Being a little sister is hard.
Being Mo's little sister is even harder.
Being a little sister is hard.
Being Mo's little sister is even harder.
1. Like the rest of the world, I've been watching the Olympics after the kids go to bed, exhausted from hours spent on the beach in the sun. Yes, I also Simone is the greatest. Yes, I'm impressed by the staying power of the red lipstick those synchronized swimmers are wearing. Yes, I, too, cry every time I see someones' dream coming true. But here is what I can't get over: does anybody else wonder why the media choses to interview the runners IMMEDIATELY AFTER they just ran for their life? I mean, can't we let them catch their breath before you start asking them twenty questions, rapid fire-style? I can't even understand them as they try to answer in-between their desperate gasps for air.
2. You know what's better than a nap? A vacation nap. The only person who doesn't believe me is Marlo.
3. Imagine visiting a swamp’s ass. Then imagine spending a week there. That is Florida in the middle of August.
4. Marlo still doesn't understand why she has to wear a bathing suit top (or a bathing suit at all, for that matter) when her male cousins don't. I let her run around in her bikini bottoms because I don't think it's a big deal and... hello... she's four. But it wasn't enough for her. We caught her trying to take her entire bathing suit off more times than I could count. I bargained with her and told her that, one day, and, hopefully one day soon, we'll take her to Europe where people aren't prudes and a child being naked isn't shamed and she can prance around the beach-- crowded or not-- in her birthday suit without receiving evil glares from over-tanned Florida retirees. She actually made me promise her. And I did.
5. Much to my utter disbelief, rosé can, in fact, taste better than it consistently does. How can perfection be topped, you may wonder? I had the same concerned thought. However, while rosé is admittedly pretty perfect as is, I discovered that if you drink it out of a blue solo cup, during the middle of a weekday while sitting on a beach as the waves crash at your feet and your kids play nicely together nearby in the sand, it is unmistakably flawless. Mark my words, people. FLAWLESS.
He could sense that the constant noise of a fuller-than-normal house was beginning to take its' toll on me. Concerned by my very rare silence, he told me to go take some time for myself. I assured him that I was fine, that the noise wasn't that bad, only to be given the look.
Oh, the look. I don't particularly like that look, if only, because it means that I've been figured out. The look tells me that someone else knows better. Even though my principles tell me otherwise, I no longer waste precious time protesting that look because I know that it's one of the things my husband does best.
He sees me.
And we all just want to be seen, don't we?
I haven't always appreciated being seen. Somewhere between desire to maintain a certain level of mystery in our relationship and realizing that true intimacy involves intrinsic transparency, Joe and I began seeing each other in a way that nobody else does-- or can.
Even ten years in, it can still feel pretty fucking scary to walk around without any of the armor I spent my youth piling on. It often feels like the biggest risk of my life trusting someone to see me better than I see myself, to not abuse the power that resides within marrow of that trust.
But, mostly, it feels a lot like love.
Thanks, J, for always seeing me and for liking me anyway.
No matter where we are, no matter what her wardrobe consists of, Marlo is perpetually cold when eating. She spends most of her meal complaining, violently shivering to assist getting her point across which, as you can imagine, makes her the worlds most pleasurable dinner companion. She could be cloaked in a fur jacket and snow boots and she would still find it too cold for her, somehow managing to sit positioned under the one air vent in the entire restaurant.
"Why can boys not wear shirts at the beach but I have to? I don't have boobs to feed a baby yet because I'm a kid, not a grown-up, so I'm not going to wear one either. Okay, mama?" Okay, Mo, you little feminist-in-the-making, you. PS. You make me so proud.
More than anyone in the world, Marlo is skilled at forcing me to examine just how full of shit I am. Case in point: I've always believed that she should be in charge of making decisions involving her person. From letting her decide when she was ready to get a hair cut and how she wanted it to look to being able to decide when she would get her ears pierced, if it's on her body, I've always said that I would let her be in charge of making the decision (within age-appropriate reason of course). I made the cardinal mistake of assuming that I'd have years before being forced to practice what I preach. I forgot that she's Mo and, if anything, the walking and talking reminder that I have zero control over who she is quickly becoming. She wants pink hair. She wants to get her ears pierced for Christmas. She wants to wear lipstick anytime we leave the house. RED LIPSTICK. She wants to wear a shirt that shows her belly because she "thinks her belly button is the cutest belly button ever." I'm so out of my league here and counting down the days until I play the because I said so card.
She recently asked me when colder weather was coming. I told her not for another couple of months and she looked relieved. "Mo, do you not want cooler weather to come?" "Of course not, mama." Okay. "Why not, Mo?" "Mom, I am dreading colder weather because then I'll have to wear pants and I do not believe in wearing pants. Girls wear skirts and I am a girl. And pants itch." I just shook my head and decided to save this battle for another time.
"Why is your boov* thing so big, mom? Will my boov thing be big one day, too?" I'm not sure if that's meant to be a compliment or a hint that I need to get myself to the gym. You'll thank me for that boov thing one day, Mo. *Boov is what she calls butts. She picked it up from the movie Home and I find it much more endearing than any alternative.
I've been reassured that most toddlers are like this but I fear that Marlo is a hypochondriac. She so much as sneezes, she's convinced that she has the bubonic plague. She wakes up at least once a week and before she's even half way down the stairs, she tells us that she was "the worst headache ever" and needs to spend the day resting and therefore can't go to school or camp or errands unless the errand is Target in which case she is magically better and even has enough energy to throw a tantrum because I won't buy her some obnoxious toy that she doesn't need. We buy band-aids in bulk to cover invisible boo-boos that she demands to go to the hospital for. She will inform us that she has somehow broken her wrist which is almost always conveniently timed with when I ask her to pick up her toys or make her bed or brush her teeth before bed. Now that I think of it, she may not be a hypochondriac as much as she's a neurotic mastermind determined to get out of any task or chore she doesn't feel like doing.
"Whatevs, Mom." I'm sorry, what?! You're four. STOP.
She still misses Brooklyn and her best friend there. Almost weekly, she asks me why we had to move to North Carolina but assures me that she's starting to really like it even though she likes DUMBO better. I have to hold back tears every time and keep myself from feeling guilty. It hasn't been the easiest transition for her but it's definitely getting better.
Over the July 4th holiday, we watched our next door neighbor's dog while they were on vacation. I made sure to include Mo when tending to him because I want her to understand that having a pet is a big responsibility. Mo has always been extremely task oriented so it should've been no surprise that she took the job VERY seriously. She came home a few nights ago from playing with their daughter a few dollars richer and this is the conversation that ensued: "Mom!!!! Mom!!! Mr. Tom gave me so many moneys!!!" He did!? What for? "Mom, don't you remember? I took care of Smith for them and I did a great job so I got the moneys." That's awesome babe. Do you know what you're going to do with the moneys? "Yes! I'm taking you out for ice cream because you helped unlock their door for me to feed Smith because I'm too short and you threw the ball for him when I didn't want to touch it because it was slobbery and dirty and you picked up his poop. You want to get ice cream with me? You gonna get chocolate, vanilla, or coffee?" She may pick and choose when to be generous and genuinely kind-hearted but it never fails to take my breath away when she is.
Since she was around three and a half, most of her curiosity revolves around gender roles. Raising egalitarian and open-minded kids is a responsibility I take very seriously, especially given the current social and political climates they are growing up in. We were in the car on the way to camp a few mornings back and this was our lesson of the day: "Mom. So what you're saying is that boys and girls can do whatever they want, right?" That's right, Mo. "So boys can wear make-up or be princesses or paint their nails or wear jewelry or buy pretty skirts and that's okay?" If it makes them happy, then yes, absolutely, it's okay. "I think I would be best friends with a boy if he did all dat stuff mama. He'd be so happy and I'd be so happy and we could play dress-up together but not my Elsa dress. That one is special to me so I won't share that with anyone, even a happy boy. We'd could make friendship bracelets though. Wouldn't that be so nice?" Kids have a way of taking intimidating topics and proving that it's not as complicated as many of us make it out to be.
Marlo often reminds me that very rarely do kids give a single fuck about anything other than being happy and being a part of what makes other people happy. If only the rest of the world could catch on...
I don't think I felt like a real parent until yesterday.
I was only 25 when I had Marlo which, looking back, isn't all that young in the grand scheme of things. But I was young enough that I often got asked if I was the nanny or, even better, the baby sitter. Fortunately, I was too medicated to be offended by the implication that I am either A) too young to be responsible for creating and taking care of a life or B) that my child looks absolutely nothing like me.
When I was a mama to only one, I was also in the throes of first-time parenthood which is a period of time resembling a psych experiment gone rouge more than a blissed-out bubble of maternal bliss. I was a mom, sure, but I remained under the assumption that parents-- REAL parents-- had it all figured out. By way of deductive reasoning, I could not possibly be a parent because the things I had figured out numbered near nada.
I entered second-time parenthood more optimistic. However, I soon realized that I still didn't have anything figured out. I knew what to expect with a newborn which I've determined is a large part of the battle those first few brutal sleepless months (or in my case, these last fifteen). The second time around, I quickly discovered that my most challenging obstacle was that I had absolutely no idea how to raise two kids.
Siblings was an entirely foreign concept to me as I grew up an only child. Mo was incredibly excited about Edie's impending arrival and she loved her already... all the way up until the minute she arrived. After only a matter of a few days, Marlo realized that a newborn was rather boring and being hushed, rushed, and told to wait (over and over and over again) wasn't worth all of the hype. We had lied to her. When Edie was six days old, Mo scratched her on her nose, drawing blood. It was then that I realized that this sibling thing was likely going to take some work.
From that first drop of blood moving forward, my only goal was to help Mo not hate Edie. I also reasoned that if Edie could survive her first year as Mo's little sister with very little blood shed, I would declare it a job well done for all of us.
Yesterday, a little over fifteen months later, I sat on our porch and watched two sisters delight in each other's company. I drank a glass of rosé, silently soaking in the fruits of my labor. They laughed, they bickered (well, Mo whined; Edie just grunted), they hugged, and they played. They behaved like sisters who love each other as much as they are utterly annoyed by the other's presence which is a delicate balance I consider a win.
They take their respective roles seriously: Mo looks after Edie probably more intently than I do. She anticipates a fall or a stumble and is usually the first one reaching for her chubby little hand. There is no one more proud of Edie than Mo. Edie, on the other hand, is becoming an expert at annoying the shit out of Marlo. No one can do it more efficiently and she devilishly delights in messing with her any chance she can get. She also finds no one funnier than Mo which, in Mo's eyes, often makes makes up for standing in front of the tv when she's watching Bubble Guppies on repeat.
As I watched my two girls be sisters, I felt like one of those real parents. I now know that the things I get wrong don't and won't matter as much as the things that I get right.
Maybe what makes you a real parent isn't having it all figured out; rather, just figuring out your kids and doing right by them as often as you can*. That's my theory, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.
*The fact that Marlo now looks like my twin and I no longer get mistaken for the nanny doesn't hurt matters either.