{on motherhood} a year and a half

18 months.jpg

I remember hearing parents say things like "oh, he's twenty-two months" or "she just turned fifteen months" and thinking . . . huh? Why not just say one, or two, or a year and a half?

Now I get it—the months matter, because so much changes in a day, a week, a season. E is so different as time moves on and layer upon layer of his personality builds. My sense of motherhood keeps spinning, too, and I'd imagine neither of these realities ever fades away.

At eighteen months, I've got a spirited toddler. A true child who runs wherever possible, goes up stairs in a flash (only to peer behind at me with a big smirk), wants to walk up the slide in our backyard. He recently discovered "no," which I don't think he fully understands yet, but does enjoy shouting it at the dog . . . probably because he hears us say it a lot. Whoops. 

He loves books, and learning, and letters. He willingly gives hugs and kisses, says "nigh-night" before bed and dances when we put music on. Every morning, I hear a little voice peep, "Hi!" and I can't help but smile. He's into stickers, and balloons, and carefully inspecting each piece of dirt or rock or dust. He'll sit for a movie, even two or three or them. He adores his grandparents, all of them, and his little "peeeas, peeeas, peeeas" (please, please, please) when he wants something just about does me in because it's so damn cute. He's adaptable, easy-going, curious, and honestly fun to be around. 

I never really thought about what it'd be like to build a relationship with my kid. We're on the tip of the iceberg, and as his traits start to break away from the sense of "baby" I once knew, into something more fully formed and uniquely his own, I feel vulnerable as a parent.

That, for me, is the big lesson of a year and a half. Once I got past pregnancy, birth, those early crazy months, the breastfeeding and the introducing solid foods and the crawling and walking, now, I'm like—oh. You are a person. Really, my job going forward is to keep you safe, teach you our family values, and let you grow. And we all know what growth entails: failure, falling, pain. You cannot grow and evolve without those things, and I am stunned by how challenging it must be for parents (since I still very much feel like a newbie mother) to make space for it.

In small ways, I practice. When he can't get the blocks to stack. When he wants the plastic baseball bat to stand up straight on its own (dude, it's not gonna happen, but okay). When he trips on his own feet. When he lands knees-first into a puddle of water. When he touches hot food after I said like a MILLION TIMES IT'S HOT, OW, and then sobs silently. 

As much as I want to swoop in and help, I try to discern where I need to do that, and where I need to step back, because he is learning.

I'm also amazed at his tenacity. The other day, he found a jar with loose change and immediately dumped it out before putting the coins back in. Repeat times infinity. Watching his fingers work the quarters, his mouth pursed in concentration, his eyes flitting to the container, to the ground, to his hand processing what to do next—it's cool. Kids are little sponges, soaking everything up, and it's neat to watch.

Still, each time I turn on the news or glance at an article, my heart pounds. I remember rolling my eyes at my own mother who seemed gobsmacked at every terrible story about someone else's child in the world. But once you're a parent, you're constantly reminded that it could be your little one. Anything can happen. You're not in control. And all those other children are just like yours. Which is fucking terrifying, and occasionally I have to close a tab or turn the channel with a lump in my throat and a prayer on my lips. 

I feel like a mom, finally. And a pretty capable one. I say that with a sense of wonder, since I wasn't sure when that feeling would click. I recall looking at myself in a passing street window while pushing E down the street, thinking, "Huh, that's me, with a baby, weird." These days, I pick him up from daycare and he runs to me, shouting, "Mom!" with joy on his face and crumbs on his shirt and I swoop in for a bear hug feeling right where I'm meant to be.

why mornings are the best

Takashi Murakami, "Dragon in Clouds," Museum of Contemporary Art

Takashi Murakami, "Dragon in Clouds," Museum of Contemporary Art

I never used to be a morning person. I liked sleeping until noon, burrowed underneath fluffy covers, and then racing into the rest of the day, full steam ahead. 

Then I had a kid, and . . . ya know. Between 3 a.m. feedings, 5 a.m. cries, and 10 p.m. wake-ups, those initial months taught me to cherish (CHERISH!) sleep. But I still loved sleeping in.

Or maybe you've already boarded this early morning train, like my friend Emily, who has waxed poetic about waking up at the crack of dawn for years. (And she's literally the most energetic and productive person I know, so that's saying something.)

Mornings are like breakfast, and exercise, and not gossiping, drinking less, and going to church--good for you, but not necessarily what you wanna do on a given day. It feels very grown-up, this whole sliding out of bed quietly while the rest of the family sleeps, walking downstairs using my phone light, noting the brush of the cat's fur on my ankles as she skitters past, pouring a cup of cold brew in a daze, settling into the couch.

My first thought usually revolves around work: where to fit more in, what things I can check-off my list, how I can "do" as much as possible today. Then some mornings, like today, I pay attention to the quiet that an early morning can offer.

The tick-tock of the clock. The sound of my own breath. The muted lights, the cicadas murmuring outside the window, the plushness of the couch, the click-clack of keys typing or the scratch of a pen in a notebook.

No matter how many times I hit snooze, waking up early means carving out a slice of the day that's just mine. To think. To pause. To sit and be still. I'm not mama, responding to every need. I'm not a daughter or friend, connecting in conversation. I'm not a wife, catching up with her husband and partnering on all things big and small. I'm not an employee, hustling through email and meetings. I'm not even a writer, really, anxious to put perspective on a page. 

I'm just myself, alone, in the quiet. And I'm learning how much I need that.

{summer 2017}

I remember thinking in May, "I don't have any plans this summer!" Yeah . . . false. Summer 2017 has been busy in the best way. Here's what I've been up to:

  • Writing 50+ freelance articles, including one about lunchtime workouts for SELF.com and BRIDES magazine (in print!)
  • Camping with a newly walking toddler (not recommended unless you prefer bumps, bruises, and that no sleep life)
  • LA to visit a dear friend, where we hit up Joshua Tree (more camping!), ate delicious food, and caught up. I also enjoyed AN ENTIRE DAY to myself, where I strolled through stops in Venice, leisurely sipped a latte while reading a book, laid on the beach and listened to music. SIMPLE PLEASURES, especially after becoming a mom.
  • Updated one of our bathrooms and stained our deck. (Let's be real, I supervised this work.)
  • Visited a nearby lake with a beach, where E loved the water but hated the sand. Which, ya know, isn't the easiest combo?
  • Watched Moana 4372843927 times. Still don't hate it.
  • Visited the Ozarks with family for several days of sunshine, boating, swimming and all the beers. Oh, and quality time, of course.
  • Went to NYC with my parents and little sister, where we met a cop on a horse in Central Park, tried 5 new coffee shops, indulged in sushi at Morimoto (swoon), saw 3 Broadway shows (Lion King - insanely magical costumes, Bandstand - super fun, and Chicago - classic), walked around Times Square in the rain, drank local beer in Staten Island, waved at the Statue of Liberty, walked around Little Italy and Chinatown on a food tour, and so much more. Epic trip; if you've never been, GO.
  • Buying a baby pool so we can sit with our feet in it with E and also drink a mojito at the same time.
  • Farmer's market strolls, complete with the usual smoothies and egg sandwiches and a million refrains of E saying "hi" "dog" and "uh oh."
  • Early morning coffee dates with my husband before work.
  • Marveling at our son's cute face because I'm obsessed with him.
  • Hanging out with our neighbors on Friday nights.
  • Sunday dinners with my sister and her husband that ultimately turn into Sunday Funday of some sort.
  • Visits from our parents on both sides.
  • Finally investing in a bike trailer so we can bike with E. The first ride involved multiple stops as he screamed bloody murder while wearing a helmet, so, it's going great.

The rest of the summer also includes a drive to Chicago to see some women I adore, a trip to Minneapolis to hang with our pals K+L, and the cherry on top: a week-long vacation to Charleston and Raleigh to meet my cousin's baby girl and my best friend's twin boys who are the same age as E, and hopefully see another friend who lives only a few hours away.

Theme of this summer? Brews, babies and besties. The best.