Thursday, April 20, 2017

Parenting: Part II

I used to be a professional rapper.  Wait … no.  That came out wrong.  What I meant to say is that one time I got wasted in Manhattan and then spent the evening free-style rapping with a group of men who I have to assume were in a professional rap group.  Or maybe they were cokedealers, it’s hard to say.  What I CAN tell you is that in the morning it was obvious that I had slept with one of them so I’m pretty sure I made the team.  Also, despite feeling really confident that I had been in Manhattan, it was soberingly clear the next day that I was now in New Jersey.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not well-suited to be a parent.  I’m not someone who “works hard to achieve their goals” or “learns from their mistakes.”  Instead I’ve spent my life bucking authority, never reading the rules in the first place  thereby ultimately breaking them and being severely punished — and, most embarrassingly, realizing that my peers had been trudging along in an orderly fashion for years and were now young professionals whereas I was in rehab.  My life has been a real slap in the face.

Clearly parenting was not part of the plan.  While I was aware that other people were having children, it was obvious to me that I would instead be having whiskey so I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what would ultimately be required.  Most of my childhood friends had children years ago and I wondered what had happened to them.  I saw women who used to excel at joint-rolling now swaddling their newborns with the same sort of intense precision and I wondered why they had traded in ganja for shitty diapers.  Also, what was all the fuss about?  Couldn’t you just throw a blanket on the kid and call it a day?  What was this perfect origami sheet situation and how could it possibly be important?  I watched my friends fret about their kid’s schoolwork, struggle to buy houses in “good school districts” whatever that meant, and meticulously chronicle their children’s sports activities, social events, physical fitness, and general wellbeing.  In the end, I figured having offspring was unlikely, but if it happened I wasn’t going to become one of them

I constructed a belief that is already dissolving before my eyes: I Am Not Going To Be A Helicopter Parent!

When Perfect Daughter was born, I played it pretty fast and loose.  I didn’t insist that people antibacterial their entire bodies prior to holding my kin.  I brought her out of the house pretty quickly with no fears of her absorbing world germs into her tiny, new, pristine immune system.  I wasn’t going to be overbearing and over-involved or keep my kid in a glass castle.  She was gonna be passed around like a cocktail.  She was going to meet new people and like it!  She was going to nap when she was tired, eat when she was hungry, and wear whatever the fuck I had laying around.  I wasn’t going to fall victim to this belief that your kid needs to be sheltered and programmed and calendared and scheduled.  My kid was gonna live it up and we were gonna roll with the punches!!!

This lasted for around three months during which she mostly slept and ate so there was little else to be accomplished.  But, as soon as she started making eye contact and showing interest in the world around her, I started to panic.

Me: Husband!  She’s looking at me!  What are three month olds supposed to be doing?!

Husband: What?

Me:  Like, am I supposed to be doing something?  Surely she’s supposed to be learning something.  I can’t just sit here like an asshole.

Husband: I think she’s supposed to be raising her head?

Me: Shit!  Raising her head?!  And here I’ve been letting her lie around like a fucking blob.  Head raising … what the fuck … How did you even know that?

Husband: I Googled it.

Me: You Googled what?

Husband: What’s my three-month-old supposed to be doing?

Me: You. Are. Fucking. Brilliant.

Little did Husband know he was watching the beginning of my demise.  I started a daily Google search so that I could track the milestones Perfect Daughter was supposed to be achieving and, like a good drug addict, I got hooked.  Before I knew it, I could not be bothered with any activity that did not immediately further her ascension to first female president or C.E.O. or Soul Cycle Instructor.  Perfect Daughter was going to take over the world and clearly she needed me to guide her.  I started demanding that all toys be educational.  I banned rice cereal because there have been studies that show it is laced with arsenic.  I forbid all walkers, jumpers, and other gadgets that would have ultimately made my life significantly easier. 

I adopted a theory that, if I was happy or relaxed, my child wasn’t engaged and therefore she wasn’t learning which meant she would probably end up homeless or worse, find herself in a position where she thought she was auditioning for a rap group in New York.  Luckily, my inner-voice did a wonderful job of keeping me on track.  Anytime I thought a nap sounded nice, the alarms would ring and the helicopter parent that was growing inside me would scream, “A NAP?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME, YOU LAZY FUCK?!  MUST BE NICE TO TOTALLY CHECK OUT WHILE YOUR PERFECT DAUGHTER LEARNS LITERALLY NOTHING AND THEN SLEEPS UNDER A BRIDGE SOMEWHERE FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE.  IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?!  NEXT THING YOU KNOW, YOU’LL BE LETTING HER PARTICIPATE IN SCREEN TIME, YOU PATHETIC DEGENERATE!”

Things were not going well and I was about to embark in every Helicopter Parent’s worst nightmare — daycare.  This is when you leave your child with strangers who you’re certain aren’t as smart as you despite the fact that you’ve had six months of experience with a child and they’ve had literal years.  Regardless, I was on high alert and things started to spiral out of control.

In the beginning, I attempted the Perfect Mother approach.  I brought pastries in on my first day.  Then I started handing out individualized gifts to each caretaker with thoughtful notes written on behalf of Perfect Daughter.  I sent emails with helpful hints and suggestions in case they were wondering how to fulfill Perfect Daughter’s every want and desire.  When these offerings weren’t met with immediate responsiveness and gratitude, I concluded that my child was being held hostage by a band of self-important dimwits.  I became increasingly suspicious and paranoid that these women were somehow trying to outsmart me.  I couldn’t exactly tell what they were doing wrong but I knew it was something and I was determined to get to the bottom of it.

For starters, I found it to be very suspicious that someone was always holding Perfect Daughter every day when I picked her up.  There’s a lock on the door (which I approved of because it will keep out the murderers that are rampant in suburban Glendale, CA), so I have to knock every time I come to get my precious cargo.  I concluded that they were waiting to see which parent’s car pulled up, at which point they would pay extra special attention to that person’s baby in order to make it look like our children were in the hands of loving caretakers and not THE LITERAL MONSTERS I had convinced myself they were. 

Thus began an eccentric car hiding process — I would park in places that would not reveal my car so they couldn’t look out the window and ready themselves for my arrival.  AH-HA!!!  I braced myself to find my beautiful fawn chained to furniture or otherwise abandoned.  I shared my beliefs with Husband and he threatened divorce then suggested potential hospitals where I could maybe “get some rest” and “meet some new friends.”  I could tell he didn’t love our daughter nearly as much as I did and I felt sad that he would have to live alone someday while Perfect Daughter and I moved forward together in our impeccable lives void of pacifiers (NO!) and nonorganic baby food (ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!).

But my imagined fate never materialized.  Each day, I walked in to find Perfect Daughter in varying degrees of self-soothing, independent play, or otherwise general happiness in the loving arms of an Armenian woman. 

At this point, I was exhausted.  Maybe it was from all the extra miles I was walking to daycare while my car hid near a row of camouflaging bushes.   Maybe my eyes were weakened from the tireless amounts of reading I had done on which toys are best if you want your six month old to eventually attend an Ivy League school.  Or maybe my brain was scrambled from the constant demands my inner-Helicopter Parent voice was barking at me involving reading books together every day, having a consistent sleep schedule, only dressing your child in cotton pajamas, making sure they get 10-12 hours of sleep a night, don’t forget to lose that baby weight!  OH MY GOD, STOP EVERYTHING, SHE LOOKED AT THE TELEVISION!  ALL IS LOST!

I’ve regressed.  After the stalker/believed-to-be hostage situation, I threw in the towel. 
 Perfect Daughter was obviously fine and I was obviously about to spontaneously combust. I stopped trying to trick her caretakers, I’ve started letting her eat whatever she wants, and I don’t panic if someone tries to put her in a jumper (although I will monitor her tirelessly).  Ultimately, I just want Perfect Daughter to be happy.  I want her to be safe and I want her to be healthy.  And every day I try like hell to be a good parent because at the end of the day, I think we all just want the same thing for our kids — each morning, when they wake up, we want them to know which state they’re in.    

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Parenting: Part I

Well, hell has officially frozen over — a small child has been left in my care and it’s just dawning on me that I am literally responsible for her for the rest of my life.  In the beginning, after accepting the horrific physical ailments I was left to overcome, I started to settle into this parenting thing I’d heard of.  I had acquired virtually no parenting skills, nor had I picked up any tips throughout the duration of my life, so I was very much going in blind.  All I had in my arsenal was a series of beliefs I had developed while single.

First and foremost: I Am Not Going To Let A Child Keep Me From Living My Life!

As an adolescent, I would scoff at sad women wrestling with strollers on busy city streets.  I felt sorry for them and thought to myself, “I will never let having a baby keep me from living my life and having a good time.”  This seemed like a reasonable and achievable ideal but I’m sad to say I’ve fallen short.  It’s unclear whether I’ll be able to overcome my current obstacles or if I should just get a Kate Plus 8 haircut and throw in the towel.

To be fair, things started off wonderfully.  Within a week of having Perfect Daughter ripped from my abdomen, I was sauntering over to Target to pick up a few things I needed.  In the beginning, I took Perfect Daughter with me everywhere.  If she was sleeping and someone commented on what a good child she was, I took full responsibility as though I had already imparted some sort of parental wisdom onto her  when, in all reality, the smaller the baby, the more they sleep.  Regardless, I felt pretty proud of myself for all I had accomplished.   It could not have been easier and I was wondering what all the fuss was about.  Perhaps it was the pain meds talking, but I started calling all my friends and telling them to go ahead and have babies because it was easy As Fuck.  Perfect Daughter and I were living life to the fullest.  We went shopping, we went for walks, we cooked dinners, we napped.  It was glorious. 

From there, things devolved into total pandemonium.  The thing about fatigue is that at first it’s cute — you have an extra little buzz going as you move through your day and it’s just the kick in the rear that you needed.  After two weeks, you’re wired but it’s kind of nice because you feel sort of high and you realize you can survive solely on cigarettes and espresso and you start to feel very European.  After a month you realize that having a baby was a huge mistake and you would complain to your friends about it but you no longer have time to talk to them nor are you able to shower or get dressed.  One day while I was sitting in my apartment, covered in my own filth and trying to figure out how to sleep and eat at the same time, I wondered how things had unraveled to such a degree. 

Then I returned to work.  And all hell broke loose.  On day one I was struck with the realization that in order to get my kid to childcare and myself to work on time, I’d need to wake up at 5:30 a.m.  I’m someone who has historically stayed out until 5:30 a.m.  In Chicago, there are 2 a.m. bars and 4 a.m. bars and on Saturday everything is open an hour later so 5:30 a.m. is typically when you get in a cab with your friends and go looking for drugs.  Nowadays, 5:30 a.m. is dedicated to the extraction of milk from my bosom, assembling the gajillions of baby accoutrements required for day care, feeding and dressing child, feeding and dressing myself and then inevitably realizing that I’m running late and have forgotten a multitude of steps that needed to be accomplished.  Most mornings I realize that I’m a horrible failure by around 6 a.m.  At that point, there’s no hope in trying to save the day so I just start looking for french fries and counting down the hours until it’s bedtime again. 

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, my hateful “friends” eventually started inviting me to do things.  It was a huge slap in the face and I was furious.

My Friend Josh: Hey lady!  I’m going to be in town next week.  Would love to get together for dinner!

Me: Oh, that’s out of the question.  Perfect Daughter goes to bed at 7 p.m.

Josh: No, I totally get it.  I’m happy to come to your apartment instead of us going out to a restaurant. 

Me: I don’t know if you heard me.  I get home at 6 p.m. and she goes to bed at 7 p.m.

Josh: Riiight.  I guess I just thought we could have a little nosh and catch up. 

Me: Catch up?  CATCH UP?!  I AM TRYING TO RAISE A PERFECT DAUGHTER, JOSH!  I DON’T THINK YOU’RE GETTING IT.  Are you aware that babies need 10-12 hours of sleep each night and that perfect daughter wakes up several times over the course of each evening meaning I never know exactly how much sleep I’m going to get?   I don’t know if you’re aware, JOSH, but I have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every morning.  FIVE-THIRTY!  Literally no one in the course of history has had to wake up as early as I have to wake up every morning so I would really appreciate it if you could respect that.

Josh: Totally, I just…

Me: I don’t think you’re getting it, JOSH.  I am a mother…A MOTHER!  I’m SORRY if I’m trying to put my daughter first.  I’m sorry if studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to a weakened immune system thereby making it more difficult to retain certain lessons throughout the school day making it harder to get into a good college which makes it more difficult to be gainfully employed which then leads to a higher mortality rate.  DO YOU WANT PERFECT DAUGHTER TO DIE, JOSH?!

Josh: I’m confused.  Is your six-month-old in school?

Me: THAT’S NOT THE POINT!  GOD, YOU JUST DON’T GET IT BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT A PARENT, JOSH!

Here’s the thing.  I have become unreasonably obsessed with my child.  I no longer live my life or do things that don’t involve teaching my child some sort of monumental life lesson.  This shouldn’t really be all that surprising.  I’m a horrible alcoholic with a bad attitude so it was safe to assume childbirth was going to go one of two ways: 1) I was going to reject the fetus and expect it to make it on its own; or 2) I was going to become overbearing and protective of the most Perfect Daughter in the world, readjust my schedule in order to accommodate her flawless life, and reject all things that didn’t support the betterment of her journey to be the most well-rounded, well-adjusted, brilliant, supportive, unblemished, curious, healthy Perfect Daughter in the world.  It’s safe to say I’ve fallen into the second category. 

I’m not sure how I let this happen.  I barely had a social life to begin with.  I have had incredibly unreasonable excuses every time someone asks me why I can’t leave my house and the sad part is, I literally believe myself when I’m talking.

Hateful Friend #1: Hey, we’re all driving to Santa Barbara this weekend.  Do you wanna come?

Me: Perfect Daughter doesn’t really like being in a car for long periods of time.

Hateful Friend #2: Yo!  I’m in your neighborhood and thought we could go for a walk.

Me: Ya know, I’d love to but Perfect Daughter isn’t feeling well.

Hateful Husband: Sex?

Me: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!  I’M EXHAUSTED, YOU MONSTER!

I’m a shell of my former self.  After a mere seven months, I have removed everything in my path that does not immediately fulfill some part of Perfect Daughter’s life.  So I tried to think back to that surly twenty-something that was literally pushing pregnant women over in the street and I realized that that woman was just as ill-informed.  I suppose this is what Oprah refers to as “balance.”  Currently I have none.  I’m trying to find that cushy spot between daily drinker and pathetic shut-in.  I’m sure it’s best to start small.  Husband and I have a date on Friday night.  We hired something called a babysitter.  From what I understand that’s a person who watches your baby while you go try to save your marriage.  To be honest, this entire experiment is already causing me a lot of anxiety.  But Perfect Daughter needs to buck the fuck up and I need to be awake past 9 p.m.  Turns out it’s slightly difficult to make no changes to your life once a baby arrives. 

There are a few things that will likely never return like going on a last minute trip, staying up until 4 a.m., and the suppleness of my vagina.  But there are lots of new things that are fun in a different way like watching your daughter grow into a person who can run errands for you and teaching someone to swear.  It’s a give and take really.  My life will never be the same.  But I don’t have to die in the transition.  Twenty-something me was fun and she made some good points.  Sure she drank to blackout proportions, slept with strangers, and judged her elders.  But she knew that you could still be a fun-loving and effective person even if you never showered.  I love her for teaching me that.