04 September 2008

What The Fuck is Chasing Ursula?

It’s been so long since my last post. I’m a bad blogger. Little Z is now Big Z, eight months old and speeding toward nine. She can crawl, stand, cruise along the sofa, yell like a pirate, fart like a sailor, use her pincer grip on cheerios and lovingly say, Da da and Jihad. She has two teeth (which have more than put a damper on breast feeding) and a smile that lights the world on fire. I’m jealous of my mom friends who post weekly and have a lovely chronicle of these precious days. I find myself spent and lacking creativity at the day’s end. Sleep deprivation began sometime mid-pregnancy and persists to this day. It’s a wonder I can construct a grammatically correct sentence and an even greater wonder that the bathroom is clean.

I don’t have words to express how much I love her. It’s excruciating. I don’t know what I expected, but this love is enormous, beautifully painful and incontrovertible. At the end of the day, I think, love alone is not enough. I must be a thoughtful and engaged steward of her becoming and I must play with her relentlessly. It’s difficult to play relentlessly amidst the mountain of dirty laundry. The singularly most unexpected aspect of motherhood has been the volume of dirty laundry. She’s so tiny, I still don’t understand how she accomplishes soiling so much.

I’m getting the hang of living with her. It’s been a process and just when I think I’ve got something down, things change – she changes, she grows, her capabilities change and yes, even, sometimes I change. In truth, mostly, I change. She teaches me all kinds of things and I discover I’m a slow learner, but I’m getting the hang of it. Just give me time to learn to crawl.

I love alphabet books and Z’s friend Luke gave her a charming board book called Zoe and Her Zebra. Each page dons a letter and says, for example, A is for Alexander, but who is chasing him? And there’ll be a picture of an alligator chasing a boy. But then there are conundrums like this one:

This problem isn’t unique to Zoe and Her Zebra. It’s foreboding. I wonder if I’m going to be able to keep up with her. Not only is there New Math, but there seems to be new and bemusing things that start with the letter U.

I’m mystified by this changing understanding of myself – this new identity of mother. While on the one hand, I want to maintain some well rounded balance of interests and activities, there’s another part of me that believes being wholly a mom is the most important thing I could be doing right now. This is such a critical time developmentally. What could be more important (or more interesting) than swimming, hiking, painting, playing, whispering, singing, napping, reading, dancing, laughing, talking, eating, or dreaming with her?

She won’t remember this time. Who does? But I believe it’s an important time for establishing expectations of relationships and the world. I want to show her wonder and laughter and help her to recognize the world as a place filled with joy and possibilities, mysteries and adventure. I want to cultivate an expectation of laughter in each day and manifest it, even if it’s stirred in right next to sorrow and frustration – the pot holds it all. I want to give her a good strong canvass on which to paint her life and her story – and I want to honor her brush strokes. I believe in her ability to reach. She always seems to come back with something in her hand.

And who am I in that picture? Will she say (or quietly believe) that her mother lacked ambition? My identity is increasingly mom. It’s like I’m being taken over by it. It’s been a surprisingly easy surrender.