Sunday, July 7, 2013

Objects Of My Affection

The lyrics to this song aren't nearly as impactful written down as they felt while I was parked at the red light on Cesar Chavez and Congress yesterday, singing them passionately at the top of my lungs and drumming my hands on the steering wheel as if I were Neil Pert. I bobbed my head to the catchy beat, nodding in affirmation and maybe throwing in a fist pump and an "Amen!" here and there. That is, until I glanced to my right and saw a Matthew Mcconaughey shirtless lookalike with a perfect tan stopped in a red Jeep Wrangler, top off, bumpin' some rap song I had never heard of before and staring at me through his cool Raybans with a cheesy grin on his face. Damnit!! I slid down in my seat and tried to downplay the theatrical shenanigans he had just witnessed. Doing my best to seem remotely attractive and cool, I twirled my hair around my finger, slowly lowered my sunglasses, eased up on the high-hat steering wheel symbol tapping and prayed for the traffic light Gods to turn the light green. They quickly answered my prayer but unfortunately, the doppleganger was in a left hand turn lane as well so we crossed the intersection parallel to one another, him smiling and trying to make eye contact while I mumbled curse words and did my best to downplay the fact that my ugliest old-lady bra strap was showing and my chin housed a pimple the size of mount everest that could rupture at any moment.

Back to the song. The lyrics have resonance, especially after this past year which has felt personally uninspired and lackluster. 

I can only speak for myself, but I think both Mike and I similarly question what our lives have become these days now that we have officially been parents for three years. 

The first two years of being a parent are easy breezy. In the beginning, your role beyond being as nurturing as possible is to make sure your child eats, wears clean diapers, avoids bumping their moldable skulls into table corners while they are learning to walk, avoids electrical sockets, doesn't take naps in the washing machine or crawl outside while no one is looking and hitch a ride with a stranger. These early times also involve lengthy and numerous naps during the day which allow you to maintain a sense of independence. Back then, nap time offered an oasis of solitude, reading, writing, sewing and sometimes social interactions. It was marvelous.

After two years is when, for me, my role as a mother became much more strenuous and demanding.  Two was when having time for myself and the activities that made me happy and passionate outside of motherhood became much more limited. Two was when I realized that it was seriously important that I dedicate 100% of my attention to Quinn while we were around one another so that I could teach her how to be a sweet, loving and smart human being. I need to make sure I don't wine up raising a Regina George from Meangirls

It's tough! These days it feels as if we are living in a house with a tiny schizophrenic. Have you ever imagined what it is like to live with someone that literally says NO to everything? What about someone who refuses to put their clothes and shoes on when you are seriously running late? What about living with someone who is fine one moment but then gets frustrated because you aren't finding her favorite cooking show on Youtube (Nerdy Nummies is so good, check it out!)  fast enough and they fall on the floor and flap around like a fish out of water screaming?

Mike and I were laughing the other day about what it's like to hang out with Quinn all day long.  Here is a typical conversation with Quinn:

Quinn, "Mommy, can you pwaaaay with me?"
Tara, "Sure Quinn, in just one second."
Quinn, "Pweeeeeez!! Mom...Mommmmm....pweeeeeez!"
Tara, "::hesitation:: Ahhh... okay. ::drops whatever I was doing:: What do you want to play?"
Quinn, "Let's pway Littlest pet shops!  Follow me! Okay, you be this guy. I'll be this other guy. 'Hi mommy cat!'"
Tara, "Hi baby cat! ::taps cat around the floor::"
Quinn, "::high shrill:: NO!!! You're not DOING it right! That not how she talks!!"
Tara, "Oh, oops...okay...uhh...::deep voice:: Hi baby cat! ::taps cat on the tree::"
Quinn, "MOMMY!! ::rolls around on floor like a crazy person:: Cats don't GO on trees!! You're not playing right!! ::fake whine::"
Tara, "Ahh...shit okay. Uhh. Do you want to do something else?"
Quinn, "::suddenly very calm:: What does 'something else' mean?"
Tara, " can engage ourselves in an alternative activity?"
Quinn, "What does alternative mean?"
Tara, "Well back in MY day, alternative was totally bands like Blink182 and Pearl Jam. You have no idea how much mainstream music today has plunged as far as creativity is concerned."
Quinn, "....Pearl jam?"
Tara, "Yeah! No Code was an incredible album."
Quinn,"...uhhh..  I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!!!!!!"
Tara, "::sigh:: Okay. What do you say first?"
Quinn, " Pweeeeeeeez! Thank you mommy!!"

This is what life is like now and sometimes it can wear on my big time.  After a long day, I catch myself just repeating "Uh huh, yeah...ohhh...yeah...uh huh..." when talking to Quinn after seven conversations in a row that resemble the one above. And I feel so guilty for that. When I finally have time to myself, I feel emotionally exhausted and find it difficult to devote time to the things i used to love doing.

Insert reassurance for future mothers: I apologize for making motherhood sound so bleak! I promise, it is a very beautiful thing and I can't imagine my life without Quinn, she is incredible.  I think, for me, it is really about finding a balance between raising a child and holding onto your independence... which I am just now realizing can be an incredibly challenging thing to do. Another perk of motherhood is that you develop new and improved life skills such as "increased patience","empathy", "tickling skills", the ability to not throw up after seeing someone else throw up next to you (or on you), effectively removing potty-training-induced urine out of carpets, scraping hardened play dough out of grout like a boss, etc.

And here we are. Back to the lyrics.

                                "And the question is...was I more alive then than I am now?"

"I happily have to disagree, I laugh more often now, I cry more often now.... "

"I am more me." 

It's true. I think back to the days before motherhood. Back when Mike and I walked around NYC all night long, stayed up late, spent all of our money on things that made us temporarily happy, acted like teenagers with no responsibility. Mike was in a crazy band. I wore funky dresses each day and hung out with cool friends. We were still our own people back then. These days, we buy a six pack of Blue Moon and sit on the front porch staring into the darkness, talking about the good ol' days until we get over emotional about not having any friends or social lives and finish off said six-pack before passing out in bed after watching the same episode of Family Guy that we had already seen eight times. (I just re-read that sentence and LOL'd.)

But, the positive, life-changing aspect of all of this is that  becoming a mother has forced me to do a lot of introspective digging that I most likely would have never done if it weren't for having a baby. If not for Quinn, I would have never been put in such testing situations that truly made me examine what kind of person I am and what kind of person I would like to become. I have moved on from that person I used to be who unknowingly thought of only myself, didn't place a value on what my time was worth, who often times only lived in the moment and didn't plan for the future, was ignorant to a lot of ideas and experiences, the list goes on.

I genuinely laugh more often now...and definitely cry more often now too. But I am more alive now than I was then. I just have to remind myself of that, have patience and learn how to manage the balance between being a mom and being myself. It can be done!

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