Motherhood and Mushy Brains

Sticky little jam fingers
Sticky little jam fingers

Motherhood turns your heart inside out. Everything you thought you were, anything you thought you had, all things you put first before, are transformed. You experience emotions you never knew existed. Like joy, for instance. Joy is a huge one. And hysteria, when you’ve always prided yourself on being pretty together. Little humans tell you things about yourself your friends never will. It’s humbling and empowering. You witness yourself at your worst by reflection. Luckily, you have the chance to change it…

Today, I didn’t even make it out of the house. The kids woke up grumpy, and as hard as I tried, we just couldn’t get past the first piece of peanut butter toast. I take my little ones out nearly every morning to do some fun activity and take advantage of all those teachable moments. There’s so much to explore living next to the ocean: starfish, crabs, seashells, boats, tidal pools and sand. But today was rainy and dismal and just one of those days. The ones you desperately want to file away in the “Mommie Dearest” section, along with Joan Crawford and Judy Garland who, hopefully, are taking up most of the room. You pray your section will be small enough that it doesn’t pop up when your children are 35 and needing therapy.

Angella and Jett were both having super ‘needy’ days. Squealing at me in their most shrill voices – not unlike feedback – and groping me with sticky little jam fingers. There’s a reason some moms never make it out of their housecoats. I was getting major resistance about the idea of leaving the house and eventually, I gave in. Bad mommy posturing; gives them power. They formed the West Coast Whining Alliance when I finally turned off the TV. “Too much TV makes your brain mushy,” I say. “We waaant mushy braaains…” Angella parrots back. Smarty-pants posturing. She is three. “Yeah, well, mommies are allowed to have mushy brains,” the totally immature side of me wants to say, but I don’t. I ponder my next move…

It's time for pirouettes...
It’s time for pirouettes…

Jett wants to make an interlocking train track and Angella wants to do ballet. We get into full ballet gear and put the iPod on Tchaikovsky. Jett is constructing his track in the middle of the living room. Angella pirouettes and gallops through Jett’s track. He shrieks and swats her. I lamely say, “No hitting!” Angella purposely does another pirouette and kicks the track a second time sending little wooden train pieces flying everywhere. Jett is now sobbing and Angella knows she’s in trouble. I really felt like spanking her, but didn’t. Strange how it’s almost an innate human reaction to want to hit, to teach them to do the exact opposite. In the old days, parents just whipped down our pants and gave us a good spanking. I got plenty of those. But nowadays, it’s different. We talk calmly, we re-direct, we are supposed to respond differently and model appropriate responses. I made her say ‘I’m sorry’ and help clean up the train pieces. Then I tried the redirection thing. We made paper crowns, played hide and seek and goofed around with plugged in microphones. Did you know that if you roll off all the high end, and add enough reverb, ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ sounds a lot like David Bowie circa 1976? My son hid the havarti cheese in the toy box, licked the mics like ice cream cones, and finger-painted the dog with a mixture of jello and school glue. It’s amazing what can happen when you’re in the bathroom for 3 minutes. Thank goodness the dog is so old he barely noticed.

God, I love them.

By 6pm, I felt like a junkie desperate for a fix and all I really wanted was a hot bath. I begged my husband to take them out. ANYWHERE. I just needed a breather. Or a really stiff drink. A chocolate Martini sounded delightful. Unfortunately, I don’t have the fixings for those just kicking around anymore, so I had Mocha instead. And some left-over Halloween candy. Sugar and caffeine. I felt marginally better.

Daddy took them out after dinner. A sobbing child in each arm, both kicking wildly, with tears streaming down their little cheeks wailing “Mommy!” like they were being kidnapped. He’s my hero.

They must really love me.

It’s almost overwhelming to be needed like that. It’s also the greatest feeling in the world. John said they both stopped screaming the moment he mentioned “toys” and “horsie ride.” Our Safeway has a tandem horse ride from the ’60s that costs 25 cents. It’s the best deal going, and has gotten me through many a grocery shop with the promise of its dual bucking action at the end. Jett, who’s barely 2, can manipulate a coin into the slot now. It’s so fun to watch him squeal with delight when the ride suddenly jerks to a start, like he’s some sort of engineering wizard. Maybe some day he will be.

By 9pm we were cuddling on mom and dad’s bed reading Dr. Seuss and having foot-tickle fights. Later, Angella woke up crying. She’d been frightened by a scene in Sleeping Beauty. I held her and rocked her and said all the sane and right things to make her feel safe. Then I lay with her until she fell asleep.

Tomorrow we're off to the sea...
Tomorrow we’re off to the sea…

I’m still learning that perfection is unattainable but grace is right here, right now. More grace for the world around you and yourself. Parenthood makes you see things through a different lens. A clearer, sharper one. There’s no wiggle room to slide back into your own self-centered space and that’s a very good thing. For me anyway.

Tomorrow, we’re going to fly our new kite by the sea…

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