(I started writing this Tuesday – and then Henry woke from a nap.)
There are a million things about motherhood that are exhausting. But for all of the things that are exhausting there are an equal number of things that are beautiful.
Sometimes the exhausting ones cloud the beautiful ones. Such is the way of life I suppose.
So right now, at 4:45 in the afternoon, when I’ve got work piled high on my plate, when Henry is down for an afternoon nap, when I should do be doing something more productive with my time…
like dishes, laundry, journalism
…marinating the chicken breast I’m grilling for dinner.
When I should be doing that and then some, I’m doing this instead:
Tipping my hat to Henry, to the baby who is well on his way to six months old, who is already so strong and bursting with personality.
When he falls asleep in my arms I count the tiny blue veins in his eyelids. They’re subtle, but when you notice them, they look like fireworks petering out in the night sky.
In these quiet moments, I try to picture the man he’s going to grow up to be.
And then I get hung up on the “man” part.
I’ve been told it happens fast.
So for all the moments when I could or should be doing something else, I’m going to do my best to do this instead:
be calm, be happy, be grateful, be easy.
I met an artist this week who works two jobs, has three kids and still finds time to create art and (occasionally) do yoga. He was all kinds of Zen, seemingly unencumbered by any of these pressures.
“Don’t you get burned out?” I asked him
“Sure, all the time,” he said. “It comes and goes. Life is messy, ya know. The sooner you accept that, the happier you’ll be.”
“Three kids though,” I said. “I have all I can do to adjust to just one!”
He let out a sinister laugh.
“Oooo,” he said. “But they’re so much fun.”
He’s right. Kids are messy and fun as hell.
A few weeks ago, Henry enjoyed his first ice cream cone.
Yeah I’m that mother. My kid’s first FOOD, aside from a couple spoonfuls of rice cereal, was ice cream.
I blame my father, Henry’s Opa. He insisted I let him taste it. He and my mom were in town recently and as usual, we paid a visit to my favorite ice cream stand – Nokomis Groves. It’s nestled between two orange groves and sells only soft-serve. I’ve been going here with my family since I was 11 years old.
“Just give him a little taste,” pleaded my ice cream-loving father. “It’s not gonna kill him.”
Typical grandparent. I grew up being handed sugar cubes by my overindulgent Oma.
Because babies tend to draw a crowd, a gaggle of strangers had gathered around my family. Everyone wanted to see Henry scream for ice cream.
So against my better judgement, I held the cone to my baby’s face.
At first he daintily licked it. Unsure of the cold, he wrinkled his nose and suspiciously gummed the soft-serve.
And then the eureka moment: he swallowed.
It wasn’t much. Just enough to get addicted.
Like a thirsty dog lapping at water, he ravenously returned to the cone for seconds. As confident as I am that my breast milk tastes like the elixir of the gods, I’m certain it pales in comparison to ice cream. It is, after all, a gateway dessert.
By now more strangers had gathered to witness my poor parenting.
“Give him more,” they cheered.
OK, one last taste, I thought.
Henry smacked his lips as the crowd waited in wild anticipation.
Like an insatiable beast, he shrieked and shook his fists in the air. His eyes were feral and hungry. His jaw was wide and open for business.
I was letting him sweat. It was a teachable moment.
Good ice cream comes to those who wait, son.
The crowd got antsy. Henry got antsy.
“He wants more,” they bellowed.
Fed up, Henry twisted toward a man sitting on the bench next to us. With his greedy little paws he reached for the man’s cone.
“Don’t even think about it kid,” the man grumbled.
The crowd cheered and laughed again.
Crestfallen, Henry turned his chin to me. He opened his mouth like a baby bird and like a mama robin, I gave him a big wet kiss with my ice cream lips.
You’ve never seen a son so comforted by his mother’s affection.