The Sound of Silence

It’s 6AM and I’ve been awake since 4. Ike (Tropical Storm Ike, that is) has been blustering around the house all night, licking us with hot, sticky tropical winds. It’s 6AM and almost 80 degrees outside… in Vermont… in September! It’ll probably snow next week.

Once in a while I don’t mind not being able to sleep – getting up in the dark and having complete silence and motionless-ness for a few hours is intoxicating. I think that’s the most difficult part of motherhood for me – the constant motion, constant noise. I’m an introvert, I don’t particularly like to talk (unless I’m in a comfortable social situation or feeling overly emotional, then I don’t shut up).

When Little Lady was a baby, and my mother or sister was visiting or babysitting, I was struck by how they would talk and interact with the baby continually. When I was home with her there was almost complete silence. Of course, I talked to her but wouldn’t offer a running commentary. I’d get so tired if I had to engage my brain and move my mouth that much.

I used to worry that I was doing our child a disservice by not reciting the alphabet or giving her a blow-by-blow of what mummy was doing every second. When we began to socialize at a mommy-n-me group, I’d feel ashamed when the toddler on the next mat could count to ten in English and German when my little one could barely count to three in any language. But she was dancing with abandon at music time or sitting quietly at still time. And, I think, more importantly, she knew (and knows) how to entertain herself.

Today, I look back on those quiet hours with my baby with longing. From the moment the kids lift their sleepy heads to when they finally give in to the drug of sweet slumber, there is a racket – either from their games, their music (which is still danced to with abandon by both), or from PBS or Disney. Now, I am forced to use my voice interminably: Stop that, food’s ready, don’t fold your brother in two… or just to answer the never-ending flow of demands for “Mama, Mama, MAMA!”

I’m tired. Very, very tired. Listening takes almost as much energy as talking. I crave silence more than a manicure, more even than Ben and Jerry’s Coffee, Coffee, Buzz, Buzz, Buzz (and that’s saying something).

It’s my birthday on Friday and all I want is a big box of silence, wrapped up in a bow.

So, thank you, Ike. Although you did some harm down in Texas, and I admonish you for that, I do appreciate the gift you gave me this morning: Two hours of… nothing.

Unfortunately, it’s a gift I will have to pay for with lots of coffee (or maybe some coffee ice cream?).

Start your engines… hear the roar… the madness of a school morning is about to begin.

Sweaty Puppy: An argument against co-sleeping

I like to sleep, no, I love to sleep.

Our 22-month old has been sleeping in his crib since he grew out of his co-sleeper at 4 months old (yes, he was a “healthy” baby). Last night, whether due to a bad dream or questionable cup of milk, he could not be consoled by the usual kiss, hug, and Pappy-dog. Wedged between two sleepy parents was his nest of choice. I was happy to oblige in order to allow all family members their precious shut-eye.

One problem: Sleeping with a sweaty, restless puppy of a child means no sleep at all. To have a little body using my face as a pillow is more than any sand-man could handle.

When my husband and I were new and still ga-ga over each other, we’d sleep so close he’d wake up with my abundant head of hair in his mouth and up his nose. Gradually over the last nine years, my hair’s gotten a lot shorter and the space between us much larger. And god-forbid any extremities should touch in the night! (Unfortunately,) we get far more sleep now.

I had a natural birth, I breastfed, and I wore my babies, but on this issue, I must insist on parenting un-attached. I prefer to have more than sixteenth of an inch between me and hitting the floor. I enjoy tossing and turning at will. Once in a while I even like to roll over and cuddle my husband. But most of all, I – and those who have to live with me – am partial to facing each new, challenging day in mommy-ville with a good stretch of sleep behind me.

So, to all you ardent co-sleeping, family-bed advocates out there, I say “bless you.” I understand and applaud your reasoning for wanting your precious ones safely snoozing by your side. But on this one I must let sleeping dogs lie – in their own beds.

Oxymoron: writing mother wants me to explore:

The relationship between becoming a mother and becoming a writer
The influence of motherhood on your craft
The influence of writing on your mothering

It’s not a good day for me to write about being a writing mother. Today I want to edit out the mother part.

We began this day quite calmly (that’s a qualified “calm”) getting ready for summer day camp. Out of the silence (again, silence is relative) a blood-curdling scream rips through the house. I run to the source, but before I can even get out the words, “what happened?” my 5 year-old’s eyes bulge and she leans forward, arms akimbo. The words explode out of her usually beautiful, now grape-red face: “I didn’t DO anything!” and she bursts into tears.

I stand there stunned by the vehemence, the unadulterated anger coming out of my little girl. Meanwhile, the 22-month-old instigator of the scene is still crying, profusely.

Straining with the pressure of ignited anger, I manage to calmly respond, “I didn’t say you did…”

Should have stopped there.

“But you screaming at me like that makes me think you did.”

No. No. No. What was I thinking saying that to this little someone who’s so highly reactive, so incredibly frustrated. She opens her mouth, wide. I brace myself…. oh, the ringing in my ears!

Needless to say, we were late for day camp and I couldn’t write all day. My mood was shot.

All is calm (for real) in our house now – they’re both asleep. So now I shall attempt to write about being a writing mother:

The relationship between becoming a mother and becoming a writer: My children give me priceless, endless subject material and then keep me from my computer with their constant needs and wants, frustrating me to all get out.

The influence of motherhood on your craft: See above.

The influence of writing on your mothering: When I do finally do sit at my computer, the world disappears. Their yelling and laughing and smashing of my precious possessions are mere squeaks and creaks in the wind.

Yes, I am a bad mom and a bad writer. Crap.