If having a twoddler wasn't weird enough, we've now really reached peak and pique transitional oddity time. Chay-Chay is toddling, but most not on her own. She runs up to dogs yelling 'DAH!!' and pointing in such a way that it's arguably her first word. She has named her favorite bunny (to which she is increasingly attached) Budabudabudabudabudabuda, I'm fairly certain.
She nurses (and tantrums) on demand! Choppers, but not gnawers (though Andrew scared me a few days ago by commenting "Ah you're getting a molar" while she was screaming bloody murder on the diaper table).
And yet, she really isn't that quintessential toddler quite yet. She's not exactly communicating in that way. She has taken a step or three between objects and my hands. But she's not walking. She isn't climbing into everything just yet.
Not a babe, not yet a girl. Or something like that.
But it's an amazing time to be a mom. Amazing and exhausting. And everything in between. I look back to my blogs from a year ago and I am dazzled at how much (1) harder, (2) more visceral, (3) less joyful having an infant was. It's not fully fair to say that last one. I was so high on hormones, I barely noticed I was surviving on 45 minutes jags of sleep to desperately feed the little parasite that mostly knew how to poop/writhe/sleep/and-cry-all-the-time, or the crippling anxiety that comes from that sort of fully embodied Id. It's hard to imagine this eensy little morsel is my wee gremlin. Sure Chaya always had some essential Chayaness to her.
She has always been a little sensitive. Always a little gassy (sorry future Chaya, but the TMI continues until you're old enough to understand the concept). Always uncannily alert and aware. And always particular. But These were vague outlines back then. Now they are double etched in stone and painted over with gold and silver, then encrusted in gems.
We are a stone's throw from personality conflicts and the struggle for self-identity and independence. But here again, it's sort of in between the two. Chaya has a sense of self. She has a sense of others. She distinguishes people pretty extensively and has distinct relationships with each of them. But the concept of boundaries, rules, and lines are hazier.
In many ways, I feel like I'm heading into my second year of law school. That odd middle-child of the lawschool career, and arguably one of the best.
In fact, there are many ways that parenting reminds me of law school.
1. Sleep dies and you are always sick. Duh, Captian Obvious.
Law school was definitely a case of massive insomnia all the time. And duh to parenting. Seriously, it gets better, but I still wake up a teeny bit every two hours now. And I just have a disturbance-in-the-force type feeling every time Chaya tosses and turns. Any time my husband remotely breathes or moves, I'm so primed to react that I hurl myself straight back into wakefulness. But it's a lot better than it was when I was literally waking up every forty minutes, say.
Those three years, I basically had a runny nose, sore throat or head ache all the time. Now that Chaya's a bit older and constantly out contracting one illness or other, I'm pretty well either coming down with something or actively collapsing dog-dead tired and ill. I rationalize that it's ok to let her slobber all over that friend with the horrible cough and gnaw on the side of the soda machine outside the public restroom; after all, it's building our immune systems before the horrors of daycare/preschool. But it's mostly that I just don't have the energy to intervene while I'm wiping my gushing nose on my sleeve and trying to keep her from eating rocks (Soil, ok. Rocks, no).
2. You lose friends and sometimes are just kind of a horrible person. Law school was surprisingly brutal on my longstanding relationships. I lost not one but two very good friends during my three intense and marvelous years at UW. One of them was one of my oldest and longest friendships. Sometimes people do just evolve and sometimes misunderstandings could happen anywhere at any time. But add in the substitution of stress for sleep, addle yourself around in the bizarro law school bubble, and you pretty well guarantee that you are, at least partially, a horrible horrible person for the duration.
And, well, parents are also somewhat terrible people. We can't make appointments to save our lives. We panic about exposing our precious snot face to any manner of germs, but think nothing of foisting the screaming, hacking germ-monger and our attendant millions of cold (see item number 1) all over you and your happy world.
I will follow my child around as she wreaks mayhem in any public space. And instead of intervening, I smile apologetically as if all this were completely out of my hands and I might as well be telling them how sorry I am that a typhoon just happened to strike their house and wash away everything they'd saved for. Or, often I just pretend I'm not there as she assaults animals, pulls up plants, interrupts other's private conversations to stare and point, and does any other manner of impolite things. In fairness, if another baby takes her toy or pulls her hair, I'm generally of the philosophy that Chaya needs a little of that since she lacks an older sibling. But it's still not the same. Honestly, I've just reached a point where it's not worth the tantrum to tell her "no" for these minor awkwardnesses. I like to reserve the distractions and "no" for times when it's physically dangerous or really actively imposing beyond a certain degree of awkwardness.
And my friends without kids. Well I'm sure they reasonably "just don't understand" the license to be a crazy, stressed out, schedule obsessed, perpetually late, flake/horrible person. I'm amazed at the other moms who seem to feel hurt that their childless friends "abandoned them." I feel like I'm the one who jumped ship and I feel that deeply! I don't expect them to change everything about our interactions, just because I managed to invest some money and get myself knocked up before knocking the a little gremlin who is now gnawing on some stranger's keys after throwing their water bottle... They clearly should understand that and all it means! Or they would, if I could every manage or arrange to see them. As it is, I'm sure most of them just think I'm dead or on the lam.
3. You no longer can have normal conversations
Law students are often accused of turning into word-weasels and cross-examiners. And they certainly acquire a distinct gloss on otherwise "normal" words like "consideration" or "the word is"... Parents certainly have their own language, but we're also kind of perpetually aphasiac, tossing our word salads, and mostly incoherent. And of course that pesky third person talking. I'm often mommy and "mommy needs Chaya to stop kicking her in the throat now, please." I'm also Adella and some days "Adella needs barrista to make nice strong coffee for her lunch er dinner er Berlin?? Crap, coffee! Except don't give me full caff because then I'll be wired off the um doggie??"
So it used to be that mom-playdates were disjointed and difficult to sustain because babies need naps, have disgusting and weird emergencies, and so on. It's a little easier on the nap scale now that they're cutting back to one or two naps (albeit still fairly impossible). But should we actually manage to convene in any one location, we will only be within shouting distance of each other for roughly half a minute. Then one kid takes off to the ocean. The other beelines for the most inedible looking soil near the parking lot. Another one is up the play structure. Any remaining children will immediately begin attacking each other and/or tantrumming. In any given playdate, I have about five active conversations that are tested in minor snippets as we pass each other by with our little gremlins possibly screaming in tow. I've often thought that mom playdates should always come with bluetooth walkie talkie sets so any single discussion could be held to some semblance of conclusion.
4. For almost the entire first year, you are naive, overeager, overly anxious, and have no idea how you're doing.
At least at UW, your first year grades were based exclusively on a massive final exam which was once analogized to "being dropped in the desert and graded on how close you get to the water before you die." And many of our first year classes lasted two quarters. I seriously had no idea whether I was doing ok. Sure, we got caught on the spot and grilled by teachers. But that didn't really matter except for the public shame of stuttering through a particularly ill-formed opinion. By the second year, I felt so much more settled. Classes got more interesting and engaging. I had a sense of what I needed to do, and when it got harder, I had confidence I could roll with that.
You start parenting with grand aspirations for life-baby balance. Even temperament. A certain approach to anything. And, just as you kind of knew but didn't believe it would, it explodes. Repeatedly. Ever five or six minutes. You kind of settle into your pace after a while. Sure things explode repeatedly, but you feel like it can go somewhere.
5. Self-care is an obnoxious but necessary buzz word. Our lawschool orientation was dripping with exhortations to take breaks, seek counseling, and do something just for ourselves. As a mom, I almost feel mom-guilt for not taking enough me-time.
But seriously. Think about it. I was saying to somebody recently that when I am having a tough time, I think about what I want for Chaya. And what I want is for her to grow up happy, self-assured, self-respecting and able to form loving relationships. And I don't have much control over that except for the example I myself set. Damnit. Talk about pressure!!
If I take a page from law school though, it was when I decided to ease off, skip the unecessary extra credit, and just know my limits, that I started acing my way through it. Sometimes freaking out too much is more ironic than rain on your wedding day. Who'd've thought.
5. You often feel like you 'need a drink' except having a drink just makes you sleepy and crash.
How do parents or lawyers ever become alcoholics, and at such remarkable rates?? I used to have a stone-cold Irish tolerance. After law school, I could drink about a half of a beer and feel whooooooey to "I'm gonna just pass out here now, thanks."
6. You might just totally shift diurnal patterns. I used to go to sleep at 2 a.m. and wake at 10 a.m. Then law school happened. Since then, I wake up closer to 5 a.m. Don't ask. I'm not even entirely sure. But having a baby seems to perpetuate this lifestyle, since my baby is a very early little birdie.
7. Relationships are tested. Ok, I had two relationships during lawschool. The first one was certainly never likely to go anywhere, and after he broke up with me (yes hard to imagine, considering), my first thought was genuinely "wait you're doing this before finals?? What if this screws up my grades?"
And Andrew and I met in law school, and blossomed. But I've seen a lot of darker outcomes from the hard and hearty days of law school.
And I needn't even recount the myriad ways that things get way more serious and every pecadillo/personality-clash/minor-difference of opinion grabs gravitas with the introduction of a little sprat. And you think you can plan ahead. You think you can have those tough conversations about how you'll parent and your values and discipline and what have you. But that's an awful lot like how you think you have some idea of what kind of parent you'll be. You don't. Because the parent you are is going to be heavily influenced by the kid you have. And the way that you both react to that kid may not put either of you in your previously harmonious non-parenting parental philosophy. You may dodge these thorny issues entirely. It's been pretty ok for me and Andrew so far. But it comes up. And the things that really strain and struggle are not the things you'd ever have thought of.
Oh and you're both tired.
Perhaps more to say, I changed a lot in those three years. I took up running. I lost a ton of weight. I changed sleeping patterns. I held onto some friends for sure, but my relationship with them had evolved. I went from a somewhat wild blues-and-tango-flirty commitmenphobe who loved to take off and travel on her own and feel unattached to nowhere in particular to a nearly engaged homebody in a long-term relationship talking seriously about the next steps...
As a mom, I haven't danced or really seriously worked out for longer than Chaya's been alive. I am not working. I get my kicks in a variety of ways I've already driveled on about for hours and years. I'm me, but parts of me are definitely taking a little ME-time off.
8. When you have a spare moment you hit a brick wall of indecision
I remember after finals, I would just sit on my couch staring into space. There was an urgent sense of energy - all those things I had shelved for "vacation" but I couldn't handle a single thing. I have kind of a routine as soon as Chaya goes down for a nap. Several bajillion things. Because if I don't start immediately... BAM I'm staring wildly and pacing up and down starting a million things halfway before flitting back (like, say this blog which has been simmering for at least a week and a half)
9. Life continues to happen with or without you.
In my third year of law school, my mom got cancer. My grandfather died. The world doesn't stop because of your special immersive experience. My best friends in the world got married. Things get "real" in all kinds of ways.
It's true with Chaya too. Other people have lives. Those flourish and blossom and contract and evolve. Sometimes I completely miss it. But just because that first day felt like an eternity, the world has never stopped and every important relationship and activity still requires interest and investment. I'll come back to it. But it's important to remember from time to time.
Ways in which (I hope) it doesn't resemble law school.
1. Hopefully you aren't totally burnt out by the middle of the third year...
2. Law school involved significantly less time flashing my nipples in public.
3. Hopefully you don't work super hard and make it through all the crazy stressful tests, and then realize actually there's a major bubble in the parenting market, parenthood has restructured and your investment in becoming a parent probably wasn't worth the returns...
4. Naps seem to be less of a thing in lawschool. Definitely less of a life-structuring crucial thing.
And on we stumble. Waiting for more. Watching more. Missing the old and savoring the new. Highlighting nothing and knowing we probably shouldn't drive.
It's going to be an interesting ride hitting 14 months I'm sure.