Dear Lily June,
I needed a Mommy Win this weekend.
Part of this stems from being a working mother. Because I spend most of my weekdays away from you, and most of my weekday evenings cleaning our apartment and taking care of things around the home I don’t otherwise have a chance to get to, I don’t get as much time for the two of us to just relax, play, and learn from one another as I’d like. In fact, it was starting to really depress me last week, especially because of the other part of this: You are a different baby in the afternoon than you are in the mornings.
In the mornings, you’re all smiles and sunshine, and little birds fly in through the window to change your diapers and your onesies. In the afternoons, around the time when I get home from work, you’re all frowns and clouds, and you act like there are snakes in your diaper and scorpions in your onesies. I get it; in the absence of caffeine, there’s nothing to give you that afternoon boost, and you get grumpy, and sh*t gets real.
But that means I continuously get you during the time of day when I’m most tired and you’re most tired and the dust in the apartment is most dense, and our bonding takes a hit in the gut for it. Darling dear, I love you, but I wish your morning mood stayed with you more often for Mommy to catch a whiff of it.
Things got really real on Saturday morning, when it was your Dad’s turn to get up with you and mine to sleep in (as we alternate mornings). There was fussing, there was fighting, there were pouts and tantrums. I admit it: It was me this time.
It all started when your Dad told me that you’d been laughing and smiling all morning. Your Granny Gramma Alison had called, and with her on speaker phone, the two of them had sung Christmas carols to you to your absolute joy and delight. I slept through the whole thing, and I was crabby that your Dad hadn’t woken me up to join in the merriment.
Of course, if your Dad had tried to wake me on my morning off, he knows he’d have met with the same fate as the Nazi’s in the Indiana Jones movies: Namely, I’d have unleashed the full power of my uncaffeinated glare on him until his face melted.
So really, he was in a no-win situation, with my jealousy on the one hand, and my exhaustion rage on the other. Sometimes, Lily, I truly pity your father.
I realize this is in no way accurate, and it comes, root deep, from my crazy, but sometimes I feel like I’m engaged in an emotional Tug of War with your Dad for who gets your best moments. He’s with you ALL DAY, and the reality hits me that, by availability alone, he’s more likely to get your first words, your first steps, your first shouts of “Daddy, save me from Mommy’s Green-Eyed Monster of Jealousy!” If there was a competition, I’d always be on the losing end of the rope, because your Dad would not engage in such infantile behavior with me. Though, of course, to hear him tell it, it works both ways: We both get the version of you, Lily, that the other would at least like to occasionally see.
This weekend, my early Saturday morning tantrum ended as most of my “adult tantrums” do: in a great big cup of coffee stirred with two lumps of
shame sugar. From then on, the three of us were a trio of Christmusketeers, shopping for a tree and decorating the house with an assortment of red and green knick-knacks, hanging the stockings with care and, finally, your dad and I trimming the tree with half a dozen tacky but cute penguins while you took a “This is too much for me” nap.
And when you woke, Lily? You were a ball of wonder and light. You smiled. You laughed. And you lay in my arms, staring into my eyes calmly and sweetly, reaching up to pet my face. It was the moment I’d been waiting for, and the kind of moment that drives your Dad crazy because he never gets it.
In real life, I’m the gregarious, boisterous, loud-laughing, raunchingly-ribbing jokester of the family. If I’m “on” (during a rare, spontaneous occurrence when I’d actually admit I’m objectively and universally funny), I can cause strangers in elevators or cashiers at grocery stores to cackle right along with me, and so the fact that I can rarely, even with my best goofy faces and muppet-imitation voices, draw a smile to your lips kills me. I may as well be a comedian doing stand-up to a room full of heckling crickets.
Your Dad, on the other hand, is the quiet, contemplative poet warrior who thinks more than he says and listens more than he talks. It’s part of the reason we were drawn to each other initially; when I’m in the midst of a five-alarm anxiety attack, your father talks me off the ledge. When he’s in the throes of a deep blue sea depression, I’m the one who tries to throw him a life raft of jokes. For the most part, the system works.
But you, little Lily, for some reason get the opposite of our adult demeanors. Your Dad suddenly becomes the pie-in-the-face style clown you crave, lifting you into the skies like a rocket, “booping” your nose and tickling every funny bone you own in a variety of unique ways. I suddenly become the great shusher, calming you like the winds calm a yogi on a mountaintop, and laying in the cradle of my arms, you sometimes attain this relaxation zen that truly moves me. And sometimes, Lily, if I’m working at it like crazy (or am, more likely, just lucky), I can trigger a giggle from you. And sometimes, if he’s really still (or is, more likely, just lucky) your Dad can reach Peace Peak with you.
But on the whole, you give us the picture of one another, distilled down into the adorable form of a baby. You reflect at me your Daddy’s calm. You reflect at him your Mommy’s wacky laughter. You are his giggle fit girl. You are my snuggle buddy.
The truth is, both your father and I got our own Wins this weekend, and even though they’re of a different kind doesn’t mean we don’t both consider ourselves ridiculously lucky to be your parents. Whether you’re laughing, or crying, or curled up into a bundle of warmth in the corner of my arm so I can stare into your sleepy eyes and admire you for all that you are and can be to your father and me, and our lives, I love you, Lily. So I’m going to (really, seriously, try to) declare the Tug of War over. Because the last thing I want, between me grabbing for your humor, and your dad yanking for your calm, is for you to end up like this beauty:
- “Harvard tug of war team 1888” by Unknown – Harvard University Archives. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Harvard_tug_of_war_team_1888.jpg#/media/File:Harvard_tug_of_war_team_1888.jpg
- “Mary Cassatt, 1902, Reine Lefebre and Margot before a Window” by Mary Cassatt – . Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Cassatt,_1902,_Reine_Lefebre_and_Margot_before_a_Window.jpg#/media/File:Mary_Cassatt,_1902,_Reine_Lefebre_and_Margot_before_a_Window.jpg
- “Venus de Milo Louvre Ma399 n2” by Jastrow (2007). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Venus_de_Milo_Louvre_Ma399_n2.jpg#/media/File:Venus_de_Milo_Louvre_Ma399_n2.jpg