Parenting is not pretty.
Last mothers day weekend, I begged my sister to come spend the night. Frank was out of town and I had to go up to my in-laws for mothers day on Saturday. We plant flowers and have a nice meal together.
But I knew I would be in no condition to go up there if I had the twins to myself at night.
And so I commenced begging Caitlin.
Because Caitlin is so amazing, the conversation went like this:
Me: Hey Cait–
Caitlin: I’m coming over!!
So yeah. The evening initially went OK. I mean, there was the requisite puking, but by bedtime, Caitlin was still wearing the same clothes she arrived in. We snuggled the girls into their car seats (that’s where they slept for three or four months) and tried to get some sleep.
I want to tell you I vividly remember what occurred that night. I want to tell you that it was a series of Norman Rockwell moments illustrating a generation of sisters passing along the torch of sisterhood to the next generation of sisters.
I have to tell the truth. The night is a blur. I desperately wanted and needed sleep, but the nursery house of horrors had come alive in vivid shades of regurgitated formula and the soundtrack was the wailing and gnashing of gums. I helped Caitlin with one of the feedings, I think.
I know that I went into the nursery a few times and tried to help. My sister valiantly sent me back to bed. I was somewhat aware that she was in a new outfit – or that her outfit had been “redecorated” by one of the twins – but I didn’t stop to question it.
When I came-to in the morning, having had a few continuous hours of sleep punctuated by a foggy awareness of babies crying, I stumbled into the nursery at 6 a.m. to find my sister surrounded by a half-dozen half-eaten bottles and dirtied burp rags. Her normally beautifully-kept, perfect blond hair was in rats nests around her face (how do babies make that happen so quickly???) and she had the look of a woman who had seen things she could not bear to repeat.
Me: What… what… what happened?
Caitlin: Oh (looking around, trying not to break down), it’s nothing. They just… they just… THEY WOULDN’T GO TO SLEEP! (lower lip quivering) Why? Why? I tried (weeping) Lord knows, I tried. I sang, I rocked and they – THEY VOMITED!
Me: Uh huh. Are you OK?
Caitlin: Yes. Yes. I’m OK. I’m OK. I just… Just.. need… sleep. Please, make the crying stop. I just need to go to sleep. One would stop and the other would start. Why??
Me: There, there. It’s OK.
The twins, for the record, had calmed down. They were looking at us with a quiet satisfaction. It appears that the generational torch of sisterhood can be passed in either direction.
Together, we put the girls in their cutest outfits. I combed my hair. Caitlin helped me load the car for my one hour journey and then she stumbled to her car and drove home, where she slept until 2 p.m.
I don’t blame her.
And I thought to myself, “Is this how it is always going to be? What did I sign up for?! HELP!”
I wasn’t alone.
Around July of last year, Frank looked at me pleadingly and asked, “will these children EVER sleep through the night?” I told him reassuringly, “Of course!” but thought, “What if they don’t? What if we never sleep again?!” And then, miraculously, about a week or so later, the twins finally started sleeping through the night.
We had the same situation with feeding the girls solids – it seemed like we would be forever be covered in sweet potatoes and mashed green beans and all sorts of disgusting (and, might I say, bland) baby food. It seemed like the girls would never figure out their sippy cups or straws. It seemed like they would never crawl or walk or talk.
And every time I’ve felt that way, I’ve been wrong. Motherhood has proven me wrong more often than not.
So this year, I’d like to say three things about parenting on this lovely Mothers Day weekend:
1. It is epically humbling. Not: “Waving at someone across the street because you think you know them but then you realize that you don’t know them and so you pretend your wave was actually a hair adjustment”, but “Holy crap, I actually showed up to college graduation naked AND without the required number of hours!” But, the good news is that it’s not about you as a parent, but rather about doing what’s best for your kids and your family. So, you know, grab a trench coat from graduation coat check and fake it til you make it.
2. A win is a win. Yeah, your kid may not have walked as soon as Susie’s prodigy child or Donna’s baby might have a larger vocabulary, but odds are, your kid will not go to high school only saying “bah” (ball) and “dada” (everything else). Odds are, you will have a phone bill that will prove that your child has indeed expanded her/his vocabulary to include “Whatever” and “Can I have the car tonight?”
3. Old people are on to something. Live long enough, I’m starting to realize, and you’ll start saying the same annoying stuff your parents said. I’m not going to suggest that anyone admit their parents are (gasp!) right, but perhaps our parents might have a few pieces of well-earned wisdom. They still don’t understand good movies/music/books/fashion/texting/whatever, but they definitely might have a few pieces of sage advice when it comes to raising/chasing after/loving kids. I mean, I/you didn’t turn out so bad, did we?
Right now I find myself starting to wonder if the twins will ever grow up.
And I stop myself.
Happy Mothers Day to all you ladies.