Sun 27 Sep 2009
when i was a kid, i spent a lot of time alone.
i was not lonely, not particularly. i remember myself as social, eager, a child not overly burdened by shyness. yet i spent the majority of my time, it occurs to me, in solitary pursuits. books, Lego, Barbies. i remember spending a lot of time lying on my stomach. hey, it was the 70s. gimme a shag rug to sprawl on and i bet i could still while away a Saturday like nobody’s business.
mostly, i drew. i was good at drawing, or so the adults around me told me. and i liked that. so i drew more. and whether it happened because i wanted to be good at it or because i was naturally inclined towards it, drawing became my oeuvre. i got lost in it, created worlds with pencils and blue Bic pens. i was never into colouring. all the little boys in my colouring books, i diligently turned into long-haired girls; beyond that, colouring held little interest. i liked the lines i followed to be my own.
over my elementary school years my busy hands must’ve filled a hundred doodle pads, those newsprinty sheafs of absorbent pastel paper. each would’ve been chock-full and bursting, every one an almost-picture-book with wordless narratives and imaginary worlds now lost to history. landfills today are still shifting and digesting my childhood fancies.
i am impatient, these days, with Oscar. he is not yet three-and-a-half, and the fact that he does not like to be alone, sleep alone, or play alone is perhaps no terrible oddity on his part.
it is, however, driving me crazy.
true, i’m an extravert, a social creature who gets energy from interactions with others. but i am the kind of extravert who binges, who will go all out for a given occasion if opportunity arises, who can stay up til sunrise having just the right conversation. and who is then sated for, oh, months. or at least a few hours, y’know? i’m an extravert who needs a few minutes of silence to catch up with my own head every couple of hours, at least.
so the Mommy Mommy Mommy of a three year old who wants my attention and participation in everything he does? combined with the sweet chirpings of a one year old just learning to say Mama? my heart hears the crescendo and reminds me these little voices will only be small once, and swells, wearily. my ears hear the crescendo and want to run and hide themselves under a pillow until i can hear myself think.
i found the infancy of both children hard. it was partly colic, partly leftover grief, largely my own personality. a few months into Oscar’s life i found myself crying at the kitchen table late one night, worn to shreds not only from the incessant crying but just the need that came with a high-intensity infant. he needed me around the clock, took an hour to feed, fed every two hours. there was no time to regroup, to collect myself, to be anything other than a stumbling purveyor of milk and clean diapers and kisses. and though i loved him deeply and dearly and fiercely, i had to admit to myself that being needed to that extent was not a need of mine.
maybe there are women out there – people out there – who fall into parenthood as into a vat of butterscotch pudding, an all-consuming satisfaction of everything they’ve ever dreamed of, even if it is a bit hard to breathe. me, i never liked butterscotch pudding. i’m a compartmentalizer. and Mommy is not a role that compartmentalizes particularly well.
i marvel at people who accomplish things when their children are small. baking, writing, decorating, exercising…you name it, i marvel at it. because just in order to keep the house functionally clean & tidy and keep us all fed and clothed, Dave & i seem to be busting an awful lot of ass. and doling out a lot of hush, honey, just a minutes. it’s not pretty, the number of times i seem to say that to my kids in the course of a day, or even a supperhour. it’s even less pretty, the cacophony that still permeates our house despite my gentle entreaties for just another bleeping second to finish chopping your carrots so you don’t CHOKE to death, thank you very much!! ahem. i can barely chop carrots in that headspace. if you can decorate your house or write your magnum opus under the same conditions, you are an ubermensch.
please don’t tell me otherwise. i’ll just feel worse.
in the meantime, i’m just hanging on, hoping they learn to draw – or knit or dance or quietly hatch diabolical plans for world takeover, whatever their little hearts desire – soon.
mind you, if they do begin to draw like fiends, i’ll just have a new time-succubus on my hands. what do YOU do with all the art projects your little Picassos generate? is your living room wall, like that of my college friend Susie’s family, a giant colourful varnished collage of your children’s most beautiful creations? or, uh, do you send ’em to the trash?
inquiring minds need to know. the box on the freezer in the back porch? she’s gettin’ full.