Update to my Girls: Part I

My girls,

This is a joint update to each of you. I feel this may be happening more often than not, as your BIRTHday’s being two weeks apart makes it a bit difficult for me. I mean, sheesh, then I’d be writing an update every two weeks and you all know your Mama: I’m just not that disciplined.

Indi, you turn three months old in five days. And my Kaia, you turned 26 months ten days ago. That’s a whole lot of numbers to digest. Let me break it down to you this way: you are both growing up on me so very fast that I feel like I’m watching a Kaia-Indi train speed by me every day. If I stand real still, and squint my eyes to focus, I can see you both waving from the windows. But if shift my gaze for a moment – SWOOSH – you are gone, moving on to another destination, another milestone, ready to pick up more passengers of knowledge.

I still get giddy when I hear myself say “My girls, my daughters, my children”. Two girls in two years. Recently, I stood in front of Grams’ bathroom mirror and stared at my face. A strange tingling came over me and I felt as if the reflection didn’t belong to me. I could recognize the features but the face seemed hollow and as light as a feather, as if unattached to a body. And I swear it mocked me. Unnerved, I opened my eyes wide, cocked my head in fighting fashion, fixated on this freckled face, and began to repeat “I have two daughters, I am a Mama…” and suddenly life was breathed into the image on the other side of the glass. Her cheeks were now pink, her eyes vibrant and glossy, and a smile snaked around her lips. After a few moments, I winked at her and when she returned the wink, I recognized her. You both, my girls, brought me back. You filled me like the warmest cup of tea.

The experience bewildered me. But it also reminded me of the power of our connection and our love. We are as tangled as the mess of hair Kaia sports after a rendezvous with lip gloss. Yes, apparently lip gloss is the new mousse. And it sparkles.

And I also realize that my words can never do justice to this BIG feeling of motherhood. It’s like that ride at Magic Mountain where you experience free fall. You try to scream – you open your mouth – and nothing comes out. Your heart is stuck in your throat. That’s motherhood. I try to express this thing called love with keystrokes and yet nothing emerges that resembles a portion of my awe and gratitude for you girls. Instead, love is more like a melody; it just kinda sings. Here’s what the glorious Ben Folds says in his Song of Love:

While I try to find words
As light as the birds
That circle above
To put in my songs of love
Fate doesn’t hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice
So sing while you have time
Let the sun shine down from above
And fill you with songs of love
So sing while you still can
While the sun hangs high up above
Wonderful songs of love
Beautiful songs of love
Beautiful songs of love
Beautiful songs of love

So, Kaia, what I noticed this month is that you became clumsy. I’m guessing that your limbs haven’t quite caught up with your speedy intentions. You trip over nothing. You run forehead first into everything. You stumble while standing still. Invisible obstacles seem to jump out at you. You recover quickly but confusion usually blankets your face for a moment and you look up at me quizzically. I usually just smile and say “Wow, way to go”.

And you’ve made a bunch of new friends this month, and they go by the name of “complete sentences”. As a linguistic fool, this makes your Mama quite excited. Along with complete sentences is your enhanced memory and recall skills, your love for routine, and your explosive imagination. Combine all of these and it makes for a very interesting day. That day usually consists of a handful of hours in which you play with your plastic safari animals, taking them through a nigh-night ritual. Or where you sit contented on the floor “reading” your books and making up story lines that I can actually understand. And then, in the car or out in public, your favorite things to say are things like “Kaia, look, see the birds? Kaia, see the birds? Oh honey, look at the trees. Kaia, see the trees?” Yep, third person is your other new, fascinating friend.

I just love to hear you say “Hon-eeeeey”. I first heard you use this word in a phrase similar to this: Oh nooooo, honey, don’t do that”. And I had to laugh because I realized that when I ask you not to do something I at least sound sweet and nice and use the word “honey”. Yeah, mama scores a point for that one.

Hey, did I ever tell you that you’re the painting you created of Indi’s birth was eerily accurate?

Things you love: hanging out in our completely dark closet (you shriek when I open the door and turn on the light. Must.Be.Dark). Emblazoning yourself with my makeup. Using random objects to make awful shrill noises on our glasstop coffee table, all while taunting at me with raised eyebrows and a devilish grin. Dumping crunchy types of food on our carpet and stomping on it with bare feet, therefore grinding bits into our floor forever (remind me to take you grape stomping someday). Eating – and smearing – yogurt and oatmeal. Watching YouTube videos with Mama. Swinging high. Helping Mama wipe down the glass table and windows with cleaner. Singing “O Sole Mio” at the top of your lungs. Generally hanging around naked. Scribbling with pens.

I want to package your zest for life.

Things you don’t love: green vegetables, having your hair towel-dried, cow’s milk, anything out of order, a dirty diaper, getting squirted with water from the hose, being awakened from your naps, the sound of a siren, Indi stealing “your” blankies or toys, when we don’t let the “Monkey Song” play on repeat in the car, when the Curious George movie ends, anything dirty or sticky on your hands, eating a cheese stick with the wrapper taken off, the sun in your eyes. There’s too much to list.

Also, you know most of your colors. And you can draw mountains. You still crave your naps and quite often say “I wanna go nigh-night. With binkies”. When I say “I love you, Sweet Pea”, you repeat it back to me. You say Please and Thank you some of the time. You can jump from a standing position now. You laugh during silly parts of movies. You recognize all of your relatives and friends in photos. If I tell you a friend will be visiting after you get up from your nap, you remember and you ask “Ohhh kaaaay, Nina and Ty-Ty? Sula and Mia? Bella and Julianna?” You still ignore Indi, only occasionally patting her head gently as you pass or handing her a binky as you say “Here ya go, Indi”. You travel like a pro, sitting patiently in your airplane seat, and holding my hand through the airports (unless you haven’t had a nap. Then, you lower yourself to the floor in a fit of rage in the middle of O’Hare International and scream, mouth open wide and tears flowing).

A few times while on vacation, you’d awake in the dark of night unaware of where you were at. You’d cry out and I’d swiftly pull you from your pack-n-play and lay you beside me and Indi in bed. “Mama’s here, you are safe”, I’d whisper as I drew your body to mine and softly traced the line of your ear and jaw, pushing the hair from your face. I admit I reveled in these little forays of ours, because you never sleep with me. Ever. And to have you snuggled into me, protected with my chest and arms and knees, was a slice of heavenly bliss. Your breathing slowed and your fingers would twitch as they curled around mine, signaling you were sleeping soundly again. My little girl, my little girl, my sweet baby girl….

Okay, my love, you are continuing to throw – no, lob – food on the floor when you don’t want it. This has always irritated me. I don’t mind if you don’t want to eat it but I have this high expectation that you’ll just say “I don’t want it”. Instead, you violently push bowls of cereal off of your high chair tray, or fling sandwiches and grapes across the room, or intersect my hand as I offer you a bite so that the food is quickly soaring through the air. Really, this is probably the only times you consistently see me seethe with anger. I immediately suck in my breath, tense up, grit me teeth and get down (or up) to your level and tell you “We don’t throw food. That’s wasteful. That’s not nice. If you don’t want it, just tell Mama you don’t want it”. I think what you hear is “Blah blah blah blah blah”. However, I also admit that I’m very firm and borderline mean when I say this. I can’t help it. I try to restrain myself but I don’t always succeed. You know I hate the process of fixing food and when you just waste it and make a mess of it all at once I go nuts.

So, a few days ago, totally weary from our recent vacation, I brought a bowl of veggie soup and a sandwich to you. Without even glimpsing at the soup, you shouted “Noooo!” and shoved it off your pint-sized IKEA table. It was sent tumbling to the carpet where is ended up resembling like one of those 80’s-looking splash paintings. With clumps of carrots and green beans pasted to it.

I unleashed my frustration on you, staring straight into your eyes and holding onto your squishy arm. “KAIA, NO! No, you do NOT throw food. That is NOT NICE! That was MEAN to Mama! No, no, NO!” Your face was solemn, your eyes averted. I turned on my heels, leaving the mess behind me on the floor, and hurried into the kitchen. Leaning on the counter with my head in my hands, I let the heat of my breath exit my body.

And then I felt my stomach turn into knots. Guilt washed over me like freezing rain. I couldn’t get the image of your tiny face out of my mind. Because I remember forming that same face as a kid; I recall what it felt like. I remember fearing my parents’ rage and disappointment (which, thankfully, was rare) and feeling squashed and insignificant in those moments. I remember seeing the fire in their eyes and hoping I wouldn’t get burned. I remember not moving, being still and quiet, hoping that posture would make it all pass quickly. Hiding.

And I realized that I pride myself on my conviction of never hitting or spanking my children. And I haven’t. And I won’t. I shall not be that cowardly. And yet, my words were a verbal hit to you, leaving their mark on your young mind and your sensitive heart. And I could not bear that thought. My anger had overcome my sense of logic and loving intention and reduced me to a pathetic coward.

I drew in my breath and calmly walked towards you with slumped shoulders. There you sat silently at your table, back to me, eating your sandwich. That single image broke my heart. And it’s not that I believe you were sad or feeling punished. It’s that you were just going about your day as normal, munching on your sandwich and here I had to come and interrupt it all; like an ugly, repressed volcano erupting without warming. And that all seemed so unfair to expose you to such madness.

I knelt beside you, placed my arms around your body, and gazed into your milk-chocolate eyes. And I apologized. Over and over. I told you that I was so sorry for yelling and that I never want to hurt you or scare you like that again. I told you that Mama was just upset but that I will do better next time and I will just talk to you about it. I couldn’t kiss you enough. If you could have cradled me in your arms, I would have pressed my head to your chest and wept like a child, shoulders shaking with each breath.

And after this spiel, after my eyes were teary and wet, you paused and looked right at me and sweetly said “I love you, Mama”. And with those words you managed to break and sew my heart together in one split second. With those words, you placed true forgiveness in my hands and it wrapped around me like a hammock, quelling the fire within. Thank you.

I apologized again at random times that day because I wanted you to feel just how sorry I was. I hated myself in those angry moments that I spewed ugliness upon you. Since then, you’ve thrown food numerous times. Now, I breathe deep, shake my body to help shake off any frustration and kindly ask you to please not waste food. Enough said.

Kaia, I know the above scenario will probably repeat itself many more times during our times together. But, if it’s not too much trouble, I ask that you always call me out if I’m being a jackass, okay? And remember, I love you truly, deeply, madly.

And now I’m so very tired and going to bed with your Daddy and sister Indi while you snooze peacefully in your beloved oval crib. More tomorrow, my sweet…


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh Leigh, I have tears in my eyes. That anger thing … it’s so damn hard. What parent doesn’t get angry at their child? If they don’t, there’s something wrong. But how to handle it? It’s so hard for me, and I’ve been through the scenario you paint so many times (anger, apology, anger, apology). I feel so guilty, and I wish I didn’t fly off the handle in the first place. But at least we’re able to apologize. So many parents can never admit that they’re wrong, made a mistake. If nothing else, it teaches our children that we are human — and we know it. And that anger isn’t the end of the world. Someone can be angry at them and still love them. Those are my thoughts as I muddle through this, trying to figure out how to be angry without being toxic. I want my daughter to know that anger is okay … it’s normal and healthy. I hope I find a way to teach her that.

  2. Chelsea says:

    Oh, your girls are so adorable! I so hear ya on the anger thing too. We have the same thing with throwing food (more spilling drinks on purpose) over here. I have such a hard time trying to stay calm – I always end up yelling first as it is my initial reaction – then I feel so guilty afterwards and apologize over and over and try to explain myself better. I agree with gearhead mama – being honest with our emotions is an important lesson to teach.

    I am probably going to copy you with the joint updates from now on too – Sam & Rosie are just 8 days apart and I just don’t see myself keeping up with 2 separate updates each month.

  3. mb says:

    keeping honest with emotions…wise women come here.
    we tend to feel such guilt for reacting like a human: emotional, complex beings. that does not mean to become aggressively angry and violent…but to be honest…to get pissed…it happens. in my personal experience, sometimes calmly explaining to my toddlers what is okay and what is not after they “act-out” works and sometimes getting mad and expressing it as such works too. When Mia locks me out of the house or the car…I get MAD. It’s dangerous and I get really, really mad, honestly, and I scared. And I tell her that I yell because it is dangerous and I need her to really see how important to NOT do it.

    I had this conversation with Brooke recently. We both came to the conclusion that because 90% of the time we are so mellow and easy….that perhaps those times when points really need to be made (or we are at are wits end in exhaustion), maybe it is okay to “loose” it. I mean, what about parenting says we can’t loose it? We loose it when it comes to loving them…I act totally irrational and nutty because of the love I feel. And look at them? They loose it all the time. I try to look at what an animal in the wild does to “scold” their youth. Do they calmly rationalize? NO, the bite, pull, smack and tug! They howl and moan and yelp. Mostly likely because they are teaching them how to behave to survive.

    Anyway. I work on tossing out the guilt. Before I had kids I knew the best way for me to be a mother was to be my True Self to my child. And that is the best of me and the worst of me; honesty, growth and love. I try to remind myself that is what I envisioned before my babies came.

    We love you Kaia and Indi. Thank those Stars that sent you to all of us.


  4. Isabel says:

    Oh how I loved the beginning of sentences with Leo. It is like music, isn’t it?

    As for getting mad and “losing” it, it happens. It can suck when it does and feel terribly icky, but it is part of it. You are so not alone and attempting to navigate how to be firm, to express anger and frustration without turning violent in your words. I am right there with you in this one!
    I want Leo to know that just as he does, I too get angry. I want him to know that what he does affects people, affects me. I want to model for him what it is be angry, to express anger, without repressing it and yet to not do so in a way that is harmful or disrespects others. As mb said, we are human.
    What a gift to apologize to your own child. You are a remarkably compassionate and wise mama.

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