I turned on Young and the Restless today…I used to, you know, watch in college and stuff a looong time ago, like, not now anymore, because who has the time, right?! I mean, like, not me, ha ha…
Anyhoo, Nick and Sharon’s son, who was a little kid not that long ago, is now all of sudden twenty-something years old. I know in soaps kids are BORING, so they play this trick where the kids age quickly to become more drama-laden teenagers and adults, and we all just play along. The son’s name happens to be Noah and happens to be where I first started loving that name, not because I imagined that my life could be anything as glamorous as Nick and Sharon Newmans’, of course, that would be a little pathetic, but just, you know because the name had a nice ring to it and stuff….
Anyway. This past year I sometimes wished my life was like that. Not like glamorous Nick and Sharon’s, I mean, lame to be that rich and have such big houses that you have to clean, you know?!…but I wished that my kids would just age really quickly, because I felt like this baby stuff is killing me, literally.
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One year ago this week, in January 2012, I found out I was pregnant again, unexpectedly, with lovely Lola. At the time, the news was unsettling to say the least, and slightly upsetting to be truthful.
Noah was not even 8 months old, and was just finally getting to be on a schedule. Even more importantly, he and I were really just getting to know each other. I was falling in love, and I didn’t want my attention diverted.
I also knew that it meant that 2012 was gonna be a doozy. I longed for routine, for stability after the tumultuousness that is a newborn. I wanted my body back. I wanted my sex life back. I knew that I wanted another baby, but this was just too too soon. I cried. I had a panic attack. I faced the inevitable.
And yes, 2012 was a doozy. My life has been blown apart, and will not ever be able to be reassembled in quite the same way. Val as I knew her was obliterated. Vaporized. Crushed under the sheer weight of responsibility for caring for 3 kids.
Nothing transforms your life like having children. Those words so underrepresent the task that it’s laughable. Fact is, I cannot put into words how utterly different I am today compared to me in 2010.
It’s not only physical, but that’s one of the hardest parts to accept. Pre-Noah I was in the best shape of my adult life. After Lola my body is unrecognizable. And it’s more than the extra padding I have now. My hair is changed; my skin sags and has wrinkles and age spots and hairs that never were there before. My posture slopes from holding babies in my arms, and my back and neck have permanent knots. I peed my pants in Target the other day, because I still can’t fully control my bladder. Wearing light gray yoga pants, and with no respite, I checked out and hightailed it away from there hoping no one saw the very obvious accident. These are just a few of the lovely tell-tale signs of childbearing.
Emotionally, having kids is as explosive as falling in love, because that’s exactly what it is. Except in this case, there is a lot more give on my part than there is take. The joy, panic, frustration, anxiety, fear, excitement, sadness, anger that on a daily basis accompany raising children can be extremely hard to manage.
Keeping the children alive is a daily goal, and it’s not hyperbolic. And then once you’ve managed to keep them breathing, you have to feed them properly, teach them, guide their choices, make sure their brains are stimulated, that they get enough physical activity, that they aren’t behind their peers in walking and talking; in math and reading.
You have to read to them enough, speak enough words to them, make sure they eat enough vegetables, get enough sleep, don’t get too much (or any) tv, don’t get exposed to too much stress in the household (!!) and on and on and on.
2012 was exhausting. 2012 was all about survival. Not only with a new baby and a newly learned walker and talker, but with a newly involved, shiny exotic “real” mom for Katya bearing the gifts of marathon Sponge Bob watching and unlimited Lucky Charms. It’s impossible to compete with a fantasy turned real, but goddammit I sure did try.
Yes, I learned a lot about myself this past year. Some good and some not so good. I learned that parenting actually comes pretty naturally to me. Step-parenting, however, does not. I learned that I have deep, hidden wells of patience and selflessness to tap into, that I never knew existed. I also unearthed dark holes of vengeance, jealousy and vindictiveness that I didn’t know were there either.
I learned that I don’t manage well without sleep. I learned that I have the capacity to say mean things to my kids – even to the one that can understand what I say.
I learned that sometimes I’m not the bigger person. Sometimes I don’t act like the adult. Sometimes I pick a fight with my husband just for the drama. Sometimes I pick a fight with my stepdaughter just to show her whose boss. Sometimes I let Noah stay in his dirty diaper for too long because I’m too exhausted for the challenge. And sometimes I let Lola cry behind closed doors because I am afraid my psyche can’t handle one more scream.
On the lighter side, I learned that there is no use buying nice things for yourself until your kids are at least 3. I learned that the cute mom with the fedora on in Anthropologie is wearing a hat because she hasn’t washed her hair in 5 days. I learned that gel nails are an investment that is truly worth the price. $200 highlights on hair that gets pulled into a ponytail everyday are not. I learned that books that advise parents to speak 30,000 words a day to their kids and move to a foreign country to expose them to another language (Superbaby pgs 91 and 160) are probably books that shouldn’t be listened to and set expectations that can never be lived up to. And I learned that it’s ok that I can’t breastfeed, my babies will be just fine even without the boob juice, and other moms that give me a look when I whip out my bottle are probably also jealous that my husband can take care of my babies all night while I sleep once in awhile.
Mostly, though, I learned that I didn’t take very good care of myself in 2012, and in turn it meant that I sometimes didn’t take care very good care of the people that depend on me.
My mom said something to me at Christmas, when I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown trying to get presents in order not just for the kids but for extended family members and for some of Mat’s family that I only see once a year. She said Val, forget about it. Don’t bother yourself right now with people who you really don’t care what they think of you. Don’t worry about the show. You just concentrate on yourself and your husband and your babies right now. Everyone else can go to hell if they don’t like it.
I did manage to pull it all together in the end, but I took her advice to heart. Sometimes you have to cut away all the superfluous, to make sure the important is cared for. That really is what survival is all about. I won’t have to do this indefinitely, but for just a little more while I’m a little bit more ok with letting things go.
Out of chaos emerges beauty, and my gorgeous little Lola proves to me that there really are no mistakes. I have been fortunate throughout my life to truly believe that no matter what, things will be ok in the end. And this is no different.
And leave it to another girlfriend to put it all back into perspective. What she reminded me of wasn’t even groundbreaking, but because her kids are close to mine in age it hit home. She’s getting ready (already!) to have her almost 3 year old start pre-pre school. We only have a few short years of this baby stuff, and there’s hell of a lot of good that comes with the bad. Pretty soon it actually will feel like my kids have aged like in the soaps. And I’ll be looking back with regret that I didn’t savor it just a little bit more.
2012 was about survival, but I hope 2013 will help me ease out of that manic mode and into thriving in my life with my family, complete as it is now. In 2013, I’m going to rejoice in the belly laughs, the hugs, the newly minted “Mama” coming from my babies. I will cherish Lola’s first steps and Noah’s first conversation with me. I’m going to watch with awe as Katya becomes more mature and probably surpasses me in height.
2013 will also be about rebuilding Val with all this new information I’ve discovered about myself. Loving myself so that I can give the most love out. Working on the things that I know need some work, but understanding also that I, and my kids, don’t have to be perfect.
Oh, and 2013 will definitely, without a doubt, be about getting more sleep.
Happy new year to everyone!