“And then Olivia’s mother gives her a kiss and says, ‘you know, you really wear me out but I love you anyway.'”
That just about sums up this month, with each day given over to a lot of high pitched squeals, tantrums and emphatic “no’s” to my questions of “do you want some milk? some juice? some water? to go outside? go inside? play with your blocks? your legos? your cars? read a book?” There has been a lot of screaming in grocery stores, a lot of total freak-outs when you don’t get exactly what you want. There have not been many days when I haven’t felt like throwing my hands up in the air and walking away as you stand defiantly ready to pitch your body on the ground.
So, briefly, here are your accomplishments lest you read this twenty years from now and think I only focused on the bad. You are putting words together now. It is not just Dad or guitar anymore, but “dad’s guitar” and “mama’s hands” and “Buddy all done” and “Nuke eat.” (You are no longer Uke. You inexplicably have added an “n” to the front of your name and are “Nuke.” This is probably an apt description for you.) You can pull peas out of their shells and strawberries from the vine and currants off their stems. You like watering the garden but only certain parts. If I try to direct you to water the cucumber instead of the very soggy beets you get very angry. You continue to love your books so much that the other night I went to make sure you were warm enough and found a book tangled in the blankets. You awoke the other night at 1.00 in the morning demanding your “panes book.” That’s “planes” to the rest of us. When I handed it to you, you clutched it to your chest and went promptly back to sleep.
After months of not going anywhere, we are on the go again. The two of us boarded a plane to California at the end of June to see your grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncle, and we were accompanied by our newest distraction – a portable DVD player gifted to me from your grandmother – something that is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I was actually able to sit and read on an airplane while you watched Caillou for the umpteeth bazillionth time. I had resigned myself to never reading another book on an airplane until you were 18, or maybe at least 12, so this was awesome. The curse is, of course, that you want to watch Caillou all the time and this leads to more tears and screaming. But for that twenty minutes of uninterrupted reading time, I will gladly deal with the fallout.
We went to a lot of parks in Sacramento, and it amazed me to see you doing all of these things you couldn’t do when we visited last year. You walked to the park, slid down the slides all by yourself, rode the spring mounted horse without assistance, climbed ladders and stood in awe of the crew of workers trimming the trees in the park. We came back to Salt Lake just in time for the Fourth of July, celebrating with little poppers that explode with a loud snap when you throw them to the ground and those ash snakes that slowly emerge from small black tablets. You were fascinated by the snakes and couldn’t believe we were letting you throw the poppers on the ground since we spend so much time telling you not to throw things. You did not like the regular fireworks at all.
A few weeks later we were back on the road, this time to Sun Valley where again I was astonished by your growth. Last year we took you fishing and you sat on the river bank barely crawling and eating dirt. This year you picked up every rock and stick you could find and threw it with gusto into the river. You are fascinated by water. You love watching rivers move by, streams trickle and lakes move into shore and you will throw anything you can find into moving water just to see it carried away. You also figured out how to climb out of your pack-n-play during the trip. Yeah you.
Everyone warned me that the so-called terrible twos are not so bad, that it is really the 18-24 month period that is brutal, and this is clearly the case with you. You want to do everything by yourself but still need our help for so many things. If I try to hold your hand now you wrench it away. What used to be an easy transition from waking up to watching Sesame Street has turned into a mine field if I don’t offer you milk fast enough or, like the other morning, I don’t give you both milk and juice at the same time. This month has challenged me like no other. I know I have written about this before but this month seemed even harder. I used to think I would let you read this blog when you were seven or eight, but now I think I might keep it from you until you have children of your own. I worry that you will read this and think that I didn’t love you. I do love you, but I will admit that there are times when I don’t like what you are doing one bit.
Sometimes parenting feels like the worst babysitting jobs – the ones where the kids are awful and not listening to you and throwing fish sticks at each other and you still have five hours before the parents come home. And when they do, they pay you next to nothing and forget to tip. There are times when I wish that somehow I could just stop being a parent for a few hours, not just to take a break from you but to really not be a parent. Because even if you are at school or asleep or even if I get to leave town for a day or two and leave you behind, I still worry. I worry about you getting sick or hurt and being inconsolable. I think about you needing me and not being there to make things better and that feeling never ever goes away no matter where I go or what I do. And that’s not all bad, it isn’t really bad at all, but it is exhausting. So this month I had to force myself over and over to take deep breaths and try to find the good moments, the moments that make being your mother worth it again.
When we were in Sun Valley we took you up to Red Fish Lake and went to the beach. It is a beautiful dark blue alpine lake ringed with tall thin pines and the spiky peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains. You were in heaven standing ankle deep in the water throwing rock after rock after rock. I think you would have stood in that crystal clean mountain lake forever if we had let you. Occasionally you would look up from your rock throwing endeavors and comment on the boats going by. Almost all of the pictures we took that afternoon are of your hat because you refused to look up from the water and the rocks. After we finally persuaded you to come out of the water, we got some dinner and you made us laugh by dipping your french fries into the ketchup and then into your ice cream. As the sun started to sink we got back in the car and I drove back to Sun Valley through the warm summer night and you and your dad mooed at the cows grazing on the side of the road. I tried to fix everything in my mind: the music playing, the way the light made everything look so green, the river rolling past and the fly fishermen in the distance casting into the evening hatch, your laughter, and knew I would remember that car ride.