Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The baby sleeps.

MOTHER is what I have always wanted to be. Good mother at the minimum, and BEST MOTHER IN THE WORLD, if possible. I read a bunch of books and studied up on it. I was so damn earnest, it's kind of disgusting in retrospect.

Despite my research, I find myself to be a 'by the gut" mother. I learned it the hard way, when they were babes. Now that they are becoming adults, I have to re-learn it every day. I do the best I can.
One night, book mothering and gut-mothering had a head on collision. It was not pretty. I shudder to remember it. (Yes, shudder is correct, shutter is on a camera or a window). Baby-Sophisticate had never slept all night, closing in on her first birthday.
I'm not actually sure she sleeps through the night now, and she's about to graduate from college.

I was feeling the pressure of bad-motherhood. Baby-Sophisticate had already had 11 ear infection incidents and 14 rounds of antibiotics and I did not make those numbers up, they are burned in my brain. (14 rounds of antibiotics puts me in the bad mother category, because of the whole overuse thing, sorry.)
I was also a bad mother because - the book said - I was allowing her to "run our household." Typically, after an evening catnap (long enough for me to possibly load the dishwasher) she woke up screaming. Every night. Every. Single. Night.
I picked her up, we rocked, we strolled, we sang Amazing Grace (I am the 'wretch') , and she slept. I also slept. We slept together, in the recliner. Every night. Win-Win. Right?

NOT right. My husband did NOT consider me sleeping with the Sophisticate in the recliner "Win - Win - WIN."

On the advice of Dr. Wise-Guy's Guide to Baby-sleeping, I was converted to believe that she was a controlling baby, and it was my fault, and therefore I was a bad mother.I set out to rectify my bad-mother status, and un-spoil the Sophisticate, in one night. She would just have to cry it out! I was assured by the book that the seige wouldn't last more than 3o minutes, though children often cried for hours just to be obstinate. Duly noted, the obstinate thing. I was listening to the book.

On the target night of rectification, I checked on her when she started wailing, closed the door and left it closed. My stomach hurt. After 45 minutes, BigB, who was then LittleB, came in and begged me to "pick her up, Mama, she hurts." I had the book open on my lap, assuring me that she did NOT hurt, but was simply testing us, as we headed into the second hour of misery. We watched a video - our first born son, BigD and I, all snuggled in our cozy bed, while baby-Sophisticate screamed for all she was worth, alone in a dark room with the door closed. "Pick her up, I can't hear the movie." was BigB's advice. When I listen to our children, they tell me exactly what they need. I think I learned the listening lesson later, because I didn't pick her up. Still listening to the book.

The video was over, the screaming was not, and I was not feeling like a "good mother." After 2 hours and 7 minutes, the screaming had to end, spoiled or not spoiled. I would have to fix baby-Sophisticate another night. To hell with 'good mother.'

I hope that I never forget the look on her face when I opened the door. Standing, clinging to the crib rails, her swollen red face was a picture of total betrayal and absolute relief. She hiccupped and sobbed and buried her head, wiping her gooey nose on my shoulder. I hiccupped and sobbed and put my head down on her sweaty, wet, wispy hair. We sat in the recliner, I offered her some healing mamma-nectar, and we both feel asleep. We slept all night like that, with her semi-upright, nursing at will. At that point, the only thing that mattered was no crying.

When morning came, I took her to the Pediatrician, Dr. No-Tubes. She was hoarse and her face was swollen from the two hour scream-fest the night before. I was in similar condition. I whimpered, "Tell me she's fine and I'll let her cry it out."
His opening remark was "Well, she's hoarse!" Seriously? Wonder why? She also had two bulging, red hot eardrums. Antibiotic and tylenol, but no tubes recommended. Tylenol? Did I hear TYLENOL? Plain and unadulterated? Do you know the word codeine? Because I do.
I went straight to the ENT, she had codeine in 30 minutes and tubes in 3 days. And she slept- most nights. We spent a lot more nights in the recliner, even with tubes.
When her ears hurt, she told us - by screaming - and we slept reclining, so as to relieve pressure and facilitate nursing all night long. Sleep optional.

When the Sophisticate walked in one afternoon last week, fresh from student teaching in a trying urban setting, I recognized her look. Tears had been shed. She's frustrated, not because her students can't learn, but because they are relentlessly mean to each other. She's been cursed and threatened, by 11 year olds.
And she keeps going back, because there is at least one 5th grader who will learn to read by Christmas, no matter what it takes.

Today, no rocking, no singing, no strolling through the house will soothe the Sophisticate. The best I can do for her is listening. Sometimes we text too.

I showed her a teacher website with videos , so she could have a 15 minute break from talking to kids with profane and smart mouths. I hope my best was enough today.

I learned a lot about being a "good mother" - whatever that means - the night of by-the-book crying. I learned to trust myself more and the books less. Also, nursing can be awesome. I wasn't a bad mother for letting her scream. I was doing my best for her that night, and we both survived.

That's all I can do, really, is my best. And be willing to change course, when things aren't working. On occasion I do consult books, but first I hope I remember to listen to our children, because no matter how old they are, they tell us - either with words or actions - exactly what they need.

But...I forget it all the time, and then I have to learn it again. I do my best.
The minute the Sophisticate saw this photo she said "Oh, look, I'm at a birthday party and I don't feel good!" Ya THINK?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Girl seeking college

PPP and I made a short road trip, a "college visit," since she IS a senior already. There were a few other things to be done in NashVegas, so it wasn't ALL about the college, but mostly. We thought.

First, be assured that for a teacher, being gone from school is not as simple as making sure an adult is in the room with the hooligans to prevent bodily harm during the assigned hour. I have a formula that tells me that for each and every hour I am NOT at school, I spend 4.613 hours preparing to be gone, and another 3.728 hours when I get back, figuring out what happened when I was gone. Because I do more this year than teach - as in 'school events' -multiply times 21. So, it took me all week to get to the point of leaving. But we did. PPP was in a hurry to get out of town too. She was concerned that I might change my mind. Valid point.

My BFF the Photographer, has a spare apartment in NashVegas; her son, my Bonus Boy was 'free' so to speak, the plan was that we would all meet up when we arrived at 7:45 p.m., as determined by a series of text messages:

ME: we're leaving now, we'll be there about 7:45
Bonus: OK
ME: So, plan to get there about then.
Bonus: OK
ME (to the Photog): What's your plan?
Photog: Working, then headed your way.
ME: Do you have a time frame?
Photog: We'll see, it's busy. I'll get there eventually.

Note that I am the only person who seems to have a notion of time here. Promptly at 5:32, which is when I usually walk in the door at home, I got starving, and sleepy. Too bad I was driving the car. It's a good thing PPP can drive, because she does not take a nap at 5:32 every afternoon and she drives way faster than her mother.
Eventually, we got close, so I texted Bonus Boy to confirm that he was where I wanted him to be - at the apartment at 7:45. TIME was becoming important to me, because I was hungry and exhausted. Also, I had an appointment at 8:00 a.m. the next day.

Me: We'll be there in about 20 minutes
Bonus: OK, I guess I'll head that way.
Me: Where are you?
Bonus: At home (45 minutes away)

And, to the Photographer:
Me: What's your plan?
Photog: I'm going to leave work in a few minutes and go home to get some things then I'll be there.
Me: Any time frame?
Photog: When I get there, I guess.

So...that went on for a while, while we drove up and down the street looking for Chick-Fil-A and a bathroom clean enough for a Princess. We didn't find Chick-Fil-A, though "clean enough for a Princess" is directly proportional to how long one looks for said facilities. . . we eventually found one.
We eventually found Bonus Boy, and were so glad to see him, and his mother's very clean apartment, with its beds. We wandered the downtown streets, eventually finding dinner. PPP and Bonus Boy quickly developed a plan in which they would enroll in college somewhere nearby and live in said apartment, for the sheer joy of it. The Photographer, when she eventually arrived at some point in the middle of the night, said "No." And we all went to bed.I got up early, had some early a.m chatty time with my BFF, took care of the business part of the trip, and returned to find PPP immersed in her waking up routine.Her waking-up routine centers around coffee and wrapping herself in a blanket. "You can never get bored at the Photographer's place, because she has so many catalogs." Duly noted, PPP. Also, stuff like this. I always keep my telescope ready to look out my window, don't you?OK, seriously, we spent the night in a Neiman-Marcus catalog, or something. The crooked pillows are proof that I was there, not a photo stylist. Bonus Boy's waking up routine involves looking out the windows. Looking for landmarks. "Everything you could ever need is just around the corner from here." Bonus remarked. "Except a college." I said. "Oh, yeah." Bonus and PPP in unison. Deflated.Anyone feeling any sense of urgency to go look at this college, and finish our business, and head home? Anybody?Eventually, they had to get hungry ...that would be breakfast at 11 a.m. PPP and Bonus Boy seemed to have dropped into an eventual time warp, because nobody was in a hurry. I was mentally checking off in my head all the things that I was not doing, while I watched them mosey through the morning, looking out the window and flipping through catalogs.
When we got down the street to our college destination, we found this. A fence, fencing in another fence.
That banner behind the fence tells us that the next Presidential debate would be held there. We had made an appointment, but we couldn't get past the guards, at every single entry point of the campus. They sent the students HOME for the debate to make sure it would be all authentic town-hallish.

Rented fences with gates and guards around the perimeter of this urban campus. Tents and tents on the tennis courts. It was very clean and elaborately landscaped. No students, no tours, no college life.
So... It didn't matter that we looked at catalogs and searched for landmarks from 29 stories above the sidewalk, or that we ordered breakfast at 11:00 a.m.
Because the only unfenced part of this school we saw was the picturesque and photographable granite sign.

When we got home, PPP said that she doesn't think she likes this college. "I didn't see anyone walking around who looks like me." That is correct, you saw a rented fence around the entire perimeter of the campus. Also, driveway guards.

So, while she took the SAT or ACT or some multi-letter standarized test that claims to determine her future, I developed an elaborate document called: PPP's college grid which contains all the info that she considers key to her decision, and no extra information that she deems superfluous.
PPP's grid doesn't look just like this elaborate and intriguing thing, but sort of. Because while they were gazing out the windows, I was entertaining myself with the Photographer's always interesting knick-knacks. Like I always do.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lost my voice

I have nothing to say. These minions of mine are plowing ahead with school and work and sports and student teaching and college choices ...and I have lost my voice. For a couple of weeks. Or a couple of months. It feels like a couple of years.

So what is up with that? I am nothing if not verbose.I have said more about high school football than needs to be said. I spend more time cutting words out here in this quiet little corner of the world. Editing is my hobby.

I do find time for blog reading. OK, actually, I am obsessively caught up in the baby-drama that is all over the place.
Perhaps I enmeshed in a sort of voyeuristic nether-world. Maybe it's a God-thing. Or I'm lazy, one of those, perhaps.
I am also intrigued with gossip about my BFF Pam, and her Jim. That would be my fictional BFF Pam from The Office. Whatever....WAY too busy to write anything. Or delusional.
Shonda Rhimes, that goddess of television drama, blogs about the current installment of Grey's, and that's a good read. Man, that girl can write. I could possibly write, if I did in fact do it. Ever.I'm so easily distracted. Wait, what's Kikibibi up to? Seriously. I think about writing, but I haven't visited Mabel's House and I haven't checked on Migraine Mom. I haven't clicked "Next Blog" 3246 times lately. A lot I do that clicking thing.

So, what is up? I'll tell you what is up. I am intimidated.
My father used to intimidate me, though my students rarely intimidate me. Intimidated or not, I usually just plow ahead. With words anyway .

Amidst the wealth of eloquence and photography, of pithiness and wordiness, of grief and joy and pure unadulterated awesome writing, I'm less sure of what I have to say.
I just have some lame little thoughts about growing into the mother of adult children, keeping our home their home, without losing my mind or their hearts. No recipes included.But they - the ones who already love me, the ones who are growing into young adults with grace and determination- like to read it. OK, BigB doesn't like to read it, but ... some day. So, maybe I should just forge ahead. Plow on through the words.I will never write like NieNie and her sister CJane. I hope my children grow up to be sisters and brothers with as much love and loyalty and compassion as they have. And that I can find my voice to write about it.