Hi friends, so how’s it going with the parenting business? Holding steady, eh? Good. That’s all we’re supposed to be doing, I think. Once we’re finished with the shenanigans of getting the kids here, it seems like our job is just to hold steady and hope nothing too interesting or dramatic happens for a really long time or until the kids turn 18, whichever comes first.
I like saying this “hold steady” line, and I sort of believe it, but I also know it’s not entirely true. What I think is more true is that it’s the tiny babies who go through the shenanigans, the sacred portal of shenanigans, in fact, and arrive here, blinking in the bright lights and opening their maws to squawk, and once they do that, they get down to business, which is to shove us aside and take over the place. And they begin by eating us alive, and we know this and we see it, but we don’t mind, we say God bless ‘em, as they munch on the boob, and then we wrap them in cuddly blankets and push them around unconscious in their plastic buckets in the street, our little un-doers.
I have been in a weird head-space lately on account of the fact that I thought I was dying of a horrible illness. Among the requirements for being a fake doctor are that you have to be afraid of doctors, and you also have to be a hypochondriac. Fortunately, I’ve got those bases covered. So it has taken me some time with a real doctor to figure out that my horrible illness is in fact normal, boring gallstones, only in my belief system, which is not entirely scientific, there is no such thing as normal, boring gallstones. There is my having a lot of stress about my brother and mother lately and holding it in my body. So instead of normal, boring gallstones there is a magical bag of golden rocks I am carrying around inside me that is my mother and brother and how they can irritate.
My doctor wants me to consider having this bag—my gall bladder—removed, so I don’t have to live with the tension of wondering if and when my golden-rocks-family is going to suddenly rear up and attack me. But I am a stubborn patient: I love my bag of rocks and I am not giving it up.
I am going swimming. My un-med school rationale behind this prescription is: water smooths rocks. So I am going to the YMCA after I drop my kids off at camp, and I am swimming in the warm pool. I dog paddle around in my garish green swim cap with older people who are radiating with that delightful quality of having been around too long to give a shit about making small talk to anyone, ever, and then I go in the steam room, and if I am alone there, I cry. My bag of rocks is very happy about this regimen, and I am feeling much better, even if nothing at all is different regarding the goddamned, golden family I started out shenanigan-ing in.
But back to holding steady. The thing about having children and then trying to find the psychological and physical equivalent of a cruise control for your life is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that the children you bring into the world and then carry like precious jewels, are kind of, probably, going to try to destroy you one day. I mean, not really, but sort of. They are going to get big and strong and ornery and say, listen, you fucked up here, and you fucked up there, and this is totally lame, and I am going to do this differently, and better. And that that is a good thing, it really is. That is what we should be asking our doctors, I mean, praying for.
Right now I am in rural Vermont where I taken my slightly less irritated by possibly still-attacking bag of rocks on vacation with me. We are not as comfortably close to 25 hospitals up here as we are in NYC, and in my soothing and calming downtime playing popcorn on the trampoline in the blazing sun with my 4-year-old daughter, I have been thinking about how, as a parent, I am in between families, being a child in the one I came from and a parent in the one I made. I am the grown up and thus I am powerful in a way that I was not as a child but with that power comes responsibility. I am holding the bag now.
The question seems to me to be, how does one hold the bag? I think there is something to be said for the way in which one holds a baby, a baby who has come through the shenanigans-hole to arrive here speechless and pooping on herself, turning her head, with her eyes closed, to seek, forever and always or until she doesn’t need it anymore, the boob.
It’s not the baby’s fault that the baby will grow up to see everything clearly. It is not the baby’s fault that they baby will grow up to know all our fuck-ups and forgive them or not, that the baby will one day be, God willing, at our bedside or not, encouraging or not, as we are squeezed out of ourselves to the new place where we are not tethered to space as we know it now. Or time. Out. We will be out, then.
We are not out now, we are in. We hold the pooping, rooting babies close, in cuddly blankets, in our arms, in buckets and bags. We hold the babies and sniff them and hug them and sing. We hold the babies until they sleep and then when they wake us at night with their red hot cries and fussiness, we hold them some more.
Fussy, red hot bag of my original family, I love you. I love you even though I don’t live with you any more, even though you drive me nuts. I love you because you have given me gold and jewels, which are encased in my guts, right below my right rib cage. They are sitting there now, glowing. I love you and I left you and I have a real treasure chest to show for it.
And I love that the world is like this, a crazy mixed bag. I love that I can’t imagine a world with a bag more gloriously mixed than this, a bag with the clitorises and the poopholes so close together, and the babies crowning in the middle of it. I love it, I love popcorn in the hot sun on the trampoline with the net all around it so you hopefully won’t fall out and have a broken-bones lawsuit. I love it and I love you. Keep holding me. Keep holding me in.