Sunday, June 01, 2008

Early Birthday

Yesterday, the 31st of May, we had a little birthday party for Julia, who turns four in a few days. It was a lovely afternoon, and thank goodness too, because when the morning starts off with three meltdowns and a timeout, you can't help but wonder what the rest of the day will bring.

But everything was OK, and Julia rocked her early birthday by chowing down on homemade chocolate layer cake with her beloved grandparents, honorary Auntie, and some dear family friends--not to mention opening some perfect presents and then partying in the backyard with her new bubble machine, kid-sized tent, jump-rope, and Disney Princess bat and ball.

Today we tried out her Elmo kite, which was a source of extreme hilarity and joy for all involved, especially when Julia and our five-year-old next-door neighbor both succeeded in getting the kite to fly by themselves, each running as fast as their legs would carry them as the adults cheered and shouted with amazement. (Note to other parents: a simple, inexpensive paper kite, the kind wrapped in a cellophane package at the grocery store, is GENIUS FUN FOR FOUR-YEAR-OLDS. Hallelujah.)

On Friday, when my parents--who were due to arrive at six p.m.--unexpectedly walked in my door three hours early, I practically fell to my knees and cried, so relieved was I for help with the screaming and fussing and trantruming babes, for respite from the question of how I would entertain two cranky children for another 90 minutes before Christopher came home (90 minutes has never seemed so long). Life in Wonderland is pretty anti-Wonderlandy these days, and asking me to take the long view right now, or to take a deep breath and put my parenting tasks into perspective, or to stop and be grateful for the wonderful moments I have with my gorgeous babes, is like asking me to sprout wings and fly.

Summer days at home with the children, with pool passes and lawn sprinklers and trikes and bubble machines, with sidewalk chalk and playgrounds and preschooler ballet class--it all sounds so blissful, doesn't it? Those flowers blooming on the patio, that staggering sky out back of the house? The lilacs, the bursting, blooming crabapple trees? It does, and as I write this Genevieve is standing in front of me in a fish-print sundress and two matching barrettes, her cheeks plump and luscious, her mouth a rosy bud, and I could cry at how cute and sweet she is and how fast her current baby face will disappear. Because truly, isn't another rosy bud turning FOUR YEARS OLD this week, saying goodbye to toddlerhood forever, moving on to jump-ropes and scooters? And isn't that alarming enough, in a time-warpish way, to make you stop and press your eyes shut for a second and think, I should be grateful for every patience-testing, depleting moment, because one day I'll miss their baby years with an ache that's almost unimaginable right now?

And despite all the current angst--the meltdowns and raised voices, the Dear God get me through this day pleas, the tiredness that comes from having no breaks from or help with the babies--what I felt most of all yesterday, at my firstborn daughter's 4th birthday party, was this: a profound sense of gratitude that it was not four years earlier, when on May 31st I went into labor with a baby who would not be born for three more days, after sixty hours of labor. Sixty hours of BACK LABOR. Four years ago to the day, when Christopher and I entered a realm of pain and exhaustion so intense that we lost ourselves in it, didn't think to call or communicate with anyone during those days, so that none of our loved ones knew what was going on or if I was OK, and our neighbors watched our mail pile up and rescued it for us and left notes on our back door: "We have been waiting for you." And then when she was finally born, of course there was joy, but more than that there was a great deal of suffering: physical trauma from a delivery gone horribly awry, nights on end with literally no sleep at all, colic, visits to the ER at three and eight and 16 days old.

It's hard to consider four years ago. Those days are torturous for me to remember, and I feel terrible about that. But at the same time, I'm so proud of my lovely girl, my four-year-old, who in 2004 survived a harrowing half-week journey into the world, fighting and fighting against the bony barrier in her way, refusing to flip over or bend herself to the path in front of her: stubborn and difficult and precise even then. No matter how tough this full-time, at-home parenting life is right now, it pales in comparison to the summer of 2004.

The birthday week continues. If you don't hear from me as often over the next few days, it is because I am feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, up to my ears in discontent (mine and everyone else's), and I may need to focus on my hill runs, my bubble bath, and my cable TV for awhile. Ingest copious amounts of iced espresso; fall in love with over-the-counter sleep medications. I know very well that there are things I should be attending to--babysitters and writing groups and options for kiddie swimming lessons; I know this, people, I do--but forgive me if you're looking for me and I'm not around. I'm worn out. Birthdays will do that to you.


Mnmom said...

You poor thing - I know exactly how you feel. I used to cry like a psychotic when I saw sitcoms on TV because "those people" got to go to bed and sleep until 6am.

This stage of motherhood is really tough, especially when you have high-spirited, smart, yet demanding children.

Schools gets out this Thursday, and my twins are available!!

Shan said...


donna said...

Happy Birthday, J! (Four already!!)

Sounds like a blast. Wish I could meet her and give her a hug.