You woke up at 6:00 this morning, about 30 minutes earlier than normal. You were angry, scared maybe, definitely not happy. Maybe your teeth were bothering you, maybe you just wanted mommy, maybe it was nothing at all. I went into your room, hugged you as you stood in your crib, picked you up, and wiped your tears. You nuzzled in to my shoulder and immediately fell back asleep. Not wanting to wake you, I laid in the nearby chair and that’s where I stayed for the next 30 minutes. Under the ever-increasing weight of you, with your head resting heavily on my collar bone, and your fidgety feet tickling my knees.
Like clockwork at 6:30 you pop up and quietly stare through the darkness until you recognize my silhouette. You smile and say “oh hi!” As if you thought I was actually your mattress, and you think this is some happy accident. You’ve done this for three mornings in a row. And I’ve secretly loved every second of it. Should I be making a routine of this? No. Could I get you to settle down in your crib for that last 30 minutes if I really tried? Probably. Would I start every day of the rest of my life like this if I could? In a heartbeat.
It feels like stolen time. Being needed by this baby, who is just on the cusp of outgrowing her baby-ness.
You will always need me of course, in some form or another, but it won’t be like this. As a new mom I’m acutely aware that there is a last time for everything. Fortunately or unfortunately, it is a fact of life. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the should haves and could haves rob me of these moments. Moments like these are mine for the taking. I’ve learned enough by now to know that you do not get them back once they are gone.
But I also know how quickly habits form, and I do want to do right by you, so this was the last time my dear. Tomorrow when you wake up screaming at 6AM, needing more sleep but not knowing how to get it I’ll go into your room. I’ll help you lay back down without picking you up. I’ll pat your back, and gently remind you how to sooth yourself back to sleep. I’ll let you know that everything is ok and I’ll quietly leave your room to go back to mine.
Or maybe I’ll pick you up and cuddle with my baby.
One last time.
My kid just turned a year old, and I just had the best year of my life.
Hands down, no competition. Incredible. People tell you a lot of things about having a baby, but no one ever told me how much fun it was going to be! Maybe enjoying this year was a conscious choice on my behalf, or maybe I’m just pig-headed. But I’ve been dead set against letting anyone get in the way of my happiness this year and I’m pretty damn proud of myself for that.
Life can feel a little solitary though, when you spend most of your time with a small mammal who doesn’t know how to effectively communicate yet. I’m ready to come back to planet earth, and maybe even get a hobby. I still have things to say and a lot of happiness to share. Now more than ever. I’m not “taking care” of anyone by keeping it all to myself. But let’s be honest, the last thing this world needs is another mom-blog. So forgive me while I try to perfect that compromise and let me dispel some myths about parenthood I’ve heard in the past year while hanging out on cloud nine with my kid.
- The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. False. This is so incorrect in so many ways that it annoys me to even think about it. Motherliness is not born unto you with the child. If you don’t have enough self-awareness to recognize the care giving qualities you already possess, and also have the ability to improve upon them after a child is born, this might be a bumpy road for you.
- Raising a pet is nothing like raising a child. False. To the chagrin of many of my friends, my childless self made many comparisons between babies and dogs. The dog as an eternal toddler. In no way do I regret saying this. Clearly one is a bit more monumental than the other, I’m not trying to be absurd. But there are indeed a lot of similarities. If you need a list please inquire, I will provide you with one.
- You will never feel like you’re doing enough. False. Completely false. I accomplish more in one day than I used to in a week, and I feel fantastic about that. Sometimes I actually stop doing stuff because the thought “you’ve done enough” runs through my head. My kid and I both go to bed each night with a smile on our faces and (insert #sorrynotsorry) that is enough.
- You will not have time to use the bathroom. False. If you do not have time to go to the bathroom you either A: are not using all of your tools correctly (aka cribs, car seats, swings, doors, leashes (this last one is a joke (sort of))) ; or B: are taking entirely too long in the bathroom. It might be time to revamp your routine.
- You will lose friends. Here’s a curveball for you. True. Some people respond in… let’s say puzzling… ways to this big change in your life. When someone is unwilling to grow and change with you, then you must move on without them. Forward is simply the only direction available to you right now. Fortunately it is very easy to see what is most important because it is literally staring at you in the face. Smiling, drooling, giggling, burping, and just generally being really cute.
- Maternity leave is not a vacation. False. Maybe not in the traditional sense, sandy beaches and whatnot. But life is what you make of each and every day. If you and your baby are healthy and you want your maternity leave to be a vacation, make it a vacation. No one is stopping you but yourself. Go for walks, go out to breakfast, be a tourist in your own town. Or actually go on a vacation. Why not?
- Everyone will give you advice, but don’t listen to any of it. This one is both true and false. It is true that you will be the recipient of a lot of advice, from both strangers and loved ones. (I once had an in-depth conversation about pacifiers with the cashier at Walgreen’s). Listen to all of it, why wouldn’t you? But you have to know your kid, yourself, and your life well enough to decide what will work for you.
It takes a long time for me to process things. A long, long time. When big events or changes happen in my life it takes me weeks, sometimes months, to let them fully sink in. I hit play over and over again in my head. Concocting something that probably never existed in the first place.
For this reason I feel I have to write about this now, before it changes. Before misplaced nostalgia makes it into something it is not.
The Tragically Hip.
I’ve been hesitant to read what so many others have been writing about the Man Machine Poem tour. I would like to first decide what I think, what I feel. Before letting other’s words and thoughts infiltrate my own. But I haven’t been able to stop myself. I click on the next link before I realize what I’m doing. Desperately searching to find something that makes this make sense. But they are all just words. Words that will never, could never, accurately describe how any of us feel. And these of course are just words too, so bear with me while I make my own feeble attempt.
In order to keep myself in check, and because I have a tendency to ramble, I will try to keep this geared towards an account of the shows I was fortunate enough to be a part of. Yes, this will be absolutely littered with Hip lyrics. For that I make no apology. Who better to reference when describing how I feel?
After all, this is a little beyond anything I’m used to.
Ottawa: I spent half of the concert exactly as I hoped I would. Fully present, completely in the moment, consciously absorbing what I was experiencing. Clearly entranced. Musically I was impressed. Extenuating circumstances aside, I have not been that entertained by a hip show in a long time. There were songs that were performed for all of us, for the benefit of the entire crowd. Some songs I could have sworn were specifically directed at me. And during one song in particular, Ocean Next, it appeared as if Gord was singing only for himself.
The other half of the show I spent lost in my cloud. Of thoughts on life. Who I used to be, who I am now, who I want to be, and how do I get there? The heavy questions that plague some of us from time to time. Given the situation, I was forced to ask myself if I could face the inevitability of death with so much courage? Is having knowledge of your own demise a blessing or a curse? And of course 21,000 people walked out of that stadium having asked themselves their own personal versions of those same questions.
We get to feel small, but not out of place at all.
Kingston: I will not be able to describe what it was like to be in that city, on that night. But I will say that there was a buzz of excitement that I hadn’t noticed anywhere in Ottawa. Sure, the fans in Ottawa were excited. But also somehow cautious, maybe even nervous. This was not the case in Kingston. 25,000 people congregated in Market Square not because we had tickets to a concert. But because there was no other place we’d rather be. We were ready. Ready to show our support, appreciation, and love for The Tragically Hip. We were able to collectively say Gord, we are here for you. This is what we will do for you. Rather than ask (as concert goers) what he would be doing for us. The city of Kingston made that possible, and I applaud them for a job well done.
Musically I could talk about how they succeeded in giving the entertaining performance that we were all hoping for. With the same songs, energy, quirky stories and dances that have been the highlight of the show for years. It was all there, they delivered on extremely high expectations. But what I really want to talk about are the overlooked moments. The missed lyrics, the quick glances of concern from the band. The far off look Gord had while he stared out at the crowd. The mental pictures you could clearly see him taking. His heart begging his brain to remember this.
And Grace, too. I need to talk about Grace, too.
A man, with terminal brain cancer, standing in front of us screaming an incomprehensible No for all he was worth. Throwing down the mic so he could wipe away his tears and use both arms to hug himself while he sobbed in front of a nation.
You could feel all of Canada stand still.
And then he snapped out of it, for us presumably. And he thanked us. He thanked us. For keeping him pushing. No my friend, thank you. Thank you, for pushing us. You are undeniably, ahead by a century.
To end the night, after the unprecedented third encore, the five of them stood arm in arm in front of the crowd for what we have all assumed will be the final time. Best friends with drinks in their hands and smiles on their faces. Emanating profound happiness.
That is what a life well lived looks like.
And when given the chance to preside over the stage Gord did not attempt a long last heartfelt goodbye, that even he might not have had the words for. He simply asked us to take care of each other.
That, I can do.
That’s what I’m here for.
Recently at work I was asked to be part of a group that will discuss and analyze how we each accomplish short-term vs. long-term tasks. This has nothing to do with the actual tasks themselves, but focuses on how we organize our day/week/month in order to reach our goals. I joined the group, mostly because when I’m asked if I want to do something at work I say “absolutely, I do” (via Jim Halpert), but also because I find the subject interesting.
Emphasizing the how not the what, and its relationship to the short and long term future.
When I went home after the group’s first meeting, I couldn’t stop thinking about how my personal life would look through this lens. Two things happened when I started to pit my long-term against my short-term life. I immediately organized my family’s calendar onto a shared Google calendar, so that I do not have to solely rely on memory and an erasable white board. I’m confident that being able to access my calendar beyond the walls of my kitchen is going to change my life, and I already feel great about it.
But beyond calendars and schedules I got to thinking about how I think about my life in the short and long-term perspective, and the immeasurable consequences that view has on my feelings about the future. How we tend to get excited about big events next week, next month, or next year; when life is really made up of the day to day.
As an exaggerated example, at 31 years old I’m already excited to reach retirement age and live in some sort of maintained community with my friends, reliving our glory days. I have a long-term goal of retirement and I’m excited about it. Working tomorrow will ultimately help me achieve that goal, but am I excited about it? No, not really. Will I even live to see retirement age? I have no idea, but I sure am looking forward to it. Will I live to see tomorrow? Probably, but I’m not exactly excited for it. It doesn’t make any sense.
Why am I looking forward to the long-term, instead of the short-term? It makes my short-term seem lackluster in comparison, and it really isn’t. My life is great.
Thinking too much about thinking started to hurt my brain (seriously Nikki, do something more with your life), so I decided to stop the nonsense and simplify it. I decided to once again force anticipation into my life, just for shits and giggles. Two times each day, once before going to bed and once at lunchtime, I’m going to make a mental note of something that I’m looking forward to in the next 12 (or so) hours. I’m going to do this for one week with two limitations; it cannot be about food (obviously I’m always excited for my next meal) and it cannot be about the kid. She already takes up 95% of my brain and we’re in a standoff over the last 5%.
Wish me luck!
I spend a lot of time in my car these days. The drive from daycare to my house only takes about 3 minutes, but my kid falls asleep on this short drive almost every single day. Imagine falling asleep that fast. Turning the car off usually wakes her up, and is a last resort in my book. So typically I drive around for 15 extra minutes, or I just sit in my car and wait.
The break in my day is not wholly unwelcome, and I end up listening to NPR a lot. It makes me feel like I’m doing something, when I’m not actually doing anything. I’ve started looking forward to the “All Things Considered” segment at 4:30. Audie Cornish’s articulate voice signifies the end of my work day. It is literally my 5:00 whistle, a half hour premature. I’ve caught a couple of stories from the “stuck in the middle: work, health and happiness at midlife” series and have to admit, I find them very interesting.
At 31 I have to hope that I am neither at, near, or past the mid-point of my life. But come on; I’m spending at least 15 minutes of everyday listening to talk radio. If that doesn’t scream mid-life, I’m not sure what does. And while the stories may not pertain to my age group, or to me in particular, they make some strong points.
I’ll consider it education for the inevitable. Advice to store away for the future. Like their suggestion to find a hobby. “An interest that is unrelated to work or family”. When is the last time I’ve done something I enjoy that wasn’t for/with work or family? I honestly don’t know, it has been a long time. But for now I’m going to let it slide. Because so far this stage of life is the best yet, and I’m loving every hobby-less second. Someday though, when the hazy memories of keeping an infant alive are behind me, I’ll revisit this and will need to be reminded to find something just for me.
I know you’re out there. Trying not to wake the sleeping monster in your own backseat, hypothetical or actual. And you probably need a hobby too. So here’s the link.
You knew it was coming.