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motherhood

We Already Knew Him

Ten years ago today, Tim and I met our first boy for the first time.  We finally saw Luke face to face, and even though it was the first time we looked into his squinty, swollen eyes, we already knew him.  We didn’t know yet that he would grow up to be a grace-filled, brave, creative, empathetic and goofy boy.  We don’t know what kind of man he’ll end up being, but we knew him back when he was a scrawny, cone-headed newborn.  We know him now and always will.

He’s our first born.  Perfectly Luke.

At two days old, he came home from the hospital to our tiny apartment.  We spent one sleepless night at home before finding a funky looking sore on the thin skin of his shoulder.  Tim called the nurse, who calmly, yet urgently, told us to go into the emergency room.  This initiated the process of the unraveling of our souls.

We packed his tiny body into the car.  When he was awake, he wasn’t fussy at all.  He just looked up at us in the E.R. waiting room, cool cucumber like.  Later we would find out that this was his default for life.  Smooth, just rollin’ through.  Of course, his demeanor changed when the nurses tried unsuccessfully to get an i.v. into his nonexistent veins.  Tim and I watched as he screamed and writhed on the table as nurses tried five times to stick an enormous needle into his back for a spinal tap.  All of those unsuccessful too.

I don’t remember much of the conversations with the doctors.  My brain grew fuzz as hormones and emotions surged.  My body still ached from being in this same hospital days before.  Tim told me later, much later, that he remembers asking the doctor one thing.  “Are we going to lose our boy?”

Tim doesn’t remember much after the doctor replied with a complacent and dull, “I don’t know.”

Shock flooded over us.  I don’t remember them admitting Luke.  I don’t remember how we all got upstairs to the room in the children’s wing where we would live for the next four days.  I don’t remember what the doctors thought Luke had.  What was wrong with our boy?  I do remember they didn’t really know either, or at least they weren’t letting us in on their diagnosis yet.  They spat words like spinal meningitis and unknown infection and samples for the lab.  According to Tim, there was a Seahawk’s playoff game going on throughout our wait in the E.R.  I don’t remember that either.  By the time we got upstairs, the game over and a W in the books.

Luke lay in that starchy hospital crib.  Wires, connecting him to a myriad of monitors, streamed off him in all directions.  A nurse successfully found a vein in his head so the i.v. tube got taped to his scalp, sticking to his fine, black hair.  All I wanted to do was to hold him, but all those tubes and wires felt like walls.

Luke and ITim and LukeTim, Luke and I

Over and over nurses came in to check on him.  All of them commenting on how laid back and chill he was.  Huh, I thought, aren’t all babies like this?  That was just Luke, still is.  Blase, blase.  Looking back, I feel like he was teaching and guiding us.  I feel like if we could have turned our freak outs down, we would have looked into his eyes and known everything was cool.  Of course we now know the splotchy skin thing turned out to be nothing.  I’m not sure if it was a miracle or all the medicine they pumped into his body healed whatever the lab couldn’t even figure out.  Maybe it was health officials just taking necessary precautions with a newborn, or maybe even newborn rash that looked funkier than usual.  We don’t know, never will.  I do know that hindsight gives a fuller picture, but some part of me knows that even if it had turned out to be something serious, Luke would have surfed right through it still.  Teaching us how to be so chill.

Being a new mom, I was so unsure about it all.  How would I bottle up all this love so I could adequately function as an adult, instead of crumpling in a puddle while my insides flung into all parts of the world?  I should have listened to my gut when I saw Luke for the first time.  I should have let that moment bring me through the turmoil in the days to come.  I already knew him, always will, and that’s all I needed to remember when the chaos came.  I just needed to know that sometimes he will be the one to guide me.  I’m not sure how to go with the flow when my world is falling apart.  Luke does.  Even when that huge wave is about to crash down, I get to watch Luke surf it.  It has taken me ten years to realize this lesson.  I still mess it up most of the time.  Sometimes he looks to me to show him the way, but mostly, I just watch him and learn.

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motherhood

Only Our Kid

I didn’t think much of it at first.

Jack pulled a bright green paper out of his school folder and tossed it across the table to me.  “Mom, I want to take this new class.  Can you sign the paper so I can go?”

I read over the information and found out that his teacher was going to offer a class before school for kids who wanted to learn how to type.  Whelp, I thought, he might as well learn now.  That’s a skill he will use for the rest of his life.  Well, until Stephen Hawking gets the patent for a robot who can read your thoughts and record them onto paper.  Until Stephen or somebody else figures that out, typing class it is.

I still didn’t think it was that big of a deal on the Sunday night before the first Monday class started.  I looked over my weekly planner and reminded Jack that he couldn’t diddle around the house tomorrow morning if he wanted to make it to his new class on time.  Surprisingly, he wasn’t as mopey as he normally is when the school week has to start up again after a fun, carefree weekend.  I should have clued into that slightly abnormal behavior, but I still sat in naive oblivion at that point.

When the next morning rolled around, he pretty much snapped his fingers and his chores were done.  And done very well, I might add.  When he bounced happily into the car, I started to get slightly suspicious.  Something strange was going on, but I couldn’t put my finger on it yet.  Monday mornings are especially hard on Jack because he’s a boy after my own hermit heart.  A carefree, lazy weekend is heaven so when an obligatory all day function like school rolls around, normally there are scratches on the kitchen floors from dramatically dragging feet.  Sometimes he leaves a trail of tears on his way out the door too, but that happens only about once a month.  He loves school, but he loves being at home with us even more.

I had to make a special trip to drop him off early since the class started a half an hour before school.  I would circle back and take Luke later.  On the drive there he chatted happily away in the backseat.  Normally he gets more talkative the more excited he is, which is sometimes overwhelming for anyone else in the car.  This morning the chattiness was bearable, actually it was quite enjoyable, since the topic veared away from fifty billion vague minor Star Wars details in each episode.

We both pulled up in the car to the drop off zone so he could easily hop out and zoom over to the school’s front door.  Instead of getting out quickly and slamming the door as I yell, “I LOVE YOU!  HAVE A GOOD DAY!” like we do everyday, he leaned forward and tried to give me a bear hug.  It turned into an awkward sandwich hug with the driver’s seat in between us and Jack’s hands reaching around my neck and strangling me in the sweetest way possible.  It was endearing,  I promise you.  I got to look him in the face and tell him I loved him that morning instead of the normal, slam and me wishing his butt and backpack a good day.  Usually he and Luke walk quickly away from the car, look in the opposite direction, then to each other in confusion, as if they are both wondering who that weird lady is yelling obscene “I love you’s.”

By then I could tell his excitement level was high because he kept eye contact with me even after he shut the car door.  I waved cheerfully as he returned the gesture.  He paused and waved exactly four more times before he passed the car.  I was so shocked by what happened next, I almost rear ended the parent in front of me, also dropping off their kid.  He turned back for the last time, for what I thought was the fifth wave, but instead of waving, he put his grown-up boy hands up to his lips and blew. me. a. kiss.  I am not kidding you.  He did this in public, in front of all his typing friends, on a Monday morning, no less.

And that is when I knew there was no denying it.  This kid was definitely ours.  Only Tim and I could make a kid who would be flipping out over an un-required, extra schooling class that involved learning how to type.  We sure know how to make some pretty sweet nerdy kids.

Update: I went to drop off the boys at school yesterday (the day after Jack’s inaugural class) in my normal morning school run attire, which is whatever I rolled out of bed in plus boots, a hat and my coat.  Yesterday I wore my vintage Sonics t-shirt (no bra) and my pink and black floral pajama pants.  On Tuesdays I normally come in to volunteer in Jack’s class about an hour after school has started to help out with math groups.  On our way out the garage door, Jack stiffened and paused as a horrified look spread over his entire body.

“Mom.  You’re not wearing that when you come into my class are you?”

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And that is when I realized the excitement of a new typing class had worn off.  Apparently, he couldn’t appreciate the fact that I had stylishly tucked my pink silky pants into my boots.  That and I tried to save him from embarrassment by zipping up my coat to hide my no-bra status.  Dude, my blue and orange hat matched my coat.  I do have some fashion sense left in me, after all.  Your welcome.

There weren’t any loud displays of affection when both boys hopped out of the car that morning.  I wished their little behinds a good day and an I love you.  Normalcy restored.

 

Since I had some time before making an appearance in Jack’s class I went home to attempt some self improvement.  I slapped on some make-up and sprayed my hair with shiny spray to make it appear like I actually washed it.  Then I put my fancy Target cardigan over my t-shirt and jeans, because I. am. a. professional.

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adventures in adulthood, marriage, motherhood

Identity Crisis

I go through periods of struggle when I think of my identity, my label.  So many other adults are parents and something else.  Most of the time that something else is a career.  I do have many something elses, besides being a mom, but they don’t bring a paycheck with them.  Why is it that money seems to be the validating factor for an acceptable label?

I’m a stay at home mom and I absolutely love it.  I also make sure the house is kept up, the meals are cooked, the yard work taken care of, the bills paid and budget balanced and my people loved.  Tim and I joke about how he makes the money and I spend it, but we both know that we couldn’t do our jobs without the other.  Ours is an equal partnership where both of us get to do what we love.  Even though our roles look more traditional, even a little archaic from the outside, we have both chosen our job titles and both have equal power in that decision.

Even though I am completely satisfied with my job and station in life, I panic when asked about it.  Recently I met someone new and she asked me what I do during the week.  It was a normal, nonjudgemental question, but somehow I turned it into this critical, judgey moment.  For some reason I was completely confused about how to answer.  My mind blanked and I frantically tried to recover.  “Do you mean on a typical week or this week specifically?”  Because, really, the answer to that question is so different every week.  Sometimes I spend a lot of time at the boys’ school, helping out, sometimes I don’t leave my house for days on end because I’m either scrubbing it clean or I have discovered some much needed project that just HAS to get done RIGHT NOW.  Other weeks, it’s yard work, or errands, or coaching, or chaufferring the boys to whatever current sport they are playing, or laying on my couch reading because I need some rejuvination time while the boys are at school.

But none of that can be wrapped up into a nice and tidy label.  And for some reason, “Stay at home mom” sounds so lame.  I am even ashamed to write that out loud because I’m proud of my job and I love it and I’m lucky enough to be able to do it.  I don’t know why I struggle with the label so much.

Even when asked about “what I do” at social functions or when meeting someone for the first time, I tell them, but then I add on, “…well, and I used to be a teacher.”  I’m not sure why I feel the need to extend the answer.  When Tim gets asked that question, he doesn’t add on his previous five jobs before his current one, most people don’t either.

I admire other parents who are self-assured in being work from home parents.  I look up to those that have careers outside the home while simultaneously taking care of their people.  I respect men and women who don’t have kids and are passionate about their career and life situation.  Most of all I stand in reverence of the confidence.  I want more of it.

I know that we all aren’t perfect at our jobs and in life.  Sometimes we drop the ball on certain responsibilities.  Other times we get lazy.  And sometimes outside forces make living and breathing painful.  Those are not the parts I’m talking about, the personal crisis lies in the identity as a whole.

Just the fact that I’m so sensitive about this flabbergasts me.  I pride myself on being an individual and not conforming to what other people think about me.  For example, I have no qualms about walking around in public in a bikini.  And by in public, I mean water parks, beaches and the like, not the grocery store.  Geez, I’m not THAT weirdly confident.  I know I have stretch marks and my body goes out in places it didn’t used to.  It’s also not huge in other places most would like the size increase.  According to American beauty standards and some public opinion, I probably shouldn’t be walking around in a bikini.  But, here’s the thing, I don’t freaking care.  I feel free and brave and I love it.  Besides, those one piece bathing suits pinch and pull in places I can’t even talk about.  Pinching, pulling, constricting, covering up.  I won’t do that, it’s not me and I don’t care if anybody disagrees.

So I’m fairly confident in most areas of my life, but this whole job title sends me down a personal existence rabbit hole.

I do know one thing for certain, I’m not questioning my position in life because I want something different.  The other day I was walking Clementine around the block and I walked past a group of kids I didn’t recognize.  I heard them pause and say with a sort of reverence, “Oh, look!  That’s Jack’s mom.”  I was so proud in that moment.  Yes, that’s exactly who I am.  I am a lot of other things too, but that, being Luke’s mom and Jack’s mom and Tim’s wife, those are the labels that make me swell with joy.

Maybe I am too worried about others’ perception.  I only panic when asked about what I do.  Never when I’m in my day-to-day element do I get anxious about it.  Maybe it’s because I don’t want others to think of me in the traditional terms my job title may imply.  I want my answer to show all of who I am, but I guess they aren’t asking about that.  All they are inquiring about is one aspect of my life.  I hate the fact that this is a usual small talk question.  It implies that your job title and description hold heavy weight in your identity.  I wish it were normal to first ask questions like, “What are you passionate about?” or “What are your hobbies?” or “Who are the people in your life and what are they like?”  That might make things weird though because most people don’t want to go that deep when they first meet someone.  Starting off with, “So, what are your struggles in life?” probably isn’t a good idea.

The normalized small talk questions aren’t the problem.  It’s me and my hangups that are the issue.  I always feel a justification of how much I accomplish is needed for proof of my meaningfulness.  But I already know my worth, I shouldn’t need outside validation.  I guess that’s where the root of the problem lies.

Yes, my job description doesn’t always look neat and tidy.  The answer to, “But, what do you do all day?” is never a short one and is always evolving.  I think what I need, is to borrow a little of the confidence and fierceness I have in other areas of my life and bring it over to this one.  No, I’m not really using my college degree.  No, I don’t need a masters to do my job well.  No I don’t technically get a paycheck.  And no, I don’t need anybody else’s validation of my worth.

What do I do?  Who am I?

I’m a wife and a mom and I work from home.  That is the simple and complicated answer.