“Don’t leave me. Please don’t leave,” my three year-old sobs. But after a kiss and a hug (from her end, it’s more like a tight, pleading grasp), I do leave her. Then, I run into the preschool bathroom, wipe away my own tears and go home. Three weeks into preschool and Dylan still doesn’t want to be left alone. Of course, she is not alone. She is surrounded by other children and loving teachers who take care of her.
As we all know, it’s possible to be surrounded by many people and still feel lonely. Motherhood can feel lonely. Or not. Singlehood can feel lonely. Or not. It’s strange to be in New York (a city of 8 million people) and once in a while find yourself pretty much alone – whether you’re walking down a quiet street or eating in a restaurant at an off hour.
Dylan, Summer and I started taking this “Oh Francais” class at a kids’ place called Baby Moves in the West Village. It’s a fun 45 minutes except that we are the only ones in the class. I’m sure others will join as the weather turns colder but for now it’s just us. It all feels a bit silly and awkward as the teacher goes though her French songs and games. We don’t even speak French. But I work my derriere off in that class – singing, jumping around and trying to make up for the absent children.
I’ve had times in my life where I’ve felt very lonely – when I graduated from college and didn’t know how to start a new life or when I was a TV anchor/reporter in Great Falls, Montana. I felt like a displaced city girl in search of connections among the cows and the big sky. Friends like Jen and Diana saved me that time.
Right now in my life, I don’t feel lonely. If fact, there are times I could use a little more alone time. But I understand how Dylan feels. It’s hard to step out of our comfort zone and experience something new and scary. But it’s a must for all of us if we want to grow, expand and feel fulfilled.
Every time I drop her off, I promise Dylan I will always pick her up. That’s what we all have to remember. No matter how difficult something is or how lonely we feel, someone (our family, our friends, our partners) will always pick us up.
mama bird notes
We have a new feature on the mama bird diaries called “contributing mamas.” These mamas will share their smart, clever and humorous insights with us. We love moms who tell the truth (makes the rest of us feel much less crazy). Daphne Biener, our first contributing mama, is trying to find out who moved her boobs. Daphne, if you find out, I’d like to know who moved mine. Click on “contributing mamas” on the menu bar to read more.
By Daphne Biener
We were heading to a family wedding over Labor Day, and I, not one to embrace the shopping experience under the best of times, decided it was time to buy a new dress. I’ll give you an idea of how often I willingly undertake such a mission. I’m pretty sure the last time I tried one on I had to peal down leg warmers – navy blue ones with whales and hearts and matching sweater (lest you think that somehow I was in on last year’s fashion trend). Nevertheless, with my fashion consultants (ok my daughters, age 6 ½ and 4) giddy and in tow, I hit Nordstrom and found a gorgeous dress.
I stood in the 360 degree mirror, letting the girls “ooh” and “aah” at the rarely seen sight of mommy outside of her jeans. As has been happening since I was 15, the palm of one hand moved quickly into position, protectively covering the pooch. It tried in vain to flatten the sucker. The saleswoman, Hilda, winked. “Not that you need anything, ah-hem, but have you ever tried Spanx?” Hallelujah! Who knew such miracles existed? My years of self-imposed exile from the fashion world have served me poorly.
With my tummy neatly contained beneath the blue silk of my new dress-to-be, I turned my attention to my breasts. I guess I haven’t paid them much mind lately, what with breastfeeding a thing of the past and Mardi Gras a thing of a distant era. Apparently, like me, they have settled down. Waaaaay down. Hilda noticed too. “Don’t worry, we’ll get lingerie over here, hon.”
Lingerie came, armed with what she claimed to be bras. They were not. They looked like raw chicken cutlets held together with the twist-tie from a bagel bag. Doubtful but willing, I suctioned them on to my pathetic breasts and danced a bit for the girls’ amusement. They grabbed the remaining samples and jammed them onto their sweet young chests, propelling me momentarily into their teenage years (of which I am very very afraid) and stopping my heart.
You can read more of Daphne’s work here on the mama bird diaries or visit her site, Sestina Queen.
My Jewish husband is hungry and cranky. Very cranky. As a gentile, it’s hard to rally behind this holiday. Yom Kippur is not a fun, happy celebration like Passover or Hanukkah. It’s a day of atonement. Note to my fellow shiksas: avoid chirping, “Happy Yom Kippur” to hungry Jewish friends.
My husband insists there is a purpose behind the fasting. Suffering (even just a little bit) opens your eyes. It allows you to take a step back, examine yourself and reset your goals. You ask for forgiveness for mistakes and resolve to be a better mother, sister, daughter and person in the new year.
I like that. All of us could use a little forgiveness. To my husband, forgive me for not letting go sometimes and letting you parent in your own way. Also, forgive me for being such a neat freak that I remake the bed after you’ve already made it. To my daughters, forgive me for rushing around sometimes like a crazed mama. To my mother, forgive me for everything I said to you from ages 13 to 19. I’m sure my own daughters will seek retribution.
In this new Jewish year, I promise to always kiss my husband goodbye, even if he is in the shower and the girls and I are late for preschool. I promise to never again drink a large cafe mocha and a bottle of water at the beginning of a road trip and then 20 minutes later complain that I have to pee (just as the kids have fallen asleep in the backseat). To my children, I promise to pack your favorite snacks, never lie to you and always be the person who will listen to you and take care of you (whether you are 3 or 33 or 103 – although I might not be around when you are 103).
To myself, I promise to follow my creative ambitions, do things that bring me joy, take care of my family, love and laugh with my husband, connect with my friends (my real friends, not the ones on the “The Hills”), be kind to others and be good to this earth.
So maybe Yom Kippur is not my ideal way to spend a day (especially as someone who isn’t Jewish) because hungry people can be very cranky. Although I admit, the smoked fish platters at sundown are quite yummy. Even without fasting, the Jewish holiday made me stop, reflect and think about the person I want to be. So for that, I am grateful.
These crisp, beautiful fall days make me very nervous. I absolutely love this time of year but I know what’s coming next. That crazy, chilly, claustrophobic thing called winter. I know some of you love it. Fluffy snowmen, hot chocolate, big warm sweaters. My mountain mama friend Daphne sure makes the season look fun. She sends me pictures of her daughters in Colorado, tramping around in the fresh packed snow, having a delightful time.
Fashion magazines are also thrilled with the new season. They are bursting with extra thick issues of fall and winter styles. Apparently, all those pouffy, billoughy frocks are out. Structured, sharper silhouettes are in. Hope you didn’t invest in too many baby doll dresses. Even if you did, you can soon hide it all under a big winter coat.
But it’s just tough for me to embrace. The sun barely goes down on labor day and my daughers’ noses start to run. Now with preschool, we have to figure out if our kids are too contagious to even bring to school. We inspect the color of the snot for clues. I finally don’t have to pick up dog poop anymore, yet I am now analyzing my child’s tissues. Does the color even matter? Yuck.
During winter, we get trapped in messy, stuffy homes, as icy gray weather blows outside. It can be an isolating time for mothers who need to keep their stir crazy children from getting more stirred and more crazy. When we do venture out, strangers make helpful comments like, “your daughter really should have a hat on.” Of course, she should have a hat on. That’s why I tried to put one on her about 15 times. Yes, I see that her fingers are blue. I have no idea why she’s not cold.
I’m a t-shirt and flip flops kind of girl. My friend Sam is too. The girl will wear flip flops when it’s 25 degrees outside just so she doesn’t have to admit it’s winter. I get it. I like seeing my painted toenails all day.
I’m not a total scrooge for winter. I do like the magical holiday lights strewn on branches, store windows and homes throughout the city. I love the taste of a hot cafe mocha when the air is extra chilled and the smell of red currant candles. Tired children go to sleep more quickly when it’s dark outside. I can connect inside with cool mama friends in the neighborhood. So I’ll get through it. But we are booking a warm weather trip in January just to give us a little boost. And today, after nap time, we are all going out to enjoy the warm sunshine.
mama bird notes
Beauty update for all of us mamas who could use a little more plucking, primping and highlighting. Finally, we all have our own personal beauty consultant. You can now post your comments and questions for Alex on the beauty diary. This week Alex has found some divine products that will revitalize your body and mind (that’s a lot to pack into one bottle). Enjoy the glow.
Do you have four minutes? My San Fran gal Sarah sent this to me and I enjoyed it immensely. http://erickerickson.org/blog/
This is not who I want to be. I don’t want to be yelling at my 3 year-old. I don’t want to be this parent. I want to be laughing, hugging and playing. But I’m constantly being pushed to the edge. Each day, I start anew, thinking this is the day she will be easier. This is the day I will come up with clever, creative ways to deal with her unbending will. But she’s already in a time-out for pinching her sister (yet again) and it’s 7:45 a.m.. Oh mercy.
Dylan’s stubbornness can be unyielding. At a time when we might be transitioning her into a big girl bed, she now refuses to sleep anywhere but a pack-n-play in mommy and daddy’s room (it’s only set up for her baby sister’s nap time). Dylan can’t even stretch out in there but apparently that’s where she wants to be.
Dylan, a shy girl from the start, ignores our neighbors who only want to say hello. One neighbor actually thought Dylan was deaf because she never even looks up when the woman says hi to her. But with us, she comfortably yells, “NO!” at the top of her lungs when it’s clean-up time, bath time or any other time she deems unpleasant. Although she bubbles with excitement when her sister is around, Dylan also constantly pinches, hits and grabs at Summer. Of course, Dylan has moments of warmth, laughter and ease throughout the day but they are often just sprinkled amongst the meltdowns and discontent.
I used to watch “Supernanny” and just feel so sorry for those good intentioned parents who get steamrolled by their unruly children. Now I’m starting to feel a bit sorry for myself. But I know this is just a toddler phase. Each morning I try to forgive myself for yesterday’s mistakes and vow to be a more caring, sensitive and patient parent. Today on the way to preschool, I pointed out to Dylan how the rays of morning sun hit the buildings on West 4th street. “Isn’t it beautiful?” She agreed. And for the next few blocks, she pointed out to me all the spots where sparkling sunlight covered windows, steps and sidewalks on the quaint street. On the way home, we looked for airplanes in the sky and tried to jump on our shadows. These are moments of peace when Dylan and I connect. These are the moments when I am the kind of parent I strive to be.