Hubs had tried twice to unclog the vacuum. Unsuccessfully. He and Jack had gone out to get planting supplies for our flower garden and the stupid vacuum was sitting in the middle of the filthy living room rug.
The damn thing had been clogged for like a month and every time I tried to vacuum, it spit out more dust than it picked up. I’d once again implored the Hubs to take a peek at it, but he hadn’t gotten around to it.
Long story short, I took the thing apart, with the cheerful support of my six year old daughter, and plucked out a huge wedge of dust and fur along with a broken clothes pin that had been horizontally blocking the hole. It took me a couple tries to put the thing back together, but I got it set straight and was happily sucking up a month’s worth of decrepitude.
Hubs and Jack got home and I proudly announced that I’d fixed the vacuum.
“How’d you do that?” Hubs asked incredulously.
“I exerted my domestic goddess nature on it,” I smiled.
“Mama,” Jack chimed in. “Did you yell at it?”
“No, Punk,” I said, mildly annoyed by the smirks on the three other faces of my family. “I did not yell at the vacuum. Why would you even say that?”
“Well, you are really good at yelling,” Jack laughed.
“Very funny,” I said and dragged the vacuum upstairs to do the master bedroom.
It was actually pretty funny. Jack’s timing was totally on point and we were all able to have a chuckle at my expense. I don’t know if I would categorize myself as a yeller. I do raise my voice on occasion, out of frustration, and truth be told I am not the world’s most patient person.
But it is always interesting to get a little glimpse of how my kids see me as a human. And of course they do not see that for the one time I yell, there are about 47 other times where I take a deep breath and remind myself to go slow.
At any rate, I’m pretty sure the time that Mama (did not) yell(ed) at the vacuum to make it work again will go down in my family’s mythology.
It really was a good week.
I’m contemplating that it really had been just a great week. I was happy. I felt genuine, uncomplicated, happiness.
Both of the kids had been relaxed and pleasant. There was a random, late-winter snow storm and we all got stuck at home. But instead of contracting cabin fever, we lounged blissfully in our jammies, snuggled, and watched TV. I even snoozed. We baked muffins. We ate muffins. It was a day of cozy comfort.
Then Jack found out a piece of his art had been chosen to be in the district art show. It was a totally unexpected accomplishment, and we were absolutely thrilled to celebrate it with him. He was proud and humble as he reluctantly posed in front of his drawing at the local library where the exhibit was held.
The very next day, Emily picked up a book and started reading it to me. She is having a pretty great year in kindergarten, and all of a sudden, a switch has been turned on in her brain and all she wants to do is read. She tenaciously sounded out words and struggled through page after page of Dr. Seuss as I cheered her on.
It felt almost too good to be true.
Things almost never go this smoothly.
We were getting out of the house in the morning in one piece without any drama, on time, and with cheerful attitudes. The kids were not bickering with each other as much. I made a French Toast Bake that Jack (my super picky eater) declared was so good it should be on a cooking show. Emily slept through each night without coming up to our bed and waking us up. They said “thank you” for random things that they normally overlook as crap that I just do on the daily because I’m their mom.
Part of me was tempted to break into song and dance, because surely this sort of delightful existence only happened in musicals.
Honestly, I just felt like I was nailing it. I was totally rocking the working mom gig. I wasn’t even doing anything different or extraordinary.
I didn’t post about it on any social media for fear of seeming braggy, although I did put up pictures of Jack’s art and a video of Emily reading. But the larger, greater sense of the motherhood machine running just right- I did not post about that.
It isn’t often that I feel this way; like all is well, and all will be well.
Much more often I am beating myself up for letting the kids watch too much TV, not serving as much veggie as I should, and forgetting to check if Emily has remembered to change her underpants.
I so easily fill with self loathing because I lack energy to force my kids to write thank you notes. I convince myself I am a failure because my kids’ rooms are pits of despair and I’d rather not deal with them.
And then there are all the times I wonder what the hell I am doing wrong when I can’t seem to get places on time, or when I burn dinner, or when I forget to sign a field trip permission slip.
Even worse are the times when Jack is having a sensory meltdown because his anxiety has gotten the best of him and I am completely helpless to assist him in regulating his emotional state. Or when Emily is annoyed and frustrated and she tells me she hates me.
This stuff is so hard. I had no clue that the hard stuff would be so hard, nor that by contrast, that the amazing stuff would be so amazing.
I also had no clue that motherhood would frequently and chronically consist of so much more of the hard stuff.
So, that’s why I’m writing about the little sweet spot we shared that nice week.
It’s important to acknowledge and remember what it feels like to nail it in this gig. It’s good to write it all down so when times are tough we can remind ourselves what it feels like to know and hold happiness, to do it right. It’s important to remember that we are doing so, so great, even when we think we aren’t, or when we feel like we are struggling to even put milk in our coffee.
There are good moments if we look for them. We create them, like we create life, like we create last-minute, haphazard recipes from the last four random things in our fridge at the end of the week. It doesn’t have to be anything earth shattering. There can be joy.
And that’s the other important thing to remember in this parenting game: that there will be joy again. Even when it feels like the rough patch is going to go on forever, there is still a potential for change.
When was your last parenting sweet spot? How did you nail it as a mom? Are you going through a rough patch now? Talk to me in the comments!
Find something small.
Stay with it.
Give it your heart.
Resonate with it.
Tell it your secrets.
Feel the urge to leave.
Trace its grooves with your fingertip.
Find its secret scent of earth and salt.
Allow your tear to drip onto its surface.
Laugh, but do not leave, not just yet.
Realize the terror in adoring something tiny and tender.
Whisper to it that which you know is certain.
Pull your hand back and continue to find the energy pulsating.
Find something small.
Give it your heart.
Do it again.
Do it over.
Over the weekend, I took my six year old daughter to the Museum of Fine Art. She wanted to go on a mother/daughter outing and who was I to argue when she suggested one of my happy places.
I allowed her to lead me through the galleries. She pulled me along at just under breakneck speed, and I surrendered to the experience of viewing the museum from her perspective.
Paintings and photographs swirled past us, everything melding into a sort of impressionistic blur.
Every once in a while she would stop to admire something. A portrait of a baby. A painting of a sunset. A sculpture of a dog.
We found ourselves in a replica of a 14th century chapel. My child stopped short and gasped at the enormous cross on the wall, and the strange sensation of being in a small room of its own within the giant museum.
We are not religious people and my kids have almost never been to church. But my daughter has a weird fascination with Jesus, maybe because he’s like a celebrity baby and she loves babies. Anyway, there was a serene and sacred vibe in the chapel. We whispered to one another to look at this and look at that.
There were some relics in a glass case. My daughter pointed to a small statue of the Virgin Mary nursing baby Jesus. “Look Mama!”
It was indeed a sweet little artifact and we spent a moment admiring the tenderness of the mother and child bond. I snapped a pic with my phone at Emily’s command. As we wandered through the rest of that particular gallery, I noticed several portraits of the Blessed Mother nursing Jesus. I pointed these out to Emily who found them charming. She also enjoyed the bare butts. In one, Jesus was full frontal and she gasped, “OMG Mama, I just saw the private!”
“Yes, Dear,” I said indulgently. “There are a lot of butts and privates in art. It’s sort of a thing.” So for the rest of our visit, she pointed and laughed at butts and privates. I felt like I had sort of done my part at educating her on art, reinforcing the normalcy of breastfeeding in everyday culture, and joyfully normalizing all different body types (including their privates) without any shame.
Either that or I was totally irreverent and set a really bad example.
Could go either way I suppose.
As we got into the car to drive home, I asked Em if she had a good day. “Oh Mama, it was the best day ever,” she replied. I was somewhat surprised that our little jaunt to an art museum was her best day ever, but that’s cool.
I asked her what she had learned about art. “I learned that there are lots of butts and privates in art,” she stated. Gotta hand it to my kid, she pays attention. I guess our next lesson will be about the reasons behind all the nudity in art (pun intended).
It’s been over two years since Emily weaned. I don’t write about breastfeeding or nursing anymore, unless it is in response to a comment on my nipple trauma post, still my most popular post on this blog.
It gratifies me to know I’ve left even a tiny mark on the world of breastfeeding health and lactivism.
I miss nursing, but I don’t really feel the urge to write about it anymore. And unless I am doling out obnoxiously unsolicited advice to a new mom, I rarely talk about it.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
Since I nursed Emily until she was a little past four, when she naturally weaned herself, she remembers her time at the breast. She occasionally mentions it to me. She reminisces, and even wishes she could still be a cozy little nursling.
It is also gratifying to know my daughter has happy, safe, sweet memories of nursing and will hopefully grow up with positive attitudes about breastfeeding.
But I digress. . .
What I really wanted to tell you about was meeting my all time musical idol a few months back.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a HUGE Regina Spektor fan. My obsession for her cannot be stifled.
Regina is a Russian immigrant who came here as a child to escape religious persecution for being Jewish. She is a classically trained pianist who writes insanely creative songs in the indie-anti-folk-alternative genre.
You might know her as the singer who wrote and performed the Orange is the New Black theme song. She also recently did a cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps for the animated movie, Kubo and the Two Strings.
Her presence in the world brings me joy and hope. It’s no hyperbole to say her music changed my life. It may have even altered my DNA at a molecular level.
Regina toured this past year, and I got to see her three times. THREE TIMES you guys!!!
I saw her in my home state, and in New York City at Radio City Music Hall in March. Then I got to see her in November in Northampton, MA. Through a confluence of rare and unusual events, a friend managed to obtain backstage passes to meet Ms. Spektor after the show in Northampton.
OMGOMGOMG!!! I know, right!!!
It was going to be really hard to play it cool, but that was the plan. The entire show was like an out of body experience, and she sang Loveology and Pound of Flesh and Flyin‘ and a bunch of other oldies I’d never heard live before.
Oh, and also my friend and I were in the second row, just so, so, so close to this woman who has more artistic energy in a fingernail clipping than most people can imagine in their entire lifetimes! The show was unreal, and even if I’d never met Regina that night, it still would have pretty much been a perfect experience.
So, we stuck our backstage passes on our lapels after the show and waited in the appointed spot for the tour manager. There were people hanging around who didn’t have backstage passes, and they didn’t even try to hide their envy as they asked how we got “on the list”.
Finally the tour manager came to get us, and he led us down some stairs to a chamber that was all brick and basement and lacking in any glamour or glitz. And there she was. Regina Freaking Spektor. My spirit animal.
She greeted us with genuine warmth and kindness that set me instantly at ease. She was soft spoken and almost shy. We chatted about this and that and fuck tRump!
I got to tell her how I’d seen her at RCMH and how I heard her speak about Purim and the importance of resistance and how meaningful and prescient this had been to me at the time. I shared with her that I worked for a Jewish agency and she seemed truly delighted by this little fact about me.
While we were talking, her tour manager came up to her with a bag of lentils. She thanked him and turned back to us. “If you ever need to make a heat pack in a pinch,” she said. “Lentils work great! Stick them in a sock in the microwave.”
“Rice in a sock works good too,” I added.
“Sure,” I offered confidently. “Came in handy during breastfeeding.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was sure I’d said the most flagrantly awkward thing on the planet. Who meets their idol and starts talking about breastfeeding? I apologized with a little laugh.
“No!” Regina said with a pleasant and unflappable grace. “That’s so real. Breastfeeding is real. I remember. . .” Somehow we got on another subject and then she signed my poster for my daughter and me. Love and peace and fun.
She gave us hugs and we took photos together.
The whole encounter didn’t last more than ten minutes and then my friend and I were on the road back home.
I haven’t posted here in a long while, and I haven’t posted about breastfeeding in a longer while. It occurred to me that this was a sharable little nugget.
I’m always searching for ways to integrate all these random bits of myself; to reconcile all of the parts of who I am to make something whole and awesome. There is me as an artist, woman, mom, wife, worker, and friend. There is me as someone who hopes and hurts and heals and hides. There is me as a sexual goddess being, created of life. There is me who is very private. There is me who is very proud and enthusiastic.
In a way, it is so totally perfect that I managed to casually weave a thread of one of my life’s greatest passions into my tiny interaction with my greatest hero. It felt awkward and crazy and just right. To me, that’s what my integration is all about, and it was received with gracious humor that night.