Release the Stars

May 31st, 2010

We’ve all got a low-grade sicky-snotty thing and this is probably a terrible thing to say, but I am generally pretty laid back about snotty noses and colds in Sam. Hell, she’s a little kid, and she’s building her immune system, so short of carting her around in a bubble, I figure she’s going to get sick often enough, so we might as well get it over with, amiright? It’s just not worth it otherwise, and this, too, shall pass. (Provided it’s not puke. I do not do well with puke.)

However, I am, shall we say, LESS THAN THRILLED when the sickness leaches to the rest of us, and I find myself lying supine on the couch, a puddle of drool under my mouth as my face is smashed up against the arm, praying, just PRAYING, for my kid to entertain herself for five whole minutes so that I can stay immobile for as long as possible. Adam and I BOTH got it this time, so it’s not even like one of us can play the sick card, so dealing with Sam was a bit like a game of chicken today. YOU take her. No, YOU. I INSIST.

We had old friends over for dinner this weekend — one half of the couple is my closest friend from college, and is credited with introducing Adam and me — and it was lovely to see them, as I didn’t even realize how much I’d missed them until I was with them again. That’s what’s been strangest, I think, about being back here — I have a long history here, with friends from all over the place, and former coworkers, and dude, I KEEP RUNNING INTO PEOPLE and it’s WEIRD. At the grocery store! The hair salon! (That was nice, when I thought my friend Deb was my new hairdresser, and she was all, “Um, Jonna? I’m not cutting your hair. IT’S ME. DEB. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?”)

Five years of living places where you have no history and you NEVER see people you know will do that to you. It’s weird and a little unnerving, because going to the grocery store in yoga pants and no makeup can take a turn for the reunion over the cheese case with someone you haven’t seen in ten years. It’s even weirder, because MetroWest is not a small place. I mean, it encompasses nine or ten towns and almost 200,000 people, and yet, EVERY DAY, oh look, someone I know! Oh, dear.

Anyway, our dinner companions do not yet have children, and the conversation inevitably turned to when the right time is to have kids, and all that rot, and you know what? I really sucked at selling it. I was kind of alarmed to look back on the conversation with the realization that, to a certain degree, I sounded like every other totally obnoxious parent trying to answer the questions of the kidless about How It Is. I mean, I wasn’t condescending or anything truly egregious, but to say I undersold the experience is probably a vast understatement. I complained about the usual — the sleepless nights, the lack of travel ease, the three to five months of screaming and I think I even threw in a nice line or two about how newborns truly suck.

You give up a lot when you have a child, it’s true. But what I completely failed to focus on is what you get in return, and how none of that ever — at least for me — makes a lick of sense until the child is yours, and every little thing is effing MAGICAL. Our friends were discussing how most people have advised them to travel — to get in some truly selfish, glorious trips in before their lives become infinitely more complicated and heading off to Rome on a moment’s notice is a virtual impossibility. I answered by sort of rolling my eyes and saying yes, dude, YES, traveling with a kid is nothing like it used to be, as we have to get a suite and flying sucks and ugh ugh ugh.

And yes, that’s true. But what is also true is that honestly, one of the things I’m looking forward to most is taking Sam to see the world. Yes, my days of luxuriating on the beach with a good book and a fruity drink are long gone (or at least on hold), but in exchange, I’m going to get to show Sam some of my favorite things, and find out what hers are. Yes, I don’t get nearly as much sleep as I used to, but none of that compares to how stupidly, laughably proud I felt when Sam learned to sing “Ooh-Ah! Ooh-Ah!” along with Laurie Berkner’s “Walk Along the River.” Yes, I spent the day in a virtual faceplant, too exhausted to want to deal with a kid who was antsy and desperate to get out of the house, but when I finally loaded her into the car seat and opened the passenger window, she threw her arms in the air like she was on a rollercoaster and giggled like a fool while the breeze blew her curls around.

We don’t get out much. We’re working on finding a local sitter, and yes, of course, we’re looking forward to date nights and dinners out without her and the occasional movie. All things I totally enjoyed and took for granted when I was childless. But I do not, and I mean this, resent that those days are gone, or even miss them that much. For one, I’m usually too damn tired by the end of the day, and besides, Adam and I have learned to make time for each other after Sam’s asleep, and alternating who gets to go out and for what. And my marriage? Is even better since we had Sam. It really is.

And again, my God, I got so much in exchange. A kid who thinks the (cleaned, I swear) perianal squeeze bottle I got in the hospital is the greatest bath toy ever. Geezuz, you’d think she discovered WATER the way she carries on with that thing, squirting herself, me and anyone who dares enter the bathroom. It’s the most thrilling thing EVER, that squeeze bottle, and my heart breaks a little from joy every time she waves her arms in anticipation of playing in the tub.

The kid can spot a picture of a dog from a mile away. And a real dog? Brace yourself for some serious excitement. The full-body wiggling! The pointing! The cries of “GEE GEE GEEEEEE! DOGGEEEEE!” Sorry, but that shit is unparalleled. I don’t know that I’ve seen anyone that excited about anything, ever. Seriously. Sometimes I can’t even find the dog she’s so jazzed about, and I have to scan the room, only to find the ONE greeting card on a display ten feet away that has the face of a dalmation on the front.

And the Frankensteining around! Toddling side-to-side, totally unstable, but fearlessly plunging ahead anyway. Oh, man. It can’t be beat. It just can’t. I love this kid so much, and seeing her grow up is something I wouldn’t trade for a million years of travel on an unlimited budget. I wouldn’t give up a second of this for anything in the world, and there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.

This is all sounding very trite and lame, right? Of course it is. And I think that’s why I resort to complaining about the hard stuff. Because it’s easier to sound like the snarkier cliche than the glowy brainwashed one who goes on and on for a solid five minutes about how amazing it is that my kid — the one who didn’t sleep for more than two hours in a row the first ten months of her life — now snuggles into bed with Mr. Mouse and waves night-night to me before settling down FOR THE WHOLE NIGHT. UNTIL LIKE, SEVEN AM.

There’s no way to explain it. None at all. But if you’re thinking about it, want to do it, and just aren’t sure if it’s the right time, because you have all these things you want to do? Eh. Screw ’em. Just do it. You won’t regret it. You’ll still be you. But it doesn’t make a difference what I say, because you have to find out for yourself. That’s the truth.

Happy Tuesday! I hope you had a great holiday weekend.

*Rufus Wainwright

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25 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Erin  |  May 31st, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    And I thought it was hard enough seeing cute babies do cute things when we went to the store. Forget the ticking of a clock. This? This entry right here? Is making a freakin’ GONG go off in my lady parts.

    GREAT post :)

  • 2. Sam  |  June 1st, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Thank you for saying that your life and marriage is BETTER because of Sam. I feel the same way about our son – like, WHAT we were doing before him? Seriously, we didn’t travel a lot, and my husband would say that’s what he wanted to do before we had kids – and I was always doubtful, like, suddenly, we’re going to be people who travel to Europe? Experiencing a child’s joy and loving your spouse more because you’ve created this awesome FAMILY of your own – it’s pretty amazing. And makes all the poop/sleepless nights/boring days completely worthwhile.

  • 3. Caitlin  |  June 1st, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Oooooh, Jonna. As always, I love anything you write on having kids. You are one of the few people I know who talks about the experience from both sides and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. Since I don’t have kids, I *can’t* understand it – but reading your take on it always feels like the closest I’ll get. So thank you. Just thank you.

  • 4. Kader  |  June 1st, 2010 at 8:38 am

    So well said. (Funny, when I first typed that, it was in all caps. Apparently, Jacob hit the all caps button for me in order to emphasize the point.) Anyway…
    Several times a day I feel like sobbing for the sheer joy of watching my child learn things. He is seriously the most amazing person I’ve ever known.
    Had I had any idea how much pure joy I would find in parenting, I might have started having children in my 20’s. No kidding.

  • 5. Lawyerish  |  June 1st, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Ach, yes! I want to run through the streets yelling, Have a baby! Now, now, do it now! I want to stop every pregnant woman and be like, duden you are going to have SO MUCH FUN.

    Because before we had Felicity I was so focused on the negatives of baby-having that it paralyzed me. But now I know that it’s awesome and FUN! And my baby is not even three months old yet!

    I think you have a lot more credibolity than I do, though, because for you pregnancy and infancy we’re SO hard. Whereas I’d be telling everyone how EASY it all is, how it isn’t nearly so bad as you’d think it would be. And then they’d come back and punch me in the face when it was much harder than I said.

    I do think, though, that there is value in feeling like you’ve done a lot of stuff you want to do before leaping into parenthood. I’ve traveled and done careery things and spent lots of time quietly reading (on beaches and otherwise) so I don’t feel even the tiniest bit of resentment/regret and I embrace even the most tedious of parenting tasks. In fact, I was downright desperate to have a baby by the time we did, and I think that goes a long way in making it the best thing ever, whereas at an earlier time in my life I might not have had the same outlook.

  • 6. Lawyerish  |  June 1st, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Jeez, typos much? Am typing on BlackBerry while nursing. Forgive.

  • 7. Life of a Doctor's Wife  |  June 1st, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I’m one of those non-parents who often wonders if kids are worth it. Will I miss out on too much of the selfish stuff? Can I really deal with never sleeping again? Nine months with no margaritas?!?!

    This post helped. A LOT. Thank you!

  • 8. Kristabella  |  June 1st, 2010 at 11:44 am

    What a great post, Jonna!

    I don’t have kids, but I try to be really involved in the lives of my nieces and nephews. And I know these feelings of joy! And I’m just their Auntie! I can only imagine what it is like on a daily basis and getting to witness it first hand.

    I love my single life most days, but I can’t WAIT to have kids and just experience being a mom.

  • 9. Steph  |  June 1st, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I really loved this post!! I don’t write often enough or speak often enough about the joy that is being a parent for the same reasons!! This will remind me to do just that!!

  • 10. Artemisia  |  June 1st, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Well, shit. You did a good job of selling it here. I have always thought I don’t want kids. Now I am entering my mid-thirties and am starting to wonder. My partner, however, is still a firm “no.”

    And now this post. Damn you, Jonniker!

  • 11. Li  |  June 1st, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    totally relating to every. line. of. this, post.

    ps — i want to run into you, too! maybe we need to make a plan to actually make it happen?

  • 12. Shea  |  June 1st, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Please explain how you got to the point of the sleeping- through the whole night because my 15 month old still feels the need to breastfeed about 4 times a night and sometimes just all night long.

  • 13. TwoBusy  |  June 1st, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    a) still waiting to run into you at Target.

    b) SitterCity. We struggled with the sitter thing for… uh… about six years, until I finally signed up. Is magic, and the freedom of an occasional night out (with us! with us!) is worth the investment in the program.

    c) CELTS IN THE FINALS!!!

  • 14. anna  |  June 1st, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I just love the way you write about being a mother. My son is only 7 weeks old, but I feel the same way. It is just the most amazing thing watching a tiny person you created hang out in the world. I think it also helps that I had a lot of practice with kids/observing parenthood. I watched my husband’s sister and my brother become parents and I was a nanny to a young boy and then an infant when his brother was born. I was all prepared for the bad stuff – no sleep, breastfeeding trouble, screamy baby – but so far it has been so much better than I expected. I’m hoping this is a continuing trend since I’m also well aware that as soon as you get used to one thing, your kid decides to change things up on you.

  • 15. Christine  |  June 1st, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Lady, you made me teary. Although that could be hormones, and I will be a walking cliche, but there you have it.

    So happy for you!

  • 16. Kristen  |  June 1st, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I have been reading for a while, but am finally de-lurking. This post was just too damn good not to comment! I have a 5-month old son who is the love of my and my husband’s life. And yes, our relationship is now enriched in so many ways. Yes, the interruptions in sleep can be a bear. And the inconsistent naps can be frustrating, but the giggles, the unbridled joy, and the spontaneous squeels make it all worth it and then some. And our journey is only just beginning! Thanks for sharing so openly about your motherhood experience!

  • 17. kvetchingfortwo  |  June 1st, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    I’m 9 weeks pregnant, on purpose, but kind of freaking out about all I’m about to give up in a few short months. A friend of mine who I recently confided in just sent me this post, and I just wanted to say thanks. Tears are streaming down my cheeks (damn hormones!) and I feel a little more reassured that it’s all going to feel worth it. I will probably be like you, and get all snarky rather than gushy when someone asks me about parenthood. But you and I will know the truth.

  • 18. jonniker  |  June 1st, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Shea: I totally will. I’ve been meaning to, but it’s one of those things that is just! so! long! to explain or write about, plus people get wanky when you mention Erber-Fay.

    Kvetching: OH! You made me get teary. You are in for so much fun. You are. You won’t even realize what you’re giving up, honestly, because you’re GETTING stuff, too. Big-time stuff. Big-time, thrilling, gorgeous, fun stuff. Yes, you will have days when you just want to read a book in silence — the WHOLE DAY — but that is just the moment your kid will do something amazing and you’ll forget you even considered it.

    I am so excited for you!

  • 19. Gina  |  June 2nd, 2010 at 8:22 am

    I adore my daughter, but like you, I always default to mildly complainy when asked about parenthood. As if it’s unacceptable to say “Eva? She’s my freaking sunshine” when it’s the absolute truth. And, I wholeheartedly agree that my marraige is better since having her. We can let the little things slide so much more easily now. There’s less pointless bickering.

  • 20. Ginger  |  June 2nd, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Oh, you just nailed all my feelings about having the kiddo. I just think we are getting so much more out of the deal than we’re giving up–like we won this crazy amazing lottery and how did we not know how amazing it would be? I know I’m lucky because my kid is really easy but damn if I don’t want to show him everything just to see how he views it. (He’s 9 months so right now he views it as–hey look something to try and put in my mouth!).
    It’s the big stuff, the little stuff, and the stuff you just didn’t even know would be so cool, like watching them reach for you when they’re tired or laugh up at their daddy or taste a new food. The whole having a kid thing is so much cooler than I ever thought it would be!

  • 21. KT  |  June 2nd, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    With my husband and I starting to try to get pregnant this month, thank you for this post. We just spent Memorial Day weekend with 20 kids and it was overwhelming. We didn’t change our minds and our friends always tell us that it is well worth it….but it’s always nice to hear that from someone that doesn’t want you to get pregnant so that we can have playdates!

  • 22. Nothing But Bonfires  |  June 2nd, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    See, I love this. Because all I ever read on the Internet is how hard it is to have a kid and how I’m never going to be able to shower again or sleep past 5am or take a plane ride without six months of preparation and twenty people glaring at me, and I’ve got to tell you: you read enough of that kind of thing and it puts you off having babies. THE INTERNET HAS PUT ME OFF HAVING BABIES. But then I read something like this and it’s like a massive exhale. I think oh! It’s not ALL bad then! I COULD do it! What a relief.

  • 23. Shin Ae  |  June 3rd, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Agreed. Completely.

    Also, my older son did that with the dogs, except he would yell “FUFF” in kind of this long, whiny, way that was hilarious. A tiny 1 cm dog picture on the back of some package in the supermarket would send him into hysterical fuffing and pointing.

  • 24. willikat  |  June 5th, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    thanks for this post.

  • 25. Dorine Ricci  |  September 12th, 2012 at 3:12 am

    You’ll still be you. But it doesn’t make a difference what I say, because you have to find out for yourself. That’s the truth.

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