What were my expectations of motherhood? First of all, I assumed a lot of things. I assumed I’d find true love and marry at 29 at the latest, right after landing a series gig, and then I’d have a kid or two before the age of 35 and since I’d be busy filming, of course, I’d have a nanny. Or something like that. Of course, I was 18 when I dreamed that one up.
By the time I was sliding into 40, that ridiculous dream was gone and I’d settle for a successful IVF, a couple bucks left and a success story to tell. And then life had other plans for me and I’d have another kind of story to tell. No less compelling, just more complicated than I ever imagined. I intellectually knew it would be hard – you know, I knew about the sleepless nights, the crying, the diaper changes and all that. I’d already gone through that with my mother, sort of. I did not think it about past the baby stage, I’m sure. I was never one to just sit down and play with young kids beyond 10 minutes or so. I had more of a show and tell adventure in mind. I would show my kid the art gallery or take them to the movies or take them on a trip. I would teach them how to read and how to tie their shoelaces. Riding my bike with them or watching school plays. But I’d be doing other things. Like career related things. Relaxing things. Drinking the coffee and reading the paper kind of things.
Ahahahaha! Yeah, I know, very funny. Apparently, I had no clue about the toddler years. And the shifting hormonal sands that are now screwing with my head. Not to mention our financial situation has drastically changed in the past year. Hubby is being very helpful with the kid lately, taking him out to the park when he gets home. I can see he’s tired, too, it’s obvious. I’m hoping that I can get to a place where I can take the kid for a day so he can sleep in on the weekend. It feels like a competition around here about how tired we are. If I tell him I had a nap/snooze while the kid watched Backyardigans, he almost looks pissed off. I feel like a teenager, in a way, emotions churning, no communicating, afraid of not being taken seriously afraid to open my mouth.
I almost feel as if I ‘m somehow reliving that sullen dread that I grew up in. Scary.
We have lots of nicknames for our son. Usually we just call him Boo. If I call him Baby or Honey or Sweetheart, he corrects me each and every time and reminds me what his real name is. “I not baby, I _________”. Because I often use the excuse of my back to not pick up him, he often asks me if my back is okay when I do pick him up. He rubs it when I say it’s sore. When he drops something, he mutters, “Oh, damn!” – like me. He likes to help me out around the house with vacuuming even when I REALLY don’t want his help cause I really just want to get it over with as quickly as possible. My frustration mounts and then I just watch him as he “vacuums” and when I get to step back in, he brings fluffs of dog hair over to me to suck up. Sometimes a Swiffer will keep him busy elsewhere. He has a really good eye for things – like spiders, and their webs, bits of paper on the floor, stray candy – “this is yours Mummy”, little things like that. One time I had a spider hanging off my ass (yup, I did) and he got my attention and pointed at backside and said, “Spider, mummy! Spider”. Of course, I just turned and looked that way and this way and I just couldn’t see it. He kept pointing his little finger and I followed his gaze and I finally figured out where it was. “Good eye, Boo, well done, let’s put it outside.” I stop myself from screaming and having a fit at the rather large spider dangling from my Lululemoned butt.
He also loves helping in the kitchen. As soon as he sees the egg carton come out of the fridge, he runs to get a step stool and is right beside me before I know it. I groan inwardly. (Did I tell you I’m a complete drag in the morning?) Once again, I just want to make breakfast as quickly as possible, but he makes me slow down as he grabs egg after egg and breaks it on the rim of the steel bowl. He is patient with me every time I have to ask him to move, because he has placed himself in the way of getting the frying pan or the measuring cup I want to get at. He always wants to break one more. He wants to put spices in and stir with the whisk. He likes putting in shredded cheese when the eggs are cooking. I’m nervous cause he’s so close to the stove and I do not find this fun at all to worry at 9 o’clock in the morning and I note to myself to next time to take the time to go downstairs and get the bigger stepladder for him. When it’s not scrambled eggs or an omelette, it’s Mummy’s cereal that we eat together. I hate sharing my food. He loves sharing my food. I just make extra now. Sometimes when I just give him some dry cereal in the morning so I can have a cup of coffee in bed, he comes over with a tiny handful for me. He gives me one cheerio at a time. He is so happy that I rub his chin in appreciation of his generosity.
We share a love of popcorn. And when mama wants to stay out a little longer, we go to Tim Horton’s for frozen lemonade and timbits. Yeah, I know, so healthy and nutiritious, but what’s a treat every now and then? He is allowed 2 apple fritter timbits and Mummy has 2 (or 3) sour cream glazed timbits. Sometimes, if it’s around lunchtime, I try to make him eat a little wrap first. Of course, the last time I did that, he proceeded to toddle over to me and vomit in my hand. Ooops, mummy was trying to send an email and he snarfled his food too quickly. “Boo, ” I tell him, “you must savour your timbits. Take your time. Cause you’re only getting two and it’s a special treat.” He vomited some more in my hand as if in agreement.
He shares his meltdowns just for me I’ve noticed. Not daddy, just me. The other day he fell from a ladder on the playground. Not from too high or too hard. Of course, when I turned my head for a second. No scratches, no blood. I checked him out, brushed him off and sent him to play again. We left about 20 minutes later, and by the time we got to the car, he burst out in tears, loud, shrieking inconsolable tears. I picked him up, held him, kissed his “boo-boo”, promised him a bandaid when we got home. Some juice and a cookie from a friend quieted his shrieks. Sometimes he naps, but only when I drive around long enough to get him to sleep. He won’t voluntarily nap anymore. Even when I know he’s tired, even when I give him warm milk or read him a story. “It’s sunny out Mama!” And when he’s tired, he becomes hyper and clingy all at the same time. When I try to insist on napping, he begins screaming and crying like I’m flaying him alive. I’m sure the whole neighbourhood can hear him. He can scream so loudly and in such a high pitch, I’m sure the dolphins can hear him. If I’ve managed to get him to fall asleep in the car and keep him asleep in his bed, he wakes up after 1 hour, rested and calm, hatching a bit slowly until he’s up and roaring for play.
He`s been great at the potty training. He had a little trouble with going #2 without a diaper, but with continued prompting and trying to make sure he doesn’t run into his room to poo in his pants, he’s been great. (I’ll spare you the horror stories of poo – really, I’m a dog owner, and I’ve had enough dealing with poo to last me a lifetime.) I even took a pic of his giant poo to send to Daddy – he was quite proud of that! And the kid as well. Him and Daddy “swordfight” and though he realized mummy can’t do that, he likes to come in and pee on his potty while I go on mine. Heaven forbid, if I don’t let him flush the toilet. Oh, the tears!
Lately, he’s real big on saying goodbye to me when I leave in the evening for work. He wants a kiss and a hug and now he insists that I hug and kiss Daddy too. Mmmm, don’t tell me little kids don’t sense tension between the parents. He loves nothing better than getting in on group hugs.
He lets me nap on the couch when I’m really tired; oh, I’ve been known to sneak in a snooze or two when the Backyardigans is on. On the odd occasion, he’ll even snuggle with me, though he generally hates to assume any position that may lead to sleep.
He loves to play with other kids. He will start running after someone or mimicking their behaviour as a way to get in on the play. It hurts to see him snubbed by older kids, but I step in when I can and stand back when he finds someone. He is kind to young children, I notice. Particularly babies. He will hold them like they’re made out of china. He takes the job of baby holding very seriously.
He’s taken to very rebellious behaviour with mummy especially when it comes to getting in his car seat. Yes, I have actually had to call my husband on the phone so he can tell him to get in his car seat. And he does. I learned to make a game of getting into the car seat and pretend we’re having a race. He’s caught on to that one, too and gives me an impish grin as he clambers into the driver’s seat. Kid – 1, Mummy – 0. Pre-school is helping a lot. He’s getting settled in now and though he protests, as soon as we get into the door, he runs off to the mat. I suppose one day I will be crying as he goes to his first day of kindergarten.
Sometimes, mostly during weekends, he’ll climb into bed with us, and I’ll reach out and hold his hand. Like I used to do when he was little baby and he fastens on tight. I tell him I love him and he says I love you right back.
He’s an awesome kid. Lucky he puts up with me.
I was having some further email conversations with Luna and something occurred to me. She commented that she still feels that a bit of sync with the other mothers, despite having both a child she adopted and one she gave birth to. I’m a mother of an 2 and 3/4 year old now. A mother. Even when I’m gnashing my teeth in frustration, I’m still grateful. This child, my child, is an AMAZING human being, even when he accidently head butts me when I’m trying to grab him to get his socks on. Yet whenever I’m around other mothers, I still feel a bit odd. Is it my age? Mmm, a little bit. I can’t say I enjoy the combination of perimenopause and toddlerhood.
I think what makes me feel different is that though I no longer wander around silently screaming please don’t ask me if I have kids! I still feel that I lost a huge chunk of time trying to achieve something that I did not, could not. The Lost Years, so to speak. And occasionally, especially when I am at the kid’s preschool, surrounded by a sea of mothers, babies and strollers, I feel a little out of place. Yes, I reply, when asked at the playground, he’s my only child. And then some witty repartee about why mess with perfection, blah, blah, blah. And I think that’s what Luna is referring to. Those years that have been spent in mourning, loss and pursuit of parenthood on top of all the regular life hazards isn’t erased when parenthood finally does find you. It’s like this secret you don’t or won’t share with other mums. You just babble on about naps and toilet training and stuff like that. You just feel a teeny bit like an imposter. As if you had been in jail or something. Hah.
By the way, I had a callback for that part. No I didn’t get it and yes, I feel like crap about it.
I still think about my old dog, Sampson. He was a very large, quiet, black Lab with a white patch on his chest. He had those soulful brown eyes that made him seem like an old sage reborn even though he was as dumb as a sack of hammers. He wasn’t the type of dog who tried to figure out how to get the bone from underneath the couch, he just waited til you got it for him. We used to walk through Stanley Park (slowly cause he was a senior by the time we moved downtown) and often we would walk by the Aquarium when bus loads of school kids would empty out on the sidewalk eager to see whales.
I hated that when it happened. It just reminded me of what I didn’t have. Then Samps and I would walk a short trail, he’d chase a few squirrels and we’d go back home. During the last few months of his life, we’d just walk a short bit, then rest at a park bench and just take the world in. I’d remind myself of what I did have. I worked very hard on those walks I’d call ” gratitude” walks. Anyway, I’m just going down this road cause it’s fall, the school year has started and the streets are full of kids on their way to school in the mornings and on their way home late afternoon and I remember how it used to make me feel.
It’s surreal to be at this point in my life, a woman my age with a toddler at his first day of preschool. It’s like a crazy miracle. Well, maybe miracle is not the most accurate word. There was no supernatural element to any of it. There’s just this little boy trying to make his way in the world twice a week for a couple of hours. And me just trying to get to the gym and have a cup of coffee in peace. Crazy.
I had an audition yesterday – that I completely forgot about until I was washing my face and getting ready for bed. A good one with a name and not just a job description. My agent called me on Friday and I actually read the sides online on my smartphone and I thought, well, it`s the long weekend, I have plenty of time to study it. And then it was the weekend and the kid had a cold so we stuck close to home. It`s not like we were having a gay old time somewhere exciting. Then DH took a day off work, it was Precious first day at preschool, and my husband`s relatives were visiting and …. it went went out of my head. I felt so bad, I cried and generally felt like shit. Despondent. The one thing that I truly love to do and it just fell off my radar. Embarrassed, I wrote a quick email to my agent, explaining to her that I just forgot and could you make up an excuse for my no-show. I`m not even sure why I didn`t get a WTF call but I`m sure she`s on vacation or something.
I`m losing it. I`m not in a good space right now.
***********I guess those very expensive chocolate coated strawberries I sent to the casting directors worked. I have an audition for the part I missed today. Now off to google early dementia signs.