"Seventeen has turned thirty-five. I'm surprised that we're still living." - John Mellencamp
Monday is my 35th birthday. I will spend the day driving from our cottage in Columbus to our home with our kids, without my husband. (This is the same way I''ll spend our 5th anniversary twelve days later.)
Last year my birthday sucked. We spent the night before at the ER with Ben, after he jumped up to help my sister move a kayak. I was emotionally drained, exhausted, scared for Bowie, missing Lydie. We spent the day at the cottage where instead of a beach day, we had to stay inside all day long due to the cold rain and winds. I tried to ignore the fact it was my birthday.
But 35 feels big. I always thought I'd feel more grown-up, more put together by the time I turned 35. But instead, I just spent thirty minutes pulling dirty dishes from the dishwasher to hand wash them (since the dishwasher refuses to start), with my 8 month old rainbow pulling on my legs and crying on and off. And now my three-year-old is screaming at the top of the stairs that Dadda didn't give him a kiss before he left (he did). And when I got the email that Panera is declining to donate bagels to Lydie's Loop yesterday, I almost threw my phone in the Target parking lot.
Sometimes I feel like my brain doesn't work anymore. I don't know if it's trauma or it's grief or it's sleep-deprivation or it's being home with two needy young kids. All I know is I often can't think clearly and I do stupid things, like put the ice cream in the fridge and leave it there overnight until my husband opens the fridge in the morning and asks "WTF?"
I've written a bit about Benjamin's behavior issues. Let's just say they're not getting any easier and now that I'm off work for the summer, I get no relief. His new thing is sitting in front of plates of food (food that he requested) screaming that he's hungry or standing in front of a toilet (usually in a public bathroom to make things more fun) screaming that he has to pee. I find that I manage my emotions pretty well at the time - this week, the grocery store clerk told me he was impressed my patience as Ben was throwing a fit as I checked out. And I've never been a particularly patient person. Then later, when things (aka Ben) have finally calmed down, I realize just how high my stress level is.
I'm planning Lydie's Loop pretty much by myself. It's A LOT and I find that I'm taking every bit of it personally. I was thrilled after writing a personal letter that I got an American Girl doll donated for the raffle. I get really excited when someone signs up or even marks "interested" on the Facebook event page. And I get really frustrated when there are setbacks (fuck you, Panera, charging $1.25 a bagel but refusing to make a donation. Won't be visiting your stupid restaurants ever again). I'm visiting lots of businesses, with a baby and an unruly preschooler in tow, to ask for donations of food and water and raffle prizes. In general, it's overwhelming, I'm doing it by myself, and I'm starting to wonder what the hell I was thinking when I took this on.
Lydie's Garden is only green with no flowers. I need to ask my mom where are all the summer blooms. I know little about gardening and I feel like I am letting my girl down.
My youngest is starting to crawl and love solids, and she is a delight... as long as she is on my hip. She dislikes being set down. And she dislikes to sleep, only catnapping here and there in her carseat and stroller. She took a rare nap in her swing recently, and when I checked on her breathing, I couldn't quite tell if she was. I picked up her hand, dropped it, and it fell straight to her side. "Josie?" I asked in a panic. She didn't move. "Josie, Josie, Josie!" I started to yell, fumbling with her buckle. Her eyelids fluttered and she looked at me like I was crazy, and I collapsed next to the swing sobbing.
Recently, Josephine also hates bedtime. She screamed for two hours one night. After losing Lydie, I just want to make things all better whenever Josie cries. So I was sporadically picking her up, rocking her, breastfeeding her. Which would result in her clawing at my face and me putting her back down with her even more pissed off. Justin finally told me I was hurting his sleep training so I am trying to take deep breaths and not be as responsive to her. And again, I'm feeling those stress levels rise.
And I have a husband who has a big project at work and is working long hours and trying not to bring his stress home to our kids but can't join us on long weekends away and can't help out with Lydie's Loop as much as we both wish he would.
I listened to a podcast the other day that compared marriage with young kids to a cactus. You just need to water it every once in a while to keep it alive. It's hard to even do that these days. When the kids have stopped screaming at 9:30 pm, we're stumbling into bed ourselves.
(This podcast also mentioned the importance of self-care. There's been none of that lately. Which is why I've been so quiet on this blog).
As I write this all out, I'm realizing how negative it sounds. I don't mean to sound so negative. I have a lot of sweet moments with my family, and there's so much love in our home. I'm so glad I have the summer off with my kids and I love our adventures together. When I was 17 and pictured my life at 35, this is what I wanted, minus the dead daughter part.
But it turns out that it's just also really hard.
When you have your daughter's urn on your mantle, it's hard to complain about your living children. My friend Jen finally convinced me to join this moms' group, as I had always told her I'm not sure how I'd handle parents with only living children. When I wrote about how tough bedtime is in our house, someone wrote that she'd do anything to only have to deal with the two-year-old at bedtime. 'No, you wouldn't,' I thought. No you wouldn't.
Instead, I think I have created this idea that I have to make my living children's childhood as magical as possible. Every day has to be an adventure. Lydie doesn't get a childhood so Ben and Josie's have to be perfect. I realized this yesterday as I sprinted 15 minutes with a double stroller through downtown to put money in the meter. I had promised Ben he could play in the splash pads, but then we ran out of time after a walk with a friend. Later, I wondered why I couldn't just be the 35-year-old GROWN-UP who says "sorry, buddy, next time!" Instead, when we finally made it back to the new van that I was afraid to parallel park, I decided to load the kids in to look for a closer spot, lost my key in the meantime (the new van doesn't actually need the key to drive which means this 35-year-old grown-up is misplacing it all the time), drove 10 minutes to find another spot, which still was a 10 minute walk away, and arrived back in the same spot with a running meter 45 minutes later. Needless to say, my friend needed to leave in the meantime and I was completely stressed, again. And after that, Ben didn't want to play in the goddamn splash pad. And my brain that doesn't work forgot his swimsuit. So I took my boy's hand, picked up my littlest girl, and ran with them both through the water.
Ben's still screaming, and now throwing things. I'm trying to take lots of deep breaths.
(Also, to end on an unrelated positive note: one of my closest BLM friends, Amanda, is visiting next week. She keeps me sane on a daily basis and I am so looking forward to being together in real life.)