look like a baby anymore.

Q: The first animal sound you taught her was a wolf?

A: Of course it was.

Q: How's getting her nap schedule on track going?

A: Sunday we had two straight hours of screaming sobbing exhausted-but-refusing-to-sleep meltdown before she finally passed out for about an hour. Welcome to toddlerhood!

Q: What have you read lately?

A: The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection, by Dorothy Hoobler. Starts with the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911 and goes back from there to the most notorious and dramatic crimes in the city. I found my interest in the various crimes and trials fluctuating greatly - some were just duller than others - and ultimately preferred Hoobler's book about Mary Shelley. But I did enjoy the bits about forensic science.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore. So good and fascinating and and will make feminism-outrage steam come out of your ears.

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian, by Avi Steinberg. Steinberg got a job as a prison librarian at South Bay Prison, in Boston. His tales of the inmates are touching and insightful, but his attempts to be Woody Allen-ish neurotically funny don't always work.

A Lesson in Secrets, by Jacqueline Winspear. The Maisie Dobbs series aren't quite hate-reading for me, especially since they're getting increasingly short and always make me remember that I love tea. But with a heroine who is Emma Woodhouse if she was never wrong or learned anything, some aspects are hard to take. In this one Maisie goes undercover at a college and immediately becomes the most popular and brilliant lecturer ever, and is recruited by the Secret Service for being so awesome, and buys her assistant a house against his wishes because she knows what's best for him, and remains spunkily independent despite her boyfriend (who's an earl, I believe) begging her to marry him. Well, I managed to move my mug of tea before the diapered Flash in my house reached it, so shut up, Maisie.

Q: Do you always reach the tea first?

A: No. But it's always stone-cold by the time it gets anywhere near the baby. As is the coffee, though I am still careful not to take her out in public in clothes which have obviously had coffee spilled on them. 

Q: How happy and amazed and exhausted are you about a year with this little creature?

A: All of it. All of it is spring. Bitter winds and gray skies, and warm breezes ruffling the bright wave-tops, sometimes all in one day. Everything is possibility.  

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