We’re entering the part of the log ride where the waters get kind of choppy and I can’t decide which way to lean: left or right or not at all? Should I close my eyes and hold my breath, clutching the handlebar, preparing for the descent that awaits? Or do I power through, swallow hard and raise my hands overhead to release control entirely? It’s discipline time and suddenly, I feel like we’re back in the newborn days of guess-and-check. I’ve found myself trying on different hats to find a technique that works for both of us, one after another after another, until we find one that fits for a day, but then, no, our head must have grown two sizes since then so fling goes the hat, across the room and we dig, dig, dig for a different one.
One of the most insightful pieces of early parenting advice I’ve received is the realization that we often rely on lots of built-in rules, the tricks we keep in our back pockets to use day after day after day…until we don’t. Routine and normalcy have a shelf life of what, two weeks? We push the crying baby in a stroller around the kitchen island and take turns shoveling food into our mouths at dinnertime… until we don’t. We hold her head up as we bathe her gently in the sink… until we don’t. We swear by the sound machine and the pack-and-play and the swaddling blankets and the mobile and the stuffed animals and the lullabies and the endless bedtime routine… until we don’t.
Last week, we had one of those magical days together – all three of us. “All three of us” generally doesn’t happen often, because Ken and I are still in the parenting phase where our ships pass each other through the night – both of us worn from the rocky waters of toddler (ir)rationalizations. Our current solution is to switch off, passing the Bee baton back and forth so we can both gain a clear head and recharge with some semi-productivity. Me with yoga, Ken with basement renovating and sometimes brownie baking because he is the truest of Renaissance men.
We survived Molar Week, but not without a few bumps and tantrums and sky-rocketing blood pressures along the way, but hey, that’s survival. It’s bloody and scarring, but then you have a really good story to tell your grandchildren over a tall glass of lemonade. “My aching knee,” I’ll say. “And good Lord, those molars in the spring of 2014.”
Listen, I try really hard not to be a helicopter mom. I don’t like to hover over my daughter and I like to give her the space she needs to grow and dream and eventually move out of my house and provide me with many grandchildren that I can cuddle and give back to her when they’re loud. It’s important to me to let her make her own decisions and mistakes and adventures.
But sometimes, a mom’s gotta intervene. It’s not hovering. It’s called advocacy.
When I lived in Los Angeles, I would ride my bike to a local coffee shop to work on writing projects. This was in the early days of blogging and I was convinced I’d pen an ever-so-slightly-embellished memoir about spending my college years in the thick of a formidable religious organization that was perhaps really a glorified cult? I didn’t write the book (thank the Lord), but I did pedal to that tiny coffee shop daily, convinced this would be the day a caffeinated bean would settle into my soul and sprout a brilliant, best-selling work of literature.
Ken and Bee. My gracious, these two are total podmates. There’s so much I could say – so much I want to preserve about their relationship in these early, simple (but not easy) days. Our family is hovering in that space where toddler will and novice parenting collide, where we’re newly navigating the delicate balance of discipline and grace, structure and agility. And Ken is our fearless captain.
We’ve been hit with the sick stick repeatedly, and it is making everyone crazy in this house. You caught your first super high fever a few weeks ago, but didn’t seem phased in the slightest – still jumping on the couch ottomans, higher than high – until boom – everything ached in your tiny little body. Bee, you were miserable. And you whined this sad little cow-sound and lost your appetite and gained a new distaste for everything, even your boyfriend Cailou. Suddenly, we couldn’t fix it.
I Instagrammed this photo of Ken over the weekend after catching a glimpse of him being a father. I don’t know if you have children, or if you have husbands or someone in your life that you’ve lived with for so long that sometimes you look up over the steam of broccoli for dinner and realize that their face has transformed into something else – something wise. Aging is a slow growth, most of the time, with lots of waves below the surface that sometime rise into finer lines and then deeper wrinkles until you’re silver and gray and your hands begin to look a lot like the hands that raised you.
We are experiencing the weirdest season together. Yesterday I was watching you move our office furniture around (future interiors stylist, called it months ago) and I realized just how comfortable I am with you, how normal you seem to me. You seem like – dare I say it – my daughter. Like you’re going to grow up to become a child, then a teenager, and then a grown-up (but hopefully not too much of a grown-up). You’re an actual person.
I realize this sounds crazy, because of course you are a person, but Bee, babies are these funny little drops of dye that land in our water and swirl and swirl and swirl us around until they change our truest colors. And when you’re in it, you don’t see it. But then we open our eyes a little wider and blink a little harder and realize we’re not quite what we used to be. That you’re not quite what you used to be. We’re yellow now, Bee.