Aspen Princess: Taking baby steps to navigate this back-breaking labor of love
The Aspen Princess
So my morning went something like this:
I totally lost it with my almost 3-year-old after what has recently become an incessant battle of the wills. I am not quite sure why this tiny human, who has only been on this planet for a relatively short time, is able to engage me in this way, or why it can’t be as simple an equation as: “I’m the parent, you’re the child, you do what I say.”
After losing my temper in a way that made me wonder if I’m imparting permanent damage that will result in thousands of dollars of psychotherapy for the whole family and a bulk rate from Prozac, I threw my back out lifting him out of the car for the illustrious preschool drop-off.
This was long after the dust had settled, and the tears had dried up and we had hugged and kissed and said I love you and promised to be nicer to each other from now and forever, but still. I was already feeling the fatigue from last night’s bedtime fiasco. After two hours of reading books, telling stories, singing songs and rubbing his back for so long that I thought my arm might fall off, he refused to fall asleep. Ryan had already been sleeping on the couch for quite some time when I shook him at 10 o’clock, totally exasperated, and told him I’d given up and was taking a bath.
When I finally went to bed around midnight, relishing a few hours alone in front of bad TV with a mud mask on my face, I went upstairs to find Levi, Gertie and Ryan curled up together sleeping peacefully and snoring in unison. I lost at least another half hour of sleep worrying about the whole co-sleeping conundrum, wondering if this was yet another of my recent failures in stepping up to the plate for what is best for my child. Allowing our child into our bed is certainly something I was warned against, and definitely something I didn’t see myself doing. To make matters worse, there are two distinct camps on this one, those who believe wholeheartedly that co-sleeping is a nurturing, loving, bonding experience for the family that is very natural, and those who think it’s a very, very bad idea for a laundry list of reasons.
I am ambivalent at best, both relishing this time with my little one and the closeness and affection that will surely slip away when he grows older, and also dreaming about just one night of uninterrupted sleep in a bed all my own, ideally in a five-star hotel in a warm climate overlooking the ocean.
What’s more, in this crazy, information-saturated world, you can find 8 million articles offer totally conflicting advice. And raising a child in this era — when information and stimulation is being hurtled at you at warp speed and instant gratification is at every turn — is certainly part of the problem. I find it difficult to manage it myself; how in the world am I supposed to be able to navigate this as a parent?
I was thinking about this earlier this week at the gym as we were doing the exercise where you flick those big, heavy ropes up and down. It was the first time I’d ever done that, and the trainer joked that it made her feel bad ass, so I tried to adopt that attitude even though it felt like my heart might explode from my chest and land on the floor in one bloody, convulsing heap. As much as I willed myself to be a tough fitness chick on her way to washboard abs and other muscles that would show if I doused myself in baby oil and stood in just the right light, there was something about the intensity of it that almost made me feel like I was going underwater.
Still, I was very much into these cool exercises at the gym, of this commitment to fitness and wellness I’ve tried to make as I careen from middle age into being just plain old. Weight training is the key to my longevity and preserving my youth, I decided. It’s what would make me strong for my little boy.
When I lifted said boy out of the car and felt the right side of my back seize like someone had stabbed me in the back (Was it God?), I struggled to catch my breath and not to make a scene. I shuffled gingerly past the puffy-coat-clad moms who are half my age into his school like I was 105 years old, doing my best to act like this was a totally normal day and not one when I had come this-close to losing my mind trying to wrangle a tiny pair of socks on my baby-gone-wild and was now in excruciating pain, not quite sure how I was going to make it home considering all I wanted to do was lie flat on my back in the snow.
This was a far cry from the picture I’d had in my head just the day before, of me magically growing 6 inches, losing 10 pounds and strutting around in color-coordinated workout outfits with tops that had complicated strap configurations. I also thought I was so on top of this whole mothering thing. I’d read a few articles, I’d tried a few techniques, I was totally on it. I mean, we’re not talking about a wild boar or a serial killer who had escaped from the state penitentiary, but a 3-foot-tall, 32-pound baby boy. My baby boy. My baby. My whole heart. If anyone should know how to manage him, it’s me. Right?
Four ibuprofen, one ice pack, a heating pad and a chiropractor visit later I’m still taking shallow breaths. Maybe it’s not going to be so easy. Parenting really is back-breaking work.
The Princess wants to wish her beautiful son a happy third birthday this Saturday. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.