Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Little Moments of Gross

There are an insurmountable number of horrors that no one tells you about when you become a mother. For me, those ACK!! experiences seem to all center around my body.
WARNING: if there are guys or women who have yet to give birth reading this, turn back now. There are confessions and musings forthcoming that will scar your psyche. Check back soon for "The Viking's Adventures in Preschool."

The crying, the whining, the sleeplessness, the expense... I was ready for it all and none of it changed my life in a major way. I've changed 760 million diapers and wiped body fluids off of just about every surface in the tri-state area. Never missed a step... kept right on, keepin' on. However... the day I learned what an episiotomy was, and that hemorrhoids never actually go away (they just shrink), I was literally struck dumb. Slack-jawed and blinking, I was reviled and crushed by the realization that my child was basically shredding me from the inside out. Then there was this gem:
It is the part of my first labor and delivery that lives most vividly in my memory - the minute that the Tornado sucked in his first breath, and I felt his warm and slimy body miraculously, tangibly, amazingly MINE, the moment was shattered as Dr. Sprong said to me from between my knees, "I'm going to be a while here. You tore right down to the hemorrhoid." If anyone has said anything to me before or since that was as devastating or horrifying, I can't friggin remember it. The next moment, I saw a huge sweeping arm gesture as Dr. Betsy Ross began to embroider my lady bits. Seven stitches...

Coming up on 36 years old with my baby-bearing days blessedly behind me, I can tell you poppets, that I haven't felt this good about my clothed body in 15 years. Hours at the gym and a painful break-up with Sara Lee have resulted in a depth of self-love I didn't know was possible. After spending a lifetime as a chubby gal and then growing two babies, take it from me that losing 50 pounds and wearing size 10/12 looks great any which way but naked... I'll spare you the sob-story about my pitiful ta-tas and skip right to my gut. It never occurred to me that losing weight would exacerbate the puckered, wrinkly appearance of the stretch marks that slash my midsection. Sit-ups and jump switches and ellipticals be damned... NOTHING is going to fix my tore-up tummy. Ever. I thought I'd started to come to terms with it, to appreciate that like all things that come with age, this was but another badge of honor - earned with the blood, sweat and tears of motherhood.
Well, I've come to learn that no one can set fire to a firm conviction or a positive spin on a situation like my kids... A few days ago, The Viking waltzes into the bathroom as I'm buttoning my pants and wonders, "How come your belly is older than your face?"
I quietly walked past him and breathed slowly in through the nose and out the mouth, into the kitchen where I threw away 3/4 of his Easter candy. I'll blame it on the dog with a clear conscience when he wants to know where his gummy fish are... little shit.
I guess all those precious "little moments of Grace" I've shared in the past are sufficiently tempered with little moments of Gross... as it should be. Nothing's perfect. Reflecting on the Viking's question over the last several days, here's my answer:
My dearest Viking,
At 3 years old you asked me why my "belly was older than my face." You asked me not out of malice, but curiosity and once I exacted what felt like fair retribution for your insensitivity (trashing roughly a pound of gummi worms, Swedish fish and fruit snacks) it was easier to see that clearly. You're forgiven, of course but I reserve the right to embarrass you and otherwise torture you through your childhood and adolescence for the havoc you have wrecked upon my body, as well as my nerves. (There will also be all of the standard curses invoking the Universe to gift you with a child EXACTLY like or worse than yourself.)
My belly looks hell because somewhere along the line I decided I needed to be your mom. I wished and prayed and hoped for your brother and then for you because apparently I'd decided I'd been getting way too much sex and sleep. I guess I just couldn't live one more minute without having a small, surly, wet, sticky, drooly, stinky, heavy, squirmy, snotty bobble-headed mass of flesh to drag around and serve every minute of every day. I thought to myself... "I've had it with movies, long, hot showers, and music sung by people. Bring on the singing dinosaurs and staying in the same shirt for three days because it has the fewest spit up stains. God damn it! I want babies. Who needs friends? I've got too much time on my hands."
My belly looks like a topographical map because I felt like things just wouldn't be worth saying if I didn't have to say them three fucking times. I said to myself, you know who'll need you to say, "Stop running!" 6 times before wiping out and looking stunned about it? -KIDS! We should have TWO!! I can't cough without peeing because I grew two humans with my very own body who used my bladder for a trampoline in utero
My belly looks older than my face because I traded serenity and sex appeal for the incredible experience of feeling little sea monkeys bonking and pushing around inside me, and for the smile that spreads across my face with each peel of delighted laughter that reaches my ears from your precocious mouth. I have no hope of sunlight ever tanning my tummy because I was compelled to birth not one but two of the most precious pains in my arse I'll ever know.
That's why...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Here's to Basketball, Boot Camp, and Being Braver Than We Believe...

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the Big Picture is not a focal point in my life. I almost always miss it. I desperately wanted both of my children but rarely let my musings of what life would be like as a mom go beyond strollers, onesies and finger paints. It amazes me still that each time I get to a new place with The Tornado, I think - how did I not see this coming? How could I have not realized that all the experiences I feel like I just barely survived as a kid would be mine to manage once again but from a far more excruciating standpoint - as the person charged with guiding him through it? Fuckin’ Hell…

My Tornado is a sporty kid, and now I have to figure out who I am in the world of youth sports parenting. My own sports dreams began and faded with Mary Lou Retton the moment I realized what I looked like in a leotard. A hockey game will keep my attention as will highlight films of those 400 pound line backers trucking people, but that’s the extent of my interest in professional sports. Recently, I’ve realized I have no wisdom… no experience to offer my boys in this area and I’m sick about it. I’m the Sassmaster, fer fuck’s sake… every other time in my life that I haven’t known something for sure, I could skim a few paragraphs and bullshit the rest. I can’t bullshit basketball. I can’t even wanna give a shit about basketball most days. I do love to watch the Tornado play, though… at least until recently when my calm, cool cucumber was sent off the court by the ref after getting too physical with the other team and repeated fouls.

Next practice he was a bit snarly during the scrimmage too. As I watched two teammates repeatedly avoid passing him the ball (that almost never makes it from his hands to the net), and listened to them berate him for not covering his man well enough, I noted the sparkle fade from his eye and the crestfallen slump of his shoulders with a walnut sized lump in my throat.

*It’s noteworthy to mention that although I am a person who most often finds great joy in children, I was calculating how much force it would require for an “accidental” hip check to send the rat-faced one sprawling…

Knowing what my reaction would have been at 8 years old, I’ve been waiting for the moment he tells me he’s all done playing basketball. It still hasn’t come… in fact this is the conversation we had after practice on Monday:

Me: I heard some of the stuff the other guys were saying to you at practice tonight… What was that like for you to hear them get on your case?

Tornado: Meh…no big deal, but they’re kind of jerks. They think they’re the best.

Me: I noticed that too… when you make mistakes on the court or your team doesn’t win, do you feel like you want to keep trying?

T: Sometimes I want to quit but I just keep telling myself “Don’t give up, don’t give up…”

Me: Wow… you know what? When I was a kid, I would have told Nana and Gramp I was never going back to basketball. In fact, I didn’t play softball, soccer or keep dancing because I wasn’t super good right away and I was too frustrated to work at getting better. I quit all the time. It makes me feel so proud that you don’t want to give up because it took me until I was a grown up to realize that it’s worth it to work hard to get better at stuff. You’re pretty great.

T: You mean you messed up at that stuff and then just stopped doing it? Why?

Me: ‘Cause it was hard… and I didn’t have much self-confidence when I was a kid. I thought I wasn’t good enough if I didn’t get it right away.... You know how you said that inside you kept telling yourself “don’t give up?”

T: Yeah…

Me: (sheepishly) when you play games, I say over and over again while I’m watching you, “I love you, don’t give up… I love you, don’t give up…” I say it so much and so loud inside myself that I hope I’m sending it right from my heart to yours. Do you ever feel that? Do you feel a little tingle?

T: I think so (his voice is neither convincing nor disbelieving… doesn’t sound like he thinks I’ve gone bat-shit crazy. Cool!)

I realize at this point that while I can’t advise him when it’s too early to cross the center court line (Hell, if I didn’t have such a good command of the English language, I wouldn’t even know where to look for the center court line…) I can help him avoid my quitter legacy. I can love him through the crappy games, and I can show him that his tenacious heart has reaching affects, so I say:

Me: You know, your Don’t Give Up attitude has inspired me… Remember last week when I went to Boot Camp class* and it was so hard and my whole body hurt all week long?

*Boot Camp is an hour long foray into exercise Hell where a smallish, peppy instructor requires you to jump, squat, push-up, and repeat until you can't function past the tremor that wracks your whole body...*

T: (laughs) You got butt cramps when we were sledding…

Me: Right! And I said to myself - Well I’m never doing that again! But if you aren’t giving up, then neither am I. I’m going back to Boot Camp…

Fast forward to tonight… I am waiting in the hallway for Boot Camp class praying that the Viking has a poop accident before class begins so I don’t actually have to go in there. Everyone heads in and I look back at the window where I can see the Tornado flash me the I Love You sign…

Completely unable to give up at that point, I take a deep breath and go in to have my arse handed to me. Well, tonight I’m still vertical whereas last week, I’m convinced my horrified body induced a migraine after class just so I would have to stop fucking moving… Tonight, I worked hard, but struggled less than last week. In the car, I said to the Tornado, “Well, I did it! I went back to Boot Camp and I didn’t give it up! What do you think?”

His response was: “Hey! It’s kind of like I’m teaching you…”
Yep… Every single day.

And there it was… another moment of grace, all shiny and warm and ours :-)