Thursday, August 25, 2011

Valleys, Peaks, Other Metaphors

The years fly by, but the afternoons last forever.

I've heard that expression twice this week, and holy crap, does it resonate. This has been the week of both 'Look at her. Look at her. Look at how she smiles at me' and 'Maybe I should just go away someplace. Some people really shouldn't be parents. They would be better off without me.' Every week is Bipolar Awareness Week here.

The Terrible Twos really are fucking terrible. The whining, the crying, the tantrums, and the low-grade anxiety over what minor mishap is going to cause an epic meltdown like tonight's deep and sorrowful wailing over a broken tortilla chip. Some days I handle it. Other days (after a few strung together days of 'handling' it) are like Monday. I wake up with the baby around 6 a.m. and feed her and then try to snarf down some coffee or something that can be eaten with one hand. Sometimes I take a shower. On the vast majority of days, I do not. Zygote has a habit of waking up in a crappy mood, an unfortunate genetic trait. In the kitchen, we play the "do you want a X for breakfast?" game. Lots of NOOOOOOOO. Finally, a compromise is reached and YG or I sets her up in her chair to watch Sesame Street, some brief entertainment while I nurse the baby again. But the kid is too smart. She knows that we can fast forward to the parts of the show that have Elmo in it so she starts chanting, whining, crying "Elmooooooo" until one of us complies. {Insert "kids these day" or "when I was a kid, there were only 12 channels" story of your choice.] On this particular Monday, Zygote also made me her displeasure with our juice selection known by pouring it out, making a massive puddle of mess and then crying about not wanting it to be dirty. At this point, the baby's fussy period kicks in and we get some ear-piercing shrieks added to the mix of Sesame Street songs, toddler whining and pre-teen "where's my socks? where's my bag? did you do my laundry?" Pre-teen MG also likes to "help" which is excellent when Zygote is in a great mood, but when Zygote is whiny and moody, MG tries to placate her so Zygote screams louder and MG gets all preteen weepy/mopey about nobody liking her. Vicious circle.

Later Monday morning, YG left to drop MG off at her mother's house. Zygote was still whining and Z2 was shrieking, but I told him I could handle it. Perhaps I was overconfident. Perhaps I am STILL (years of marriage later) trying to convince YG that I am nothing like his first wife and that I am nothing but reliable and calm and just a stellar, roll with it kind of partner. You see where this is going. I could not handle it, so I'll skip the rest of the escalation details and just get to the climax:

Zygote has a habit of kicking and squirming and generally trying to avoid diaper changes. The last straw of Monday's escalation came when she managed to smear a load of shit-filled diaper all over my arm. I lost my proverbial (as opposed to the literal) shit -- screaming at her which of course only caused her to cry louder which made me scream louder. I was so insanely angry and afraid of hitting her that I ran into our hallway, jumped up and down like a lunatic, screamed more, punched walls and threw a water bottle across the room knocking down and breaking a framed version of that blessing that starts with "May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back..." How apropos.

It was UGLY. I managed to get both shrieking kids in the stroller, dropped Zygote off at daycare and walked exactly 4.63 miles with Z2 to calm myself down. Daycare is two blocks from our house and by the time we got there, Z was humming and all "bye bye, Mommy. Love you." I was left with my guilt and the mistaken belief that I had hit my rock bottom in terms of Bad Mommy days this summer.

And then Tuesday sucked worse except this time it was the smaller one that sent me over the edge with an hour of straight screaming and some sort of nursing strike right in the middle of the morning rush. I did my spastic jumping up and down dance, but this time I didn't scream or yell at anyone but the walls. I just sobbed. This postpartum period has been remarkable in its relative lack of tears, but the fucking Hoover Damn broke the other morning. And it was made worse by a two-year-old saying "mommy cry" and rubbing my hair and kissing me and saying "okay mommy."

Guilt overload. I don't want to be Mean Mommy, but I sure as hell don't want to be Sad Mommy. This was the 'maybe people like me shouldn't have kids' day. The how the hell am I going to do this and work day. The how am I going to: do this, work, be a wife, be a friend, eat well, stay in shape, be thin, be better looking, keep up with personal grooming, read books, go for runs, care for my children's full emotional and educational development day. A couple of days out, let's just refer to that as Bourgeois Complaints Day.

Then yesterday was good. Nothing exciting. We went to Target. We did a Mommy&Me meeting. I picked up the dry cleaning. We hit the Farmer's Market. I ran. Today was better. We went to Walden Pond. I refilled the propane tank. We went for a walk. The baby still shrieked and Zygote still whined, but I was okay.

YG had told me, years before when there was only MG, that he never loved anyone as much as his kid, but he was also never as angry as he was around his kid. And I guess that's it -- I don't like peaks and valleys. I hate, probably more than anything else in the universe, feeling out of control. I like things to be steady, calm, in the middle. And nothing really has been since Zygote was born. I have never felt this amount of guilt or this amount of disappointment in myself (and given my general misanthropic worldview, that's saying something) before. But I also never felt this heart-bursting, kiss-giving, want-to-squeeze-you-all-the-time-and-freeze-you-in-this-particular-moment-and-protect-you-from-all-the-ugly-in-the-universe love either.

I want to be present, and I want to be good enough. I am lucky to have them. I want them to be lucky to have me.