One.

The thing about parenting an Only is that when it gets challenging — and it inevitably does — it’s hard to find someone to complain to who won’t dismiss you. One kid, compared to four or three or even two, is cake. One load of laundry. One mouth to feed. One parent-teacher conference to schedule. One annual physical. One summer camp tuition.

I have had dreams where I found out I was pregnant and the most pervasive memory upon awakening was the feeling of the legitimacy I had earned by having more than just one kid.

Over the past three weeks, while my wife has been recovering from two major surgeries in a row, I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water. And I am having a hard time allowing myself to feel that way — going to bed guilty every night that I am not able to handle it all with more grace. I’m behind on the laundry, I can barely wait to get The Who into bed every night just to give my brain a break, and I’m on the verge of tears at least once a day. Imagine, I keep telling myself, if you had more than one kid. What you’re doing, I keep telling myself, is no different than what millions of parents do every day. Single parents, parents of more than one, lots and lots and lots of other parents. This shouldn’t be that hard. And yet it is. The logistics alone — I can’t stop thinking and planning and worrying.

If I had multiple kids, would I be able to juggle it without going out of my mind? Probably. But maybe not. Maybe every day would be like this —  wake up, do, think, do, think, do, think, go to bed. The only difference would be that I’d be the beneficiary of empathy instead of a vast sea of patronizing smirks.*


*Ok, I get that this is wholly in my imagination. My friends and family — including my wife — have been massively understanding, helpful, empathetic, and kind. Mostly, it’s just me. Maybe I should just stop smirking at myself.

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Bullets.

  • Even in the middle of winter, my favorite beverages are icy. I like partially frozen soda and partially frozen Vitamin Water best.
  • Maybe more people do actually have it this week than have had it all season…or maybe it’s a Facebook algorithm that keeps making it pop up in my feed, but the abundance of flu-related posts made me drop everything, grab The Who, and go get us flu shots. (Yes, I should have already done it. It was a wholly unpleasant experience for both of us, which is why it wasn’t done in the first place.)
  • I’ve never felt so conflicted about football in my life. First of all, I have felt guilty all season because of, well, basically, how terrible the NFL is in general. Secondly, the f’ing Patriots keep being assholes. They’re super white, super Republican, super sneaky, and basically shitty. But, I have an abundance of hometown pride and sports is one way to show it. Rooting for the Pats feels like home and loyalty and familiarity and I love it. And, finally, it has never been harder to be a Pats fan in Philly than it is right now. (And it has been pretty hard in the past.)
  • I can do lots of things, but not everything. Today, it felt like I had to do all the things. And there’s still an entire list of things I didn’t even do, but should have done.
  • Our DNA results are in and I totally want to look, but since we all spit in a tube together, I feel like we should all receive our results together, so I’m waiting. I don’t expect any surprises in my mix; the Russian Jews were a pretty insular bunch back in the shtetl. But The Who could have some interesting tidbits. What we know about him is only what his donor reported and even then, who knows.
  • Talking about DNA with The Who brought up the discussion of the Donor Sibling Registry, which I had never told him about before. It’s something I know lots of parents have participated in and something I am definitely tempted to look at, but I am pretty solid in my opinion that it should be his choice when he’s ready, if he ever is. He seemed intrigued at the idea of having half-sibs floating around out there, so I presume he will ask about it at some point, but he hasn’t yet. I wonder if getting the results will remind him.
  • Our household has 5 original knees and one brand new bionic one. Soon, we will have four original knees and two bionics. I’m eager to see how our lives will shift and change when that roadblock has been removed. Of course now, in the thick of it, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.

God.

In the story we were reading, the main character was grappling a little with what God meant to him. I stopped at the end of the paragraph and laid the open book on my lap.

“What do you think about God?” I asked him, admittedly a heavy question for a few minutes before bedtime.

“Like, do I believe in God?”

“Yeah. Or, what do you think God is?” I have heard him talk about God before, referring to God in prayer or in song. It’s not unusual, given that he is being raised Jewish in a congregation with many Jewish friends.

“I guess he’s like…wait. Is this conversation going to count against my reading time?”

“No,” I laughed. You’ll still get your full ten minutes.”

“Ok. Good. So I guess he’s like…a person kind of. Like, a person’s features, but not an actual human person.”

“Is he a ‘he’?”

“Yeah. I think so. But not like a boy or a man. But he’s definitely a ‘he.'”

Where is God, do you think?”

“Up there, I guess,” he said, sort of shrugging and looking toward the ceiling. “Or, everywhere, like the song.” (He was referring to a song we had both learned when he was in preschool: “Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere. Up, up, down, down, right, left, and all around, that’s where he can be found.”) “Why?” he asked. “Where do you think he is?”

“I think God is everywhere, too. I believe in God as not a person or a he or a she, but as a force. Like something around me, something bigger than me, but not a person.” I paused. “Do you think God made the world?”

He had to really think about this one. He’s a smart kid. I mean, like scary smart sometimes. He can make logical deductions and do complicated math that makes my head spin. But he also takes a lot at face value. He questions everything, but also nothing at the same time. He is a rule follower. He stretches rules (does he ever!) but never breaks them. And if someone (or something) told him that God made the world, especially if it was something that he has been taught to love and honor (the Torah, for example), chances are that he would believe it. Simply and with blind faith.

“Well,” he said finally. “I mean, it’s been scientifically proven that the world wasn’t made by God, but…” he trailed off, and I sensed some conflict in his tired eyes.

“It’s ok, you know, to be a Jew and not believe all the things the Torah says.”

“It is?”

“Sure. I don’t believe that God created the world. And I don’t believe that God created people.”

“People came from Saudi Arabia,” he said, certainly. I made a mental note to follow up on that one later.

“Well, I think that people evolved from animals. I don’t know about the Saudi Arabia thing. But that’s just it. You can believe whatever you want and I can believe whatever I want and we can both still be Jews. People have been grappling with the Torah for thousands of years. I think that questioning it and interpreting it and trying to understand it is actually the coolest thing about it.” He took a minute and let that sink in.

We went back and forth a little bit then about theism and atheism and agnosticism and I shared my theory about why the stories in the Torah were written and why they sustain, even after science explained away most of them. We went back to our book then and after a few chapters, I put a bookmark in and tucked him in. I leaned down to give him a goodnight kiss and told him I loved him, just as I do every night.

“I love you, too, Mama,” he said, rolling over and snuggling in. “And Mama?” he said, yawning.

“Yeah, babe?”

“People really did come from Saudi Arabia.”

 

 

 

HumpDay. 

  • The Who popped out with a random and detailed memory from Pre-K. Not one I had ever heard, so not one that was recorded or repeated. Just a true, honest memory. This, just hours after having absolutely zero recollection of a movie he watched eight zillion times during the same period. Memories are weird. 
  • God, I have so much more to talk about and each thing could have its own bulleted post. Politics. Social media. Technology. Working parenthood. Ten years of marriage. Expectations and follow-through and complacency and the new Wawa gas station in my neighborhood. 
  • I wonder if the local public radio station made its 6pm goal and whether the Astros have it in them to beat the goddamn Yankees. 
  • These are my big questions. 

Hump. 

  • It’s raining madly and will rain all night and all day tomorrow. I want to complain about it but I really can’t. Because Harvey. And Irma. But, dammit, I just don’t have the right outerwear for this kind of rain. 
  • I was a jerk to my kid this afternoon and it took me much too long to apologize. The silver lining of the whole exchange is that I got to witness how good he is at expressing himself and holding his own. I need to do better. 
  • I spent the evening doing the kind of work that I am really good at but that is super tedious and takes forever. I only got through 12 of the 90-something pages I need to finish by Thursday, which feels impossible because
  • Tomorrow is a staff retreat at work, which means I can’t just hunker down and get it done. Which means I’ll be doing it tomorrow night after the retreat and the commute and kid pick-up and back-to-school night. 
  • I still totally love my job, though. And I have ZERO regrets as my friends begin their teaching years. Seriously zero. 
  • And speaking of beginnings of years, we have ourselvelves a newly minted third grader. How is it possible that my Who is in his hump-year of elementary school? Wasn’t he just a kindergartener yesterday? 

Open.

There was a 10-minute period — after 11pm, after the campfire, after we had devoured s’mores enough to hold us until next summer, after we hugged tearful goodbyes and lamented — again — how we live too far away, after we had gotten back to the hotel, after we had gotten into pajamas, after we had exchanged a bunch of angry words over his too-loud whining and my too-stern reprimanding, after we had apologized and hugged, after all of that — there was a 10-minute period in which his stuffed (“She is not stuffed; she’s real!”) dog went missing.

This dog, you have to know, is his sibling, his child, his confidante, his comfort, his best friend, his love, his family. This dog has feelings and thoughts and desires. She is everything he wants her to be, and like the Velveteen Rabbit, she has become Real to The Boy. And to be quite honest, his love for her has made her realish to us, too. Realish enough that in those ten minutes that she was missing, I felt tears well up in my own eyes. The thought of her being alone somewhere in a pile of dirty hotel laundry — the thought of him thinking of her being alone somewhere — brought me real and tangible grief.

We searched together by the light of the phone flashlight in the dark room while my wife slept. Under beds, under pillows, under piles of our own dirty laundry all packed and ready to go home. We pulled back the sheets and covers of both our beds, searched in the bathroom. I even looked in the nightstand drawer and was met with absolute emptiness — not even a bible.

“Please go ask the front desk, Mama,” he pleaded. And then, quietly moaning to himself, “Bella. Where are you?”

After I had walked down to speak to the front desk, after I had determined that there was absolutely nothing to do tonight, after I had firmly demanded that this be handled first thing, after I had come back to the room and had found him asleep in the exact position I had left him, after I sat down at the desk and stared blankly at the closed laptop, after all of that — I turned around to do one more certainly fruitless feel-around at the bottom of the beds.

And then.

I found her! Tucked mercifully into a pile of flat sheet excess at the bottom of his rollaway. I fumbled to free her and then roused my boy from sleep because he’d want to know she was with him. A wide smile broke through his grogginess as he embraced her and whispered almost incomprehensibly to her — things about loving her and being so happy she was back.

His ten-minute heartbreak cracked me wide open. A little blue dog and a little sad boy and a late night fraught with goodbyes and the kind of tiredness that comes from jumping on a trampoline in the dark with your cousins — it has cracked all of us wide open.

Three.

Tomorrow is Day Three. The third day sitting on the couch all day with the exception of some pacing back and forth every few hours just to move a little. The third day of waiting to heal so that I can feel like the surgery was even worth it. The third day of comparing this surgery to my last two, to childbirth, to recovery from all the illnesses I’ve ever had. The third day of anxiety about steri-strips, about showering, about making it up the stairs. The third day of trying to focus and re-focus my eyes after the anti-nausea patch that they put on me in the OR gave me double vision. The third day of making sure my phone is charged, my sheet is straightened on the couch, my juice is cold.

Day Three of this stuff is always the hardest. I’m the most impatient, the most angry, the most demoralized, the most bitter on the third day. All the anesthesia is fully out of my system and the moment the percocet wears off, it feels like I’ve been repeatedly kicked in the gut and chest. And it all still feels crazy surreal. This wasn’t even remotely on the horizon. It wasn’t even in the back of my head — oh, one of these days I’m going to have to get that appendix out. I never thought that. And now, here we are, day three. Incisions and antibiotics and the lingering sensation that a tube had been shoved down my throat and then violently ripped out.

This is some kind of bullshit.