Why it’s never “just like Mom used to make”

On Wednesday evening, we had a Rosh Hashanah dinner on our enclosed back porch that – aside from the addition of some Hebrew prayers, and challah, apples and honey, and candles on the table – resembled a typical (read: maddening) family dinner involving an infant and a 3 year old: Lily immediately started whining about not wanting to eat what was on her plate; when we coerced her into trying a bite, she cried, red-faced, with her food-stuffed mouth hanging open, and she wailed that she didn’t like it just before she spit it out; Neve woke up halfway through the meal, grumpy and hungry, so Joe held her while I shoveled the rest of my dinner into my mouth and left to feed the baby in a more comfortable chair; Lily started negotiating how many bites of each part of her dinner she needed to eat to qualify for dessert, and asked Joe to put some peanut butter on a piece of challah; and finally, when Joe and Lily had had their dessert, I finished feeding Neve, handed her off to Joe, and headed to the porch to have my dessert course alone.

“What did you get?” I asked Joe, who’d picked up various items at the Franklin Cider Mill the night before.

“A pumpkin pie. For you.”

I popped open the plastic container and cut a slice for myself, resuming my place at the table. The candles were burning down, the world was rainy and dark outside the windows, and the littered, abandoned battlefield of the dinner table, which I would soon need to clean up, lay before me.

But then I tasted the pie and thought of my mother. Continue reading

Mommy’s got something to prove – to whom?

When Lily was a newborn, one of the only things that consistently soothed her was being toted around in a sling – so we walked around town with our “baby in a bag” quite a bit.

On one occasion, a neighbor, after peeking inside the sling to see our then-sleeping new addition, admonished me and Joe to “cherish this time,” because we’d never get it back, and it would all go so fast.

We nodded gravely, but Joe and I exchanged subtle glances that conveyed that we were both mentally circling a pointed finger aside our heads in a “cuckoo” gesture. Was this guy meshugge? Having your sleep constantly and randomly interrupted; being screamed at for long stretches, and feeling absolutely helpless to soothe your child; being shat and spit up upon regularly; and not being able to eat a meal together in peace (let alone eat a meal, or take a shower, when flying solo with the baby) – this was the apex of parenthood? Seriously?

Joe and I shook our heads while walking back to our house, agreeing that, from what we could tell so far, the baby phase was something to be endured rather than “cherished.”

Now, of course, our family lineup has changed, and we have a boundary-pushing 3 year old as well as a newborn in the house. And this long-past, casual conversation with a neighbor has come to have far more resonance for me.

This is partly due, surely, to the fact that Neve is a low-key, sleepy, easily comforted baby, and I’ve enjoyed the baby phase much more the second time around (when the anxiety is generally lower, anyway). But I think the primary reason I’m recalling this exchange lately is because I’m realizing that handling a newborn, despite its challenges, is relatively simple when compared to the self-doubt/guilt/misery spiral involved in disciplining your average, volatile 3 year old, who’s prone to operatic, irrational tirades. Continue reading