* Joe and I took Lily to see “Tangled” this past weekend at the nearby, second-run theater, and the basic premise, of course, involves a witch stealing Rapunzel as a baby from her parents (who are the land’s king and queen). In the movie version, the beloved king and queen, as well as their subjects, release glowing lanterns that float up into the sky each year on the girl’s birthday, in hopes that she will return. By Rapunzel’s 18th birthday, after being shut up in a high tower her whole life, she ventures out to see this ceremony in person; and simultaneously, we see the king and queen briefly behind-the-scenes, just before they step outside to release a lantern once again.
It’s probably about 30 seconds of film, and involves the father looking inconsolably sad, while the mother touches his cheek in comfort. And at this point, I completely fell apart, quietly crying while Lily sat attentively on my lap.
This throwaway little scene that would have passed me right by a few years ago. But the difference, I’m sure, is that while I would have empathy for these characters before, and would have vaguely imagined what the loss of a child might feel like, Lily makes these kind of scenes powerfully concrete rather than merely abstract. There’s not a blank, faceless child in my mind; it’s Lily’s face, and cry, and laugh, and smile, and voice. The thought of her, and the very specifics that make her who she is, being suddenly taken away is too devastating to even imagine.
Hence my turning into a weepy mom during a Disney movie – despite the fact that in the past, I established a reputation for being pretty stony while watching movies and plays. (The phrase “dead inside” has surfaced more than once.) But apparently, my falling head over heels in love with this little girl has endowed me with a new Achille’s heel.
* I recently wrote a post about my reluctance re: Barbie’s presence in my home, and while talking with my father recently, he mentioned that my mother felt similarly, and that she, like me, had made a point of not introducing the influential toy into our lives herself. (Apparently, this happened by way of a relative who gave us the dolls as gifts, much to my mother’s dismay.) “She hated those things,” my Dad said. So interesting what you continue to learn about a parent after they’re gone. I wish I could ask her about her reasons – body issues? the idealized blue-eyed-blond thing? – but I like thinking that she had more of a feminist streak than I realized.
* The instinct for mommy guilt is so crazily close to the surface at all times. While writing about a terrible recent morning I had with Lily, I looked, with more objectivity, at the moment when she resisted going to daycare, and how I almost immediately translated her anger into judgment re: my mothering, instead of taking it at face value (and let’s face it, two year olds only traffic in “face value,” no?). As far as Lily knows, every kid in the world goes to full-time daycare, so while she might, on some days, get it into her head that she doesn’t want to go, she’ll never be judging me for my decision to continue working. That’s all on my end. And our culture is so good at indoctrinating us (particularly women) with the idea that we’re never doing enough for our kids that we become our own worst enemies; and even the most feminist, fulfilled working woman in the world immediately translates a child’s temporary unhappiness with judgment. It’s messed up. But by reminding myself of this from time to time, I’m trying to de-program that guilt reflex that’s so deeply embedded in my brain.
* So Joe and I scored a recent victory for laid back, perhaps even “lazy,” parenting. During the last couple of months, Lily has adamantly fought switching over from the toddler room to pre-school, despite the fact that she’s been physically, intellectually, and emotionally ready to move on. Her teachers would gently ask Lily each day if she wanted to spend a little time in pre-school, and each day, she said “no.” Joe and I tried to make a big issue of it, or put pressure on her, but talking casually about pre-school every once and a while didn’t seem to be turning the tide, so we pretty much let it go.
Then, on the Wednesday that we were SUPPOSED to get a foot of snow, only a handful of kids from all the different rooms showed up at the daycare center. The kids were all pooled together and spent much of the day in the pre-school rooms, where they did some sort of art project with shaving cream and watched a bit of “101 Dalmatians.” The next morning, Lily told me, “I want to go to pre-school.” So we dropped her stuff off in the toddler room and got the green-light for Lily to spend the rest of the morning in pre-school before returning to the toddler room for lunch and a nap. She had the same request the next day, and beginning on the following Monday (Valentine’s Day), she’d made the transition completely.
This ultimately reinforced a truth that holds true for kids and adults: sometimes, you’re just not ready until you’re ready, and no amount of pushing and prodding is going to speed up that process. This applied to me when the issues of marriage and possibly having a child arose; and it obviously applied to Lily in terms of letting her feel like she was ready to move on, regardless of what everyone else had to say on the matter.
Some things in this regard are easier than others. The picky eating thing, for instance, is one in which we’re trying to lead Lily to new things, despite her wariness and uncertainty; and the potty training issue is one we’re trying to encourage without making it a pressure cooker situation. As soon as something becomes a battle of wills, the issue at its center is lost in the fight, as far as I can tell.
So in this instance, repeatedly letting go of the need (and compunction) to try and control Lily conveniently involves being less stressed and less consumed by the various, sometimes difficult, changes she’s inevitably going through.
Lazy parenting? Perhaps. But it seems to be working. Indeed, this seems to be one of those rare cases where, if you just try to stop fighting against nature, life becomes easier for everyone involved.
* One more addition to the “what’s different about pregnancy this time around” list: I’m running outdoors whenever possible throughout the winter this time, even though I was previously paranoid about only running on a treadmill when ice and snow was on the ground while pregnant. I kind of despise the treadmill – it feels so much harder than running outdoors, largely because you’re not going anywhere, and you can’t naturally adjust your pace constantly like you can when running outdoors. So I’m being watchful and only running outdoors in daylight, obviously, and it’s still hard to carve out the time to do this a few times a week; but I’ve nonetheless been venturing out fairly often. And I’m MUCH happier doing so then shlepping to the nearby gym after Lily’s in bed.
Also, because the baby bump is now getting more pronounced, I’m getting double-takes from passersby when I’m out running. But I can’t worry about that; and my hope is that some of the people who are surprised by seeing me out will get more and more used to the sight of a pregnant woman running.
* I had my amniocentesis a few weeks ago, and I was surprised when the woman performing an ultrasound, in order to look for a place to inject the needle, asked if I wanted to know the baby’s sex.
Joe and I didn’t find out the first time around, and we’re not finding out this time, either; but I was so taken aback by the information being suddenly available to me (earlier than I expected) in that moment that it took a moment or two for me to get the word “no” out. And I’ll admit, though I haven’t been consumed by curiosity in the case of either pregnancy – so taken was I with the idea of being surprised in the moment of birth – I was tempted, in that brief, passing moment when it was just me and the technician, to find out.
This unexpected desire took me aback – as though the brief sight of the apple of knowledge suddenly made me want something I hadn’t before. But it wouldn’t have been fair to Joe, who was in mediation all day, nor to our agreement. So I came to my senses and shook it off.
But knowledge is a powerfully tempting thing indeed.
* Recently, Lily skipped along the snow-cleared sidewalk and excitedly sang, “We’re going to storytime!” as the three of us headed to the library one Thursday evening – and these are the precise moments you’d like to bottle up and have forever. (And why Taylor Swift’s song “Never Grow Up” gets me every time.)