Painting by J Gray
Benjamin’s in my arms right now. Quiet, sleeping, calm. I’m watching him like an oil painting in a museum. My tiny giant one year old. I study his face and body. His ears have grown; they are now the size of apricots. His hair curls with the humidity. I study his sounds. His tiny snores zigzag under his breath. When he is asleep I am Wonder Mom. When he is overdue for a nap and I am overdue for a nap, I am Awful Mom.
The fight to go down for this nap lasted 30 minutes, seemingly like hours through toddler twists and mounts, crying screams that only escalated in decibels, cocooning into a curved ball on my shoulder, head butts to establish prime shoulder rest real estate, and a tenacious one year old desire to stay awake.
I tried the breast first. It used to be my go to sleep inducer. Doesn’t really work anymore; he filled up –recharged and energized, hips spinning from back to belly to knees to movement, pointing to things with toddler immediacy and curious craft. Saying “Dis, Dis,” and trying to unravel the mystery of each object. The air purifier: white like a Storm Trooper, sleek and tall, shiny, huffing out Darth Vader voices of puffs and curled noise with electric royal blue lights humming back and forth like an elevator. The light on the side table to the left of the mattress on the wooden floor — its cord now tucked secretly behind its back. The light, a montage of balls and gloves – football, basketball, soccer ball, and a baseball, all equally interesting to him. “Dat Dat.” He points again looking back at me with the inquiry of a class of eager freshman.
This nap is going nowhere. I start to think about moms who sleep train. I begin to envy scheduled nap time where babies know to nap and agree with baby coos and smiles, snuggling lovies that offer comfort. Teddy bears, baby blankets, little toddler hippos, grey and blue with fuzzy soft down material – some kind of something that will fill in my mom blank. Something he wants more than me right now when I am not soft and snuggly on the inside. In fact, I am dry as the desert and in need of an oasis of patience. I imagine one flowing full with clear streams of mother love. I begin to drool from the thirst.
This patience I barely have is wearing thin, like dough rolled out in transparent flakes. I suddenly am desperate for him to go to sleep. Desperate. My plans on peacefully napping with him to catch up on much needed rest and sleep passes. Quickly, like lightening bug flashes. I suddenly want wine, sugar, donuts, cupcakes, beer, coffee, carbs, and lots of it. Out. An escape hatch. Where’s the nanny? Where’s the hatch? Oh, I am a Stay At Home Mom. There is no hatch. I even have an acronym: SAHM. I’m the damn nanny. There is no damn escape hatch.
He is smiling, grinning with giggles that echo through the room and bounce off the high ceilings of his blue bedroom. I get a cup of oasis patience water and smile back at him. I can’t resist the song of his giggles so gorgeous. I’ve sang him Over the Rainbow over and over the best I could. Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high da da da da da da da to dream aloud. Once upon a da da da da da da da. Way up high on chimney tops and lemon drops you’ll find me, waiting…
Where does the patience come from? Where does it end?
It is quick like lightening when that long braided rope runs out, slipping quickly through my layered hands, my layered thoughts, my layered mind. Layered with questions, insecurities, doubts, fields of emotions, floors of frustration, conundrums, lists of things I’ll never do, wishes put on hold, way up top next to the creamed corn, on the shelf I can barely reach.
I’ve got to raise this baby. This boy. My boy, Benjamin. Hold those teeth tight. Lassi whoa, the horses can’t gallop off just yet. I’ve got a family to feed, but the horses patter — their feet below the very ground that is supposed to hold me stable – sturdy – rooted in soil. My curled tendrils attach below this very ground in the garden of motherhood.
Photo by Lisa Dearing
The horses’ hooves start to become restless—eager to run – to escape – to gallop in a wild childfree shout. I start thinking about news shows and 20/20 segments about moms that start drinking at noon because of the boredom. I think about how having a job outside the home holds me in place. Holds my busy mind, scheduled, engaged in adult synapses of activity and thought. Boredom erupting, flowing over into red pooled lava circles. The containment area – lullabies, swing sets, and gooey gooey baby talk.
Earlier this morning on our morning walk, I thought about working, how even hanging on the back of a garbage truck would be more active than this. More exciting, as I listened to the men shout and rumble through the quiet morning streets, banging and pounding, creating a symphony of noise like jazz musicians. Strolling down the sidewalk, with my beautiful baby boy, who was taking it all in visually. His mind turning cartwheels and somersaults. My mind – numb with boredom. I was suddenly jealous, eager to be hooting and shouting along with the loud garbage men, bustling with activity on this early AM morning. I thought about interaction. About space. About time. About mind.
I thought about all the people I used to talk to on a daily basis when I was a teacher and now as a SAHM, I have to check in politely for bi-monthly play dates. I’m desperate for daily contact. I used to see my colleagues every day. A comment – a conversation – a break in the teacher’s longue. Something – an exchange of ideas, humor, fashion yes nods. “You look good today. I like that shirt; it brings out your eye color.” A question. An opinion. A complaint. A joke. A dare. A don’t. Something. I don’t get this from Ben, from the swing set at the park, nor does the stroller answer back. Instead, I look forward to bi-monthly mom meet ups. My version of lonely staff meetings where we make small talk about sleep schedules, baby food, and recipes and try to get to know each other through questions like, “Where do you live and what does your husband do?”
I am too open I think, admitting to post-partum depression barely after introductions are made. I stumble long after the group has assembled and disassembled, breaking down the baby strollers, and driving off to each of our own separate spaces. I’m still yearning for a 9 – 5 work day; a 9 – 5 play date would work. I ask myself and roll over the video in my sleep deprived mind – “Why did I say that? Where is your damn filter for goodness sake?” But then a mom I have just met clicks like links in a set. She laughs at my blunt cut Grade A honesty and nods her head. Yes, I get it. That’s all I need to hear. I’m not alone.