“Those” parents

MAJOR verbal processing by an admitted highly-sensitive type ahead. Whatever. It’s my blog. And it’s cheaper than therapy copays.

I blame masochism. It’s the only thing to account for why I click on certain articles on the net.

They all have really charming titles, but the latest one was “I don’t care about your baby.” Subhead: “It’s not that I hate your little sprog — quite the contrary! Just don’t ask me to indulge your narcissism.”

I know what’s coming, and I click anyway. Because I’m an idiot. “This does not mean I resent your baby or resent the fact that you have less time to bro-down with me on a weekend. What I resent is the singularity of focus that some new parents bring toward parenthood.”

I am one of THOSE parents, for sure. I know I am. I’ve been that parent for 4 years and I’m about to leap right back into Stage 1: Newborn, where I’m too tired for anything but a singularity of focus on sleep, diaper-changing, and nursing.

So just imagine this picture with one more baby in it.
So just imagine this picture with one more baby in it.

You’d think that feeling self-conscious would slow me down some, but a glance at my Facebook page any day of the week and it’s clear where my focus (mostly) lies these days. I’m not very interesting unless you have a penchant for mildly amusing kid quotes and little-boy shenanigans captured via Instagram. (Or, in the case of the past few weeks, updates on trying to get rid of MRSA, which, I’ll be honest, freaked me out a little).

On my good days, I win the battle in my head. On my good days I think the things Justin would say. Smart things like “Who gives a shit what anyone else thinks? We decide what works for us.” (My husband is sort of a walking “Look at all the fucks I give” meme. On any given day I’d pay good money for a lasting dose of his perspective).

On my bad days, not so much. I compare, compare, compare. I replay the snippets of complaints I’ve heard from folks in our longtime social circle about how we’re not doing it right because, since we’ve had kids, we don’t show up to watch them get drunk group events enough, or how we make way too big a deal over our kids’ relatively mild challenges.

I know not everyone feels this way, but it’s weird how big the sentiment can feel, how much it stings all the same. No one wants to feel like a bad friend, or even like a no-longer-fun friend.

I’d love to be the mythical cool parent who checks all the boxes — has a growing career, a vibrant social life, and a loved, thriving kid, who doesn’t miss a beat, who doesn’t seem like they’ve lost chunks of their time or their identity to parenthood.

And while the truth is that I have had more on my plate than I ever expected, the truth is that the “extras” aren’t an excuse. Even if my kids had been textbook normal, I’m not sure I ever was going to get the balance right. When had I ever accomplished that kind of rational balance, even before kids?

Miss a beat? Hell, I’ve missed years.

I work hard, but right now I take just enough projects to support my stay-at-home-mom habit. I take pride in the business I’ve built, in the income I bring in for our family, but I’m by no means the major breadwinner. When things go haywire with the kids via illness or therapy, my schedule is the more flexible one, so usually it’s me missing the work time. (For example, I spent all of last week’s office hours in the ER or at the doctor’s this past week, thank you MRSA).

Thankfully I have good clients who feel I write them well, and I’m probably still decently reliable as artist-types go, so they’re gracious with the occasional hiccup. Still, I have to say: these are not the years where I get to look like the consummate professional. And with another baby on the way, it’ll be a while before my studio reaches its full potential, if ever.

I’m interested in what’s going on in my friends’ lives, and am better than I used to be at asking how things are going. It’s definitely a work in progress. But when I’m asked what’s going on with me, chances are a lot of that is going to have to do with my kids.

That’s where I live right now. It’s most of my life. My kids are small and they are dependent and they are demanding. “Slightly crazy” is our midpoint, when everyone is healthy and things are working as they should. Life being what it is, even reaching the midpoint is a challenge sometimes.

A good morning:

Somewhere between 6:15 and 6:30 am I wake up to the older child climbing into bed with me. A few minutes later, the littler one will yell for me to come open his door. A will ask for the Roku remote to turn on a show. F will “snuggle” me, which means that he’ll cling to my head with his entire body, pausing at times to kiss me, a process that for some reason involves teeth. I accept this arrangement because a) this is F’s sweetest, most affectionate time of day, and b) it allows me 2-3 minutes of dozing at a time for a half hour to forty-five minutes until I’m a less hateful, angry individual capable of more patient parenting.

I dress the kids, then I shower (some days). F, who is in the middle of potty-training, often takes my unavailability as a sign that it’s a good moment to need to poop. As I turn off the water, he takes great pride in handing me my towel and congratulating me on another successful shower. “Dood job, Mom. Dood job. You did it. High five.”

I dress for at-home (yoga pants and a maternity tank) or public (jeans! fancy!). I brush my teeth (most days) between breaking up an argument that’s erupted over a not-important item like a hairbrush or a plastic toy hammer. Sometimes the little one just follows me around crying because he wants to be held while the other one yells “I’m hun-dry, Mom! I’m HUN-DRY!”

“JUFF A MI-NUTE! I AM BURSHING MY TEEF!”

Breakfast time it is. A’s cold. They both want the purple bowl. And a blanket. And honey-bear on their Cheerios. And juice. Immediately. Simultaneously.

Brush teeth. Wash face. Gel the hair. Socks, orthotics, shoes. Sweatshirt, coat, backpack. We wait outside for A to catch his bus. Then F and I come inside and play until the nanny rescues me (on work days) or until it’s time to pick up A from the bus.

I have a system down, but I don’t have a system down that doesn’t slightly exhaust me. I’m not a routines person — and nothing requires routine like small children. Even when I complete all the steps, inside I often feel messy and stressed.

And yet. I love being mother to these kids. I love watching them learn and grow. It’s hard work and totally overwhelming, but for me it really is the good stuff, the beautiful stuff, the stuff that makes a life. Stress and wonder come in equal measure right now.

When I hear or read things like “You never seem to have much room for anything in your head other than your kids,” all I can say is, “YOU THINK?”

Narcissism? I’ll allow that some of that’s fair. I think there might be some sort of vital evolutionary programming there that makes us feel like our kids are (to us) the most hilarious, interesting, adorable little humans . . . as Michael Lewis says, when you provide regular care for something, you begin to love it. We get obsessed. We focus inward.

But it’s also something else.

Nothing has ever felt as important as getting this right. Nothing.

(Pause to say that my marriage is just as important. But because in marriage I’m partnered with a grown, independent adult as opposed to an unformed, vulnerable child that I carried in my own belly, the feelings around it are different. They just are. Justin does not depend on me to keep him alive, to help him understand the world, to learn how to operate in it with respect and kindness. Justin doesn’t need extra time and practice to learn how to speak clearly. My kids do).

I also don’t mean to say that “getting it right” means that my success as a person is reflected in how my kids turn out. They aren’t my masterpieces. I directly influence them for a season only, and so much of their lives depends on them. I just mean that I put a higher value on trying to be a nurturing, attentive, instructive mother than most other things. I’m far from perfect, but I know it’s up to me and Justin to help them get a loved-up, secure start in the world. That dictates a lot of our decisions in terms of how we spend our time — and most nights, we choose getting them to bed on time.

While I know of no one who feels they’re checking all the boxes perfectly, I know there are people who are so much better at the balancing act, whose friends are far less likely to complain that they’re in kid-land. And while I’m jealous, I don’t resent them or get all smug, thinking that they’re putting less in.

A lot of it just comes down to personality, I think. I’m an idealist through and through. Every. little. thing. feels like it matters. I have big feelings that don’t compartmentalize well. Few things bring out those feelings, that sense of “this matters” like my children, so they get a lot of the oomph that isn’t contractually required by work and other necessary tasks. I can’t be good at everything right now, so please! God! Let me be a good mom.

When I fell for Justin, you’d have been hard pressed to hear anything else from me. I was caught up in one of the great adventures of my life, and I think even then I knew it. My family and closest friends would have been annoyed (or more annoyed) were they not quite happy for me. They were patient and gracious and gave me time and space to figure out my new identity — still me, but me as half of my new family. That grace is why we’re still close today.

There’s an article floating around right now called “What happens to a woman when she becomes a mother.” “What scientists do know, Feldman says, is that becoming a parent looks—at least in the brain—a lot like falling in love. Which helps explain how many new parents describe feeling when they meet their newborns. At the brain level, the networks that become especially sensitized are those that involve vigilance and social salience—the amygdala—as well as dopamine networks that incentivize prioritizing the infant. “In our research, we find that periods of social bonding involve change in the same ‘affiliative’ circuits,” Feldman said. “We showed that during the first months of ‘falling in love’ some similar changes occur between romantic partners.

I’ve said more than once that I get mama-highs from loving on my kiddos. Now that they’re a little bigger, I also have small heart explosions when I see them be loving toward others:

—F cries his eyes out and thrashes and spits every time we have to force his antibiotics down his throat. It’s an ugly battle. For the past two nights, A has quietly grabbed the iPad and set up F’s favorite movie to watch to help distract him from the yucky taste. He holds the screen up so F can see — no matter what crazy contortion F has achieved — and says comforting things to his brother.

—F tells me “Dood job” every time I successfully use the big potty.

—A told me I’m a really good helper today after I put up his sun-shade in the van.

Mama pride — off the charts.

***

All that to say: my life probably won’t always look like this. I hope it feels a little less crazy as my kids grow and become more independent. I’d like to think I might eventually have time for more reading and writing and occasional evenings out. I might eventually have more interesting things to say, things completely unrelated to parenting.

But my brain is different, my heart is different, I’m different. My calendar may change, but somehow I don’t think my priorities are going to.

The greatest brain changes occur with a mother’s first child, though it’s not clear whether a mother’s brain ever goes back to what it was like before childbirth.”

My kids come first.

It’s not selflessness and no one’s looking for any parenting martyrdom awards here.

But neither is it selfishness or narcissism.

It’s love. Love, and lots and lots of oxytocin.

on leaping part 2

leap

Deciding to have a second child didn’t even seem like a real decision to be made. Both of us knew we were on board for 2, so there wasn’t much hemming and hawing. We simply got overly nostalgic the week of A’s first birthday and took the leap into a second pregnancy.

It was a little hasty, but it was fun.

A third child, however — that’s a whole other kind of decision. Or at least it was for us. We discovered lots of very logical reasons not to. Buy-one-get-ones don’t work evenly anymore. Restaurant booths aren’t built for 5 people. Airfare anywhere becomes a nightmare. You create a middle child. Add another college tuition. You have to get a bigger car. Etc. Etc.

And in our case, a third child represents more than the simple time and expense of another child (not that it’s ever simple, not really). In our case, we know there’s at least some possibility that we might be adding another set of feet that need orthotics, or another several years of speech therapy. (That not counting the other surprises that are also possible with any new child, the things you never know to think about until they happen). I worried more than once that people would judge us for having another child when our first two have some “extras.”

Since F was a year old, we’ve talked about a third kid. Shelved the conversation. Talked some more. Shelved it again. We had each had moments where we thought “maybe”, but we just weren’t sure.

And yet.

When our ultrasound technician said, “Yep, that’s a penis,” at F’s 20-week screening, I was elated. Two brothers, so close in age . . . I loved the idea of raising little boys. (Still do, though I’ve seen quite enough penises, thankyouverymuch). But I have to admit that it left a strange question mark out there that was probably a little more pronounced than if we’d have had one child of each gender. It’s hard to know if we’d have felt the same either way, but all I know is that I didn’t feel done.

It probably didn’t help that as we sat there in the ultrasound room, my darling husband said, “Somehow I just think we’ll be back here again,” in a moment of loved-up fatherly insanity that I definitely took too seriously.

A few weeks after F’s arrival, I had to go back to the hospital to drop off my nursing pump. I had a visceral moment there in the elevator as I headed up to the birth center: I knew in my gut that someday I would be back. The tears came then. I was hormonal and crazy and sleep deprived, yes — but my heart was sure.

How dangerous those moments become. And how quickly. I worked to bury that moment, knowing that you can’t base life-altering decisions on your guts. (Never mind that I had leapt into marrying Justin — my best decision — on just such a sense).

I remember how relieved I felt when, after talks with geneticists, we were told that, while we were likely to have kids with slightly low muscle tone (so: kids just like us) and there was the possibility of mild temporary issues, we had no more risk than anyone else does of having a child with severe challenges.

“I’m just so relieved to know the door isn’t closed,” I said on the drive home. That crazy hope quickly resurfaced.

I once heard a woman announce to our entire small group that she and her husband’s new year’s resolution was to get pregnant that year. She confided to us women later that “Well, I’ve got him at about 80%.” I didn’t have children yet, it wasn’t even a thought yet, but I remember thinking: there’s no 80% when it comes to kids. I knew that I didn’t want to ever have kids unless we were both on board.

For a long time Justin was not so sure about becoming a family of 5. I felt bad — for the both of us, but mostly for him. There’s nothing that’s fair about a conversation when one person wants something so huge and the other person has all the burden of saying yes or saying no. It wasn’t fair and we openly acknowledged it.

I should have guarded myself better, but the truth was that, somewhere in that year of talking about it, a third child had somehow become more than a hypothetical question. It was more like a potential person — another member of our family — was hanging in the balance. I started thinking things like, “Well, it’s not like a minivan would be so bad. And how often do we even fly anywhere anyway?”

Again: it’s so unfair to put that decision on someone. But I also knew I loved my husband more than I loved a possible third kid. It had to be both of us or none of us. And I knew that if he asked me to, I’d let it go. It was just that, after over a year, I needed to know there was a time coming when we’d have come to a decision and I could either let my heart go nuts or I could grieve some and move on. The not knowing was almost harder.

The internet being the font of knowledge that it is, I actually googled — a couple of times — “having a third kid.” One site said: “The number one reason to have a third kid is so you can stop talking about whether or not to have a third kid.” I have to agree.

I’m almost too ashamed to write what helped us land. The first was a sort-of joke: I told Justin that most of our board games are 5 player games, which he said was the most compelling item in the “pros” column. The second was an example of just what kind of man I’m married to and frankly, it humbles the shit out of me.

This one particular morning, I knew he’d landed, but I wasn’t sure what he’d say. He took a deep breath and said, “The truth is that I was already 75% on board anyway. Our kids are cool. But our life is already crazy. And with another newborn — that’s such a rough time. But when I was thinking about it, I realized it would be easier for me to run the gauntlet with another baby than it would be for you to let go of another person in our family. I’m in.”

“…I do have conditions though. This. Needs. To. Be. Our. Last. Kid. You need to feel done this time. Also, are sexual favors on the table? I’m kidding. Kind of.”

A few months later, when I was sure he was sure and our children were more reliably sleeping through the night, we took the leap.

My pregnancies have always run like clockwork and I already knew to be grateful that somehow I’ve avoided the heartbreak of losing a child in pregnancy. But this third time, we had a scare early on and I had to go in for some tests. My hcg levels were really high but they couldn’t see an actual baby yet, which concerned them. They said I’d need to wait a week, and on the next scan we’d see if the pregnancy was viable or not.

It was a long week. I didn’t sleep. I learned how quickly I get attached.

I discovered — and wept to — a newer song of Regina Spektor’s in which she sings, “the piano is not firewood yet/ they try to remember but still they forget/ that the heart beats in threes just like a waltz/ and nothing can stop you from dancing . . .”

The way it worked out, I had to go to the second scan by myself, since Justin needed to stay with the boys. I listened to that song on repeat all the way to my appointment.

The ultrasound room had a big computer monitor mounted up where I could watch the scan. There was no keeping it together when she said, “There’s your baby. And it looks just like it should.” I’ve had blurry eyes at each of my scans all through my pregnancies with both boys — can’t help it — seeing them is magic — but this time I was an absolute mess of relief. The tech had to hand me a tissue or 5, but I didn’t care.

She told me I’m due Mother’s Day.

Baby girl and I are now 22 weeks along. Once this is all over, I know I’ll say it went fast, but it doesn’t feel fast. I’m tired. Nothing tastes good. My sleep is garbage. Heartburn and headaches rule my days. And I know too much about how amazing it is to meet the baby to really revel in being pregnant like I did the first time. There will be no photos of me holding fruit next to my belly in my Facebook feed and I have been too busy taking photos of Ash & F to stop and take a bump photo yet.

Every now and then when I’m particularly miserable and sick of pregnancy I think: I must have been crazy. But then I remember Justin’s prediction at F’s ultrasound. I remember me in the elevator. I remember the morning Justin leapt to 100%. I feel the baby kick, as she does often these days.

Yes. We are crazy. No one sane ever does this a third time. But she is and has been so very wanted. I’ve been dreaming of her a long time and cannot wait to finally meet her.

Til May, little girl.

10442395_10152588005526395_6156901320498066133_n

A letter to my son

1797424_10152468814491395_1000263040005137474_n

Dear A,

You can’t yet read this, but someday you will. I don’t want to lose this thought to time and sleep deprivation, so I’m writing you now, sweet four-year-old. I don’t want to forget to say thank you.

About half a minute after I knew I was pregnant, I bought a pile of baby books — as if the act of purchasing these hefty paperbacks would somehow transform me into a good mother, a confident mother who knew what she was doing — the kind of mother you deserved. I admit I never made it to the end of the books, or even very far, but I read far enough to learn that long before you’d ever see me, you’d be able to hear me. So I sang to you — in the shower, in the car, doing the dishes.

When you finally arrived at 2 a.m. New Year’s Day, I had been awake for about 40 hours. I was too blissed-out and exhausted to be aware of what was happening. I didn’t sense anything wrong when, rather than handing you to me, they whisked you to a table across the room instead. More and more people came kept coming, but I saw nothing amiss.

A nurse came to my bedside and slowly and calmly told me they wanted to take you to the NICU. You were not breathing well. Still too tired to be properly worried, I asked — if it wouldn’t be dangerous, of course — if I could see you and hold you before they took you away.

They brought you to me then, an impossibly small pink face tightly packaged in a hospital-issue cotton blanket. Expert hands quickly stretched a gauzey blue and pink striped cap over your head. When they placed you in my arms, I said, “Look at you. I know you.”

I could hear your breathing and I knew what the nurses meant. Each exhale was a choked half-grunt-half-cry. I would come to know that wheezy stridor by heart. I’d lay awake in my bed next to you, hanging on each raspy new breath. We eventually bought a SIDS alarm just so I could sleep.

But as I held you that first time, as I cooed your name, something happened. Your little body relaxed. Your breathing grew quieter. You knew me too — and rather than separate us, the nurses left you there in my arms.

For the moment, this gave me more confidence than any book could. I was a mother. Yours. And already my voice was home to you. You had known it for months.

Before you were born, I tried on quite a few songs as lullabies — nursery standards like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Rock-a-Bye-Baby, but Over the Rainbow quickly became yours.

Once we arrived home, that song became our salvation. Those early months, when you struggled to breathe, when you struggled to eat, when everything was twice as hard as it should have been . . . that song was the only way I knew to soothe you. It was a magic spell.

The first weeks were a blur, but I remember one morning in particular. We were alone in the apartment. Your dad was at work. Rain was falling outside, as it had been for weeks. Our living room was a mess of pump parts and diapers and wipes and pacifiers and further evidence of barely managing.

I was trying to feed you but nothing seemed to work — you were still hungry after every attempt and I was in so much pain I could hardly stand to bring you to my breast.

We’d learn later that your facial muscles were too weak to latch, and that you were constantly getting milk down the wrong pipe, but all I knew in that moment was that I was failing you at this one basic thing. It wasn’t very logical, but it felt real: If I couldn’t even feed you, what good was I?

We completed the cycle that ruled our days together: attempting to nurse, then feeding you formula — rhythmically tipping the bottle up for you to suck, and then down for you to swallow and breathe, up and down, up and down. Then we pumped, and then I changed both your diaper and your clothes for the third time that day.

Have I told you yet that every second diaper was a blowout when you were small? Have I told you that nothing made you cry harder than being naked?

Today was the day it was too much. We were a mess of crying, you and me. We rocked back and forth by the fire in our oversized recliner. I held you the way I’d learned to: upright on my chest, head nestled into the warm spot in my neck. You breathed more easily this way, and we’d spent entire nights in this very position.

As I sang, you eventually soothed and fell to sleep, but my tears kept coming and my voice wavered as I tried to sing the words.

Where troubles melt like lemon drops away above the chimney tops . . .

Your body was warm and damp as you slept on my chest. But I kept singing because I knew the words might be able to save me too. And they did. More than once.

When you came along, I hadn’t sung in a very long time. I sang for over 20 years in church, but when my faith crumbled and church doors closed behind me, it was as if I’d shut myself off from a lifetime of music, too. The notes rang hollow and my voice fell silent.

All that changed with you.

You may not understand this until much later. But by your very becoming, you are helping me become someone new. Simply by being born, you are bringing things to life in me that didn’t exist before you.

You’ve never known a world without me, but I lived 30 years without you, and I want you to know the years since you came crashing into my world have been the most full, the most exhausting, the most happy and heartbreaking. Nothing is what I thought it would be — and I would do it again.

I love you, my sweet boy. Thank you for giving me new reasons to sing.
Mommy

don’t let me forget . . . #1

This parenting thing is all going so fast. And so slow. Every 3 months these little boys are seemingly new people.

So, in the interests of keeping some of this in my head and heart a little longer (given my poor memory due to sleep deprivation), I’m going to list these off occasionally.

Stuff I don’t ever want to forget:

• A’s current twists on celebratory words: “whoo-FOO!” (whoo-hoo) and “it-TAH!” (ta-da)

• F’s arms wound tight around my neck

• cuddling with the boys in bed before we start our day

• A saying “I’m good” and “I love you too” even when no one asked him how he’s doing or said “I love you” first

• The boys dancing to the piano on demo mode

• F counting to 10

• The way the boys stick their noses in the air when they go to time out, trying to get every bit of themselves into the corner

• F saying his name for the first time: “Ninney!”

• A telling everyone that “my tree fall down” — that tree being the one I painted in his room, about which he had a nightmare over 6 months ago

 

Things I’m glad will fade with time:

• The stress of using a public bathroom and trying to keep the boys from touching all of the things

• F’s current penchant for “NO!” and “STOP IT!”

• orthotics, everything to do with them

• eczema, everything to do with it

• A “looping” — the same questions, ad nauseum, on repeat, forever

• demands for juice, milk, snack, shows, outside, and everything else that makes it tough to sit down for more than 3 1/2 minutes

2013

I said several times this year that I would have no problem saying goodbye to 2013. It was, by all accounts, a bit of a crap year.

I worried myself sick this year. My mom fell and broke her ankle in 3 places and had surgery twice. The boys had their usual bevy of orthotics appointments, therapy appointments, and the like. But 2013 was also the year of multiple health scares, weird lab tests, genetic tests, and a less-than-pleasant screening that possibly saved my life. (There’s nothing sexy about having a colonoscopy, but there it is. If it makes one other person likely to go in, fine, I’ll say it: I had one. The prep drink is horrifically awful. The drugs are very nice.)

Back in May, I went to what I thought was a very typical post-screening appointment, only to have a very wide-eyed nurse assure me over and over that I was one lucky woman. My screening — checking out some post-pregnancy stuff, just to be on the safe side — caught 3 symptomless polyps which had a very high likelihood of becoming cancerous by the time I was 40.

Screenings don’t typically begin til 50 (I’m 33).

I got lucky. And though I don’t think about it often because I’m morbid enough as it is, I can’t help but shake my head and be incredibly grateful that the strangeness and stress of that season yielded something very good. (Even if I do have to repeat the test in 3 years).

This clear lack of control over my life this year accomplished much more, however: it brought me to the end of myself. To quote Anne Lamott, I finally acknowledged that I had run out of bullets. I probably needed to seek out support years ago when A was first born and I was struggling under the weight of so much love and terror and worry and tiredness, but my pride and stubbornness kept me from it.

This year I was stripped of that option. There was simply too much going on to maintain my illusions of “just hang on a little longer.” I wanted to take care of myself — for my own sake, and because I knew that if I wasn’t strong, I couldn’t BE strong for my kids.

So. I went and talked with a really nice lady once a week who helped me straighten some stuff right out.

I let go of some heavy burdens. I figured out how to talk myself down. I reluctantly accepted my highly-sensitive nature a little more. I said some overdue I’m sorry’s. And I let go — mostly — of the compulsion to try to run around and manage how everyone else is feeling. I started to let people own their stuff, even if it meant they had to work through being unhappy with something I unknowingly did or said.

This leaves me with a lot more energy for the things that really matter. And on that side of things, this year was glorious.

I grew in my career. I’m closer to the work I really want to be doing than ever. We have great child care (finally).

I heard a beautiful, perfect, clear “mommy” for the first time. A learned his ABCs and numbers and how to spell and say his own name. He started saying, “Aye-uh-oo,” which, of course, means “I love you.” My F started walking and then running. He just started asking to cuddle at nighttime and keeps signing for “more” whenever I finish singing a song.

And oh, that man I married. I learned over and over this year what a funny, tender, patient, steady man he is. I trudged through plenty of days where I was so anxious I didn’t know quite what to do with myself. And he just stuck by. Listened. Said what I needed to hear (even if it was just a truly horrible, deeply inappropriate joke). He took things off my plate. Loved our boys. Let me sleep in on the weekends.

We’re not quite to the easier part yet. Not even close. But I think we’ll get there and I’m less scared of the not-yet than I used to be.

Tonight the kids ran around our living room mostly naked while Justin roared and scared them to shrieks of delight. The baby ran up and laid a big open-mouth kiss on me while his lanky brother tackled me sideways. The boys half-hugged/half-wrestled each other toward the stairs as they said goodnight.

In that moment, it was hard to feel like anyone has it better than us.

I hope you feel the some of the same tonight. Happy New Years.