"Ssssssssssssss....." hisses M last night, trailing a wretch-worthy knot of my wet hair along the edge of the bathtub. I step out of our shower and he's still in there, messing around while I put on my night shmata. "Mommy-hair, snake!" he shouts victoriously, as if he and the mommy-hair-snake he trails around the drain with his finger have just won the Make Your Mother Gag Sweepstakes! and a life-time supply of chocolate covered raisins, known to M only as special treat.
"Special treat," he whispers this morning in the playground, whimpering into my neck after scraping the same knee open and bloody for the 3rd time. And oh how his wet, salty cheek against my ear stabs me with love. He knows he's using me, and he knows I know it, and here is a handful of chocolate covered raisins my darling, my darling, I am your fool...
Ok, I'll have a few raisins, too. Why not. My hair is coming out in sheets, due to my endlessly post-partum, hormone-soaked state. Two different people today alone have told me I look like I've been sick; also common and thanks very much. But my overriding condition is that I am so tired that somehow being tired seems to logically entitle me to chocolate covered raisins, off which I suck the chocolate then ritualistically chomp up the raisins with my front teeth only, wondering not at all why I
We are at the end of the morning, and stumbling, exhausted M (hence the fall and split knee) will pass out in the Giant Double Stroller the moment I strap him in and put up the canopy; Little H is still asleep in there, a first class park bum after her grandpa's heart, loving nothing more than an outdoor nap. The question is, will she stay asleep once inside the apartment long enough for me to extract M from the stroller, sneak the sneakers off his stinky feet and quietly hustle him into the bedroom, switch on the ambient noise machine and tuck him into my middle for a quick boob to cement the dream state then haul his hulking body into his crib where god willing he'll nap for real??? for maybe like, 2 solid hours? man, could I use 2 solid hours.... to nurse H guiltlessly and undisturbed, to make myself a horse-size portion of Cardiac Arrest In A Bowl (being a sloppy salami and cheese omlette) which I have been craving all morning, and, to do THIS...
this... blog.... thing... that I love so... how are you all, by the way???
I get him in, with skin-of-my-nerves cooperation from Little H; as in, just barely; she begins to yowl with insult the very moment my nipple plops out of M's slack, sleeping mouth. "Bay-bee cwy...." he mutters, then falls into deep sleep, bless him, I put him in the crib, and squeeze out the bedroom door to rescue H from the stroller where she lay, legs jerking in dismay and real dolly tears rolling down her velvet cheeks, blue eyes big as panicky eggs.
We clean her mooney and change her dipe, putting miracle-cure Calmoseptine on her diaper-rashed giney and bottom (I'm telling you, try this stuff), button up her outfit-crotch and fold her polkes up under the sweaty boobies for a nursey, committing the cardinal sin of baby-sleep, the crutch of the truly lazy mother, that method which always works and which one dare not admit to in Ferberized company, 'Boob 'em till they pass out!' I watch H's peachy jaw work; swa-low, pull, swa-low, pull, swa-low, pause, and she's down for the count with a successful lap-to-couch transfer.
The dog follows me into the kitchen to talk about my salami and eggs; of course I'm willing to negotiate, I'm a sucker. We call her, actually, The Pitiful Bull; 70 lbs. of hairy, cow-eyed dejection, she reminds me most of Marvin The Robot from 'Hitchhiker's Guide,'.... "Life," she could say at any moment, "don't talk to me about life..." Slicing salami I absently fling one generous meat-frisbee at the dog, who clips it out of the air, scarfs it, and ambles away wisely; I will find her later stretched out on the couch, her cheek and snout alongside Little H's ribs, black nose poked up into H's tiny armpit.
I beat up the eggs and consider my options. What are my options? Well, I could procrastinate about absolutely everything for yet another day; that's what I usually do, and it kind of works. I mean, I cover the basics; we're all fed, washed, and dressed to greater and lesser degrees of adequacy on any given day. Little H has plumped up like a shabbas chicken and now yells, yodels, and giggles with conviction and glee; M asks for books instead of TV, and eats broccoli and whole wheat pasta reliably in spite of displaying near-violent devotion to the ice cream truck. Meanwhile, The Prince claims to have gained 25 invisible pounds since M arrived, has stopped getting haircuts, and undaunted by my flab or his own exhaustion continues to make me laugh and bite my wrists with every kind of pleasure and hilarity. The dog, at 10 years old, stays fat, and vigilant, and loyal. So I'd like to think I'm doing something right. Maybe even a few things.
Of course, I also don't clean the apartment, ever. I don't save money well at all. I don't write enough. I haven't visited my boyfriend Shaun T. for a hot session of Hip Hop Abs! in almost two weeks, not that anything has changed much one way or another. I don't visit my sister, I never read the paper, or books, I have 7 different unfinished art projects laying around this place and my stack of unopened New Yorkers is mounting. "Don't put off today what you can put off tomorrow," says my father.
My father, former Action Hero and carpet installer turned cantankerous old Red, haunting the chess tables at his local park when not starting riots at the Senior Center with his conspiracy theories. I couldn't do without the man. I made him chase M all over Target yesterday so I could buy 4,000 diapers, and I thought he was gonna hit the floor clutching his chest by the time I was ready to check out. He loves the babies but I kiss them so much it makes him nauseous.
"Stop," he says, as I hold H up in the air before my face and smooch her and smooch her all over her head, "STOP," he says again as I keep on going, pulling her earlobes with my lips and sticking my whole nose in her mouth for a snort of her sweet, pukey, nutty, boobish breath, "Oh my god, leave her alone!" he says. "Enough!"
"She likes it!" I say.
"Oh, yea?" he says. "How do YOU know? Did she call?"
"I'm gonna call YOU in a minute..." I say.
But overall he seems pretty pleased with my parenting. He likes it that I'm patient (most of the time) and that I give in on a lot; he doesn't believe that spoiling is possible at this age, and I agree. He thinks ice cream makes kids happy and happy kids mean happy moms, and I pretty much agree with that too.
"Remember, when things get tough," he says, "that YOU invited THEM."
So if it's my party, what the hell happened to me in the shower that night? Yes, the same night of the mommy-hair-snake, when everything was perfect? Only moments before, I had turned into a monster.
M has recently figured out that shouting in the shower is really, REALLY, LOUD! and man, is that cool. He was puppeteering various animals on the floor of the tub as I washed his hair, and in the role of Baby Einstein's Pavlov, he began to yelp. And that made a nice little piercing sound that shot around the bathroom neatly. "Mm mm, mm," I said, combining warning and pleasant tones, "no yelling, please. You'll wake up the baby." So he yelped louder. "Yalp! Yalp!" and that ricocheted off the walls, and my skull, profoundly. "M, stop please," I said, all business, which he told me I could stick in my hat by hurling a shriek out into the air that shook my eyeballs and caused him to smile triumphantly. "YALP! YALP!" he shrieked. "STOP!" I yelled at him. "REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!" he screamed, and I mean screamed.
"AAAARRRGH!" I bellowed, "THAT'S IT! You're OUT! OUT OF HERE! GET OUT!" I shouted at him from the bottom of my most vulgarly baritone fury. I hoisted him by the shoulders and put him out of the shower and firmly on the bathroom rug. "You're not coming back in. I'm not playing with you ANY MORE!" I said.
He started to cry. Just cry. It wasn't the whiney, manipulative cry he'll use to get my attention away from Little H. It wasn't the scandalized cry at a new injury. And it wasn't the pitiful whimper of overtiredness. It was just pain. I had really scared him, and probably hurt his feelings.
I counted to sixty, just letting him ride it for one minute and hoping the word 'stop' would sink in; hoping that all this would somehow indicate for him, in a concrete way, that once in a while, mommy really means it. Though I suspect that all that might have come through is that once in a while, mommy is really mean.
"Do you want to come back in?" I asked him.
"Yes," he said, nodding and wiping his eye with the back of his hand.
I gently picked him up and brought him back in. I knelt down under the spray, face to face with him, and said, "When I say to stop, you have to stop, ok?"
"Yes," he said, and nodded.
"Are we friends?" I asked him.
"Yes," he said, and he put his arms around me, and I held him close to me, in the hot water that bounced off the tub thudding like rain.
"I love you," I said, and he continued to hold on to me. "Here's your cow," I said, and I marched the rubber animal up his leg and into his hands, peeled him off me, rinsed myself, and stepped out, and it was all over, and we survived.
Of course, we're not really friends, per se; we're mother and son. But sometimes you need a simple language to make up, so I say 'friends'. I do everything for him, every day, all the time, and for Little H, too. All I want is to be a really, really, really good mother for them. And I am, I'm patient, I am, and I'm incredibly loving, and I nurse them all night, and I give M good food, and ice cream, and we read, and we run around, and we nurse some more, and I am here for him.
And it's not too much for me to INSIST that he not scream so ferociously in the shower that I feel like he's stabbing my brain with an ice pick.
They're all sleeping, M, Little H, and the dog. The omlette is ready. I sit in the silent kitchen and eat it and consider again, my options. Of which there are none because I'm doing the best I can. And I'm not always great or even good. But I pretty much wouldn't change a thing.