I’ve been quiet lately. Not that I haven’t had thoughts... I’ve had some doozies and even a few notions to expand on them in written form, but I’m currently constructing a placenta, and that has sapped every last drop of motivation, creative or otherwise, that isn’t absolutely required for feeding people at work and home. Placenta construction is almost complete, and I should be feeling better any minute now. Sorry if the word placenta is off-putting for anyone, but your mother built one for you, too, and it was hard work for her. If she never did one single other thing for you, if you never thank her for any other act, thank her for building you a placenta. I’m going to start a new line of Mother’s Day greeting cards. In fact, I think it deserves it’s own holiday. Placenta Recognition Day. That’s how much work it is. This is the only part of adding a new member to the family that I feel guilty about. The first few months. For three months my body and mind are so entirely consumed by the task at hand that everyone suffers my absence, especially me. I want to feel like my normal, energetic self. I really want to, but I don’t. The mister and kids are sort of filling in for me where they can, taking care of each other and taking over the stuff I usually do for them while I sit in a haze and try not to throw up crackers. This must be what it’s like to have a mom who is addicted to heroin. After this, if history is any indicator, comes the cake walk. The final six months of growing the baby, the having of the baby, the integration of the baby into the already too small house, the teaching everyone to take a step along the line toward increased responsibility... those are the easy days ahead.
The step along the line is the part I don’t feel at all guilty about. I’d keep having babies forever just so I could teach each kid that everyone gets a turn being new and being carried around for a few years. Everyone gets a turn being 3 and watching Sesame Street instead of washing the breakfast dishes because they are learning to read and that is time well spent. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure it’s fair. They will have their turn being 10 and having to help with the housework, too, and when you’re off to college or the Peace Corps or some Vo-Tech in Omaha or whatever, your roommates and friends may or may not know how to do laundry and clean toilets, but you certainly will, so quit whining because that is not getting the job done any faster. I don’t feel guilty about raising a family who is learning to take care of one another. I lead by example. I take good care of these people. I feed them well, like, really well, and read to them and take them fun places and sit in the bleachers in the sun when it’s 110 degrees outside to cheer for them, and I make sure their lives are lots and lots and lots of fun. Unless I’m building a placenta. Then I slack for three months and let them fend for themselves, which they do pretty well.
Four kids sounds like a lot to me. Perfect, but a lot. I feel an increased pressure to raise these children exceptionally well. I’m teaching them all to hold their breath for a thirty count every six minutes in order to lessen their CO2 output and not hasten the end times. If I am going to add to the stress and burden of the Earth with this increase in population, it is my obligation to make sure they are responsible stewards. There is no code for this, no compass that lies anywhere outside each of them. The good news is that they all came with an innate and unique set of skills, and my simple task is to help them identify and cultivate those. If I could take a short-cut, I guess I probably would. But I’d be doing them and myself and the planet a tremendous disservice to just hand them a set of rules and regulations and say to them as a group: this is it, kids, follow this path and you can’t go wrong. Now get out there and act right!
Morality is not imposed so much as it is discovered, like faint freckles on each of our faces.
I need look no further than my own siblings for evidence of that. We are bound not by a shared philosophy, but by tremendous love for one another, and by a shared experience of childhood. We formed together. Also, I might need a kidney someday, so I should be nice to them. They taught me things I wouldn’t know otherwise, like how to build a paper airplane that will fly straight (older brothers understand the physics of aerodynamics better than most rocket scientists) and how often to change your bra (I can still hear my sister’s voice every time I’m tempted to pull a bra out of the hamper, saying ‘nothing smells worse than a dirty bra,’ which prompts me to toss it back in and wear a less flattering but clean one). I’m not sure that any more different people ever sprang from the same pool of dna, but we love each other an awful lot, and it’s nice to have people around who I know so intimately, know who they were as children, and who know how wonderful and crazy my parents are.
I like to imagine the conversations my kids will have about me when I’m not around. What will they remember about me? It’s funny to think of the moments of my own childhood that I can recall with perfect clarity. Parents don’t get to pick those. You can pack your kids up once a year and haul them to FunVille to make some memories (though mine wisely never did) but what they are going to remember about being 5 might just be sitting in your old red pickup truck next to you on an icy morning while the engine warms, and the steam of your breath in the cab while you finessed the clunky old three-on-a-tree shifter all the way to school. My dad must be a God to be able to drive this thing...
Mamas, they won’t remember that you built them a placenta, so you should remind them every time they defy you.
I realize that it probably appears on paper that we don’t have the resources to provide for this happy little accident... er, surprise... but the further along my path I go, the more I realize that the sum of the waitress and the songwriter, though well below the poverty line, is much greater than it appears, even to me most days. By the time you’ve factored in the large-ish family inside this 850 square foot house, the enormous family outside of it, the neighborhood that loves and supports us and helps us raise our kids, the art, the music, the friends flung out across the globe, not to mention the network that each of them will make for themselves... I won’t go on. I’m not that corny. I’ll just say that this baby is going to fit in perfectly, even though we have no place to put it. It is going to sleep in a basket until it is old enough to fight someone for a bed.
I should warn the three kids who are going to try to defend their space in this small house: before I found out I was pregnant (and before placenta fatigue set in) I had a couple beers and failed a cartwheel on the rainy patio of a Taco Bar. I’ve never misstepped a cartwheel in my life, but the wet patio was slippery and I landed on my ass so hard that the ground shook. I’m not exaggerating. There’s a video somewhere, which I hope to never see. The kid that survived that impact is going to be tough, so watch your backs. New Kid: just don’t punch anyone in the kidneys. You never know when you might need one of those.
|We can't promise you a bed, only dogs, cats, goats and muddy puddles.|