Friday, July 16, 2010

The mathematics of possibility

So as much as I love being a mother, there are things about it that bug me. Mostly, I hate the incompatability of having a large brood of children and having a career. I'm not quite sure how it works, with my style of parenting. I suspect it is nearly impossible.

I mean, I'm an only child so I don't really know how big families function. I like to picture it going on, I like to imagine how it would work, and then I come to a full stop. When, exactly, am I working? Where is the money coming from? What job do I have that happily lets me go on successive maternity leaves without finding some excuse to fire me? Of course, I have stalked enough fundamentalist Christian blogs to know the answer to these questions.

First of all, the woman works from home. It is a necessity by virtue of nature of pregnancy. The work force, even some Forbes' top ten employer, is not a great place to be pregnant. Ask any woman who is still at work in her third trimester. It sucks. Secondly, the money comes from a gainfully employed man and maintained by an obsessively frugal wife. Let's face it folks, my husband has an amazing work ethic, but he is an artist. This is historically not gainful. I also am only *okay* at being frugal. If you've been following my blog long enough you'd know that frugality was a lot easier when my kid couldn't crawl. Now that he can do that, and walk, it's almost impossible to bake bread, let alone anything more involved. Every day is a battle to prevent some disgusting food from rotting under the couch.  So I guess there is the seemingly impossible picture of what it would be like to have more kids in our household: my husband would have to stop following his dreams, I would have to get a lot better at the internet and sell costumes online, and I would have to become adept at juggling babies and compromising my beliefs regarding their care and my attentiveness. My dreams for my family seem impossible as our numbers increase.

I think this is why bohemians usually only have 2 kids. We are inherently selfish.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yes, I need to be needed

For all the talk of infant sleep, of getting and keeping your child in a restful slumber, I have to admit that I feel kind of weird when my kid falls asleep on his own and stays that way. My maternal instinct starts to go off. Is something wrong? Why is he sleeping so far from me? So when he turns, and tosses a few times, and opens his eyes in that sudden and surprised way, I feel a little surge of relief. All is well.

I guess I'm strange because I can really take or leave my kid sleeping like some kind of comatose valium addict. The rhetoric of sleep in North America is completely different than the rest of the world. We sleep less, we work more, and we expect our children to nod off alone and stay that way. The reality is that kids aren't meant to sleep that way. As very young babies, frequent arousals are due to a need for nutrition, comfort, and attachment. It is also associated with reduced chances of SIDS. As babies age, their circadian rythms also mature, but are still not the same as adults. And why would they be? Their brains, expanding and processing as they are, require sleep in different ways than ours do. Not only restorative, sleep is also a time of increased mental activity and growth. Children wake up frequently at night because they cycle through deep and light sleep phases more quickly than adults, not because their sleep is dysfunctional. Even children whose parents believe they sleep through wake at night, they just go back to sleep without parental reassurance.

Of course, there are times when I wish Ender would be guaranteedly fine on his own. When company is over, or when Mike and I have plans to watch a movie just me and him. The baby wakes and I let out a long and audible sigh. There will be no movie. Just cuddling a baby back to sleep.  Mostly, though, aside from being frustrated, I notice progress in Ender's sleep patterns. He sleeps more heavily, and pushes away from me at night, not wishing to be in constant contact. Eventually we will put him on a little mattress of his own next to our bed, and when he is old enough, move him to his own room.

Until then, I'm enjoying being needed. As infrequent as that may be these days, I treasure the way his chubby hands twine in my hair and he lets out a little sigh, so different than my own, of true contentment.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Whenever you get something you want, reality kicks in shortly afterwards. It doesn't matter what it is, or how bad you wanted it, or what you thought it would be like. It doesn't matter if what you wanted was supposed to make your life easier, or if you thought you had figured out all of the drawbacks. Still, knowing this can lead to extra trepidation. It can mean that you prefer to stay still rather move forward, because you prefer the devil you know.

Because I am a feckless, irresponsible person raised on too much Narnia and not enough news at 6, I prefer the devil I don't know. I also retain a certain amount of unrealistic optimism and a want-want-want attitude. I would say I get about 80-90% of what I want. I am unassailable, a demonic force to be reckoned with when I decide I want something. It's strength is only tempered by its duration. Frequently, the force of my want does not live enough to reach fruition, and all returns to normalcy. On to the next.

I am, of course speaking of our gorgeous Victorian home, which will be ours tomorrow should we sign the papers. Let me not lead you astray, dear reader, for we will indeed sign them. But of course, there is no perfect story here. The house needs some work, and I, with my ironheaded directionality, have begun to plan and plan. I guess I'm just overwhelmed with the greatness of responsiblity, and the fact that these things that must be done, must be done in their own time, and not in mine.

Then, as I contemplate it further, the house becomes a metaphor for my entrance into costume studies. What if, like this shining beautiful house, I will enter into my program and realise that there is so much to learn that I will be entirely inequipped to begin? What if my intelligence is not suited for this particular task that I wish to accomplish? I'm not quite sure what the costume studies equivalent to needing to paint 1300 square feet of exterior wall is, but I'm sure it would lead to one or two pricked and bruised fingers and quite a few tears.

But I know I can do it. I will do it well too. I will be at the top of my class if it kills me. And we will paint that godforsaken wall.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

where the home is, the heart resides...

Since my last blog post, I dragged my reluctant husband and happy go lucky child along with me to Halifax to find a house to live in while we complete school. My oh my, how much further our money goes in real estate on the east coast! It was such a different experience. Whereas in Toronto our experience of house hunting was frustrating -- most of the detached homes we could afford were falling apart -- the house hunt in Halifax was characterized by a multitude of choices, each as tantalizing as the last. We settled on a beautiful old 1880s home in the heart of downtown.

I am in love. While we looked at a lot of places, some which were bigger, or newer, and fitting the suburban dream to a T, it just wasn't us. This home, with its original hardwoods and beautiful huge windows, it's adorable backyard with a handpump, is quintessentially us. I think it characterizes our move out East well. We have given up trying to be what we're not. We have accepted the good things (having each other, a beautiful child, artistic inclination) and the bad (flippancy, inability to integrate into the Canadian dream, artistic inclination) and we're working with what we've got.

I'm already picturing the giant victorian cascade curtains that I'll sew for the windows.

Ender is learning, slowly, how to walk. He takes little tentative steps, his arms thrown into the air for balance, with a look of perpetual surprise as he feels his body moving forward in a controlled fall, his legs stopping him each time. He smiles at me with a greater joy now at each thing he discovers, peeking his head around a chair to see his daddy, pulling off his left shoe and shoving it in his mouth. So too have his negative feelings begun to reach a greater depth, as he flails his arms in frustration when a chosen toy is decided to be too sharp for play, and taken away. Or, when his mouth aches as tiny teeth break the surface like pearly bubbles.

Both good and bad, I love it all, as it evidences his emotional growth. All I can do is press his arms to his side when he tries to hit me, and give him a sad face. "Please don't hit me." I say. He returns the pout, struggles off of my lap, and is off to the next thing. All is forgiven.

I pray to the fates and the chaos of the universe that somehow in all of this insanity I can continue to appreciate both sides of the coin as part of his learning to become himself. Grant me the knowledge to teach him right from wrong, so that he can eventually realise that there's no such thing. Grant me the vulnerability to cry when he hurts me, so he can learn that conscience is the best compass through a sometimes senseless world.

Fostering a life sometimes seems like too big of a responsibility. As though someone told me I was in charge of telling the frost how to melt.