October 2010


I’m tired. I’m so tired I feel like I’ve been stuffed inside a zip lock bag full of Jello and then hurled across the sky. According to clocks and all other time telling devices I no longer go to bed during the actual night. The AM signal has made its appearance hours before I’m even ready to consider being in a horizontal position.

Work has kept me doing all manner of crazy things into the wee hours of the morning- writing musical numbers to be performed by inanimate objects, building stets out of construction paper, operating Popsicle stick puppets from underneath a table in a basement. Last night, at two a.m., while the rest of the eastern seaboard was sleeping I was making an inflatable blimp out of a tube sock, a plastic bag, and a bicycle pump (it’s important work…somebody has to do it).

I’ve pulled all-nighters followed by half-nighters and half-nighters that lead into no-nighters (there are just no catchy phrases to sum up how very little rest I am getting).

I imagine this is what it’s like to go on a vision quest or some other spiritual journey where you deprive yourself of sleep for several months and then right when you think you are going to break beyond repair you start hallucinating and meet your spirit animal.  The hallucinations haven’t started yet but if they do begin, and I do indeed meet my spirit animal, I am fairly certain that it will tell me to get some fucking sleep.

Before having a child I would have been able to take this advice. I would have followed any sleepless night with at least three days of doing nothing but lying in bed and rousing only to go to the bathroom or make myself a toaster waffle. But now that there is a little person expecting me to be up with the sun, a day of rest is simply out of the question. I can’t just tell my two-and a-half –year-old, “Hey Mommy’s going to head to bed for the next eleven hours. Here’s how you open the fridge and operate the oven, here’s how you change your own diapers, here are the keys to the car, sing-a-long starts at ten, don’t be late. I’ll just be here in my room with this do not disturb sign on the door. You’re cool right? I’ll see you at dinner.”

It just doesn’t work like that. I can’t even pee with the door closed let alone disappear to take a nap.

So I’ve had to get creative. I’ve had to cut corners… I’m not proud of it, but at the moment it’s the best I can do.

When my daughter wants to play pretend I suggest that we pretend to be babies, “I’ll be an itty bitty baby,” I volunteer. “Did you know that itty bitty babies just lie in bed and sleep and cry? They can’t walk or anything… just watch, it goes something like this.” And then I curl up and attempt to drift off. “Whaaaa!” I cry out every few minutes just so she doesn’t think I’ve stopped playing the game.

Today I suggest we pretend the bathtub was an airplane. “You be the pilot,” I said, and then I sat behind her and rested my head against the faucet while she steered us through the clouds. I was actually managing to get some great rest until she requested that all passengers on the bathtub plane sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” over and over again.

At mealtime, I opt for something that requires nothing more than reheating or calling someone on the phone and saying, “I’d like delivery please”. At bedtime I suggest that my daughter read a story to me. When she naps, I nap, and when she wakes after only twenty minutes I suggest we play a highly competitive game called “pretend nap”.

“See if you can make me think that you are actually sleeping,” I say.  “I’ll play too. Whoever can pretend nap for the longest wins! I’m very good at this game so you are going to have to be very convincing to beat me….”

It’s really shameful to think of all the ways I’ve attempted to avoid our usual boisterous routine. When she asks for dance music so that we can “rock out” I put on a CD that involves a single wooden flute or a lone Monk chanting “Om.”

“Oops,” I say, “wrong CD. But isn’t this music nice. It might not be the best for dancing but do you know what this song is really good for? This song is great for sitting on the floor and staring up at the ceiling. Doesn’t that sound like fun!”

Yesterday at the playground I asked her to push ME on the swing. It was going so well until the force of my weight knocked her into the sand. At one point she was hunting for acorns and I curled up on an empty slide, “Excuse me miss…” I heard a woman say just as I was beginning to relax, “My son would like to use that slide.”  I made up some embarrassed lie, “Heee, heee, I was just playing hide-and-seek with my daughter…. guess I picked the wrong spot.”

I’m pretty sure she thought I was drunk.

Soon I’ll be back in the game. I’ll be energetically chasing my two-and-a-half year old through fields, playing the bongo drums with my feet and hula-hooping with a stuffed monkey taped to my head (you know. The usual parenting stuff.) But for now, for the next day or two… or three, I’ll be I’ll be looking for that bench, or that doorway, or that mattress on the side of the road, where I can pause for just a minute and rest.

 

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Once when I was seven my goldfish jumped out of his tank and committed suicide. He actually thought to himself, “I would rather suffocate on that pink shag carpet than spend another moment living in the care of this kid.” When I found him I was devastated.  There was no note, of course, and so I was left to assume that it was all my fault. Did he not like the seashells I’d brought back from Florida especially for him? Was he dissatisfied with the neon rocks that lined his floor? Was it the food? Could it be that I was feeding him the wrong food? I felt so misunderstood. Did this fish not know how much he was loved? Did he not hear the fish songs that I composed for him? Did he not know that when I stroked the side of his tank I was actually attempting to pet him the only way I could possibly think to pet a fish? He had no idea. It was terrible.  So terrible, in fact, that I vowed to never to purchase a fish for my offspring. I did not want any child of mine to suffer the same rejection. I figured stuffed animals were the way to go. I just assumed a synthetic creature would never hurt you the way a real one might. After all, they are not living. Sure, the ones with batteries could maybe run away, but I was going to steer clear of those altogether.

 

I’d find the most inanimate of all inanimate objects and encourage my daughter to fall in love with it.

 

That’s how “Corduroy” made his way into our lives. It started with me reading her the book Corduroy- it’s a story all about a girl who saves up her very own money to buy her very own bear who becomes her very best friend.  My daughter and I read it over and over again and then one rainy day I presented her a dollar. “This,” I said, practically stealing lines directly from the story, “is your very own money. Let’s go to the thrift store and maybe we can find something special to buy with it.”

 

She lit up with excitement. “Maybe,” she stammered, “I will find my very own bear.”

 

Together we rushed to the stroller and trotted off to the store. It was magic.  And it only got better…

 

When we arrived it was as if the universe had conspired to make this moment happen. Right there on the shelf was the very prefect bear- he was scruffy and lanky- he could sit up on his own! He had this look in his eyes like he had lived a thousand lives and was just full of stories to tell.  My daughter was in love. She took him into her arms and said, “This is it mommy. This is Corduroy. He will be my very own bear.”

 

And just like that Corduroy joined our family- he ate meals with us, he slept in my daughter’s bed, he joined us on road trips and accompanied Sage to all traumatic events like haircuts and trips to the doctor. He was great- better than a pet- way better than some old fish. He was dependable.

 

But then…something shifted. Corduroy started trying to ditch us.

 

It started on a trip to the park- he actually had the nerve to jump out of the stroller and attempt to take up residence under a tree on the side of the road. Then he hid under a stack of books at the library and spent several hours living the high life with the local children’s librarian. One time he even spent the night at a toy store- was he hoping to get re-purchased by some other cooler family? He’s really unbelievable, we’ve had to retrieve him from buses and grocery stores and restaurant lavatories (god only knows what he was doing in there…something illegal I’m sure. I’ve lived in New York. I know what happens in bathrooms).  No matter where we go, no matter how much fun we are having, he tries to abandon us.

 

I cover for him of course. I don’t want my daughter to know what a drifter he is. When she discovers he’s missing I tell her, “Oh he’s just on a little vacation, he’ll be back as soon as he enjoys some down time.” or “Corduroy… I think he’s at school. Did I not tell you he recently enrolled in community college…he’s probably in class.” I just do whatever it takes to buy time while my husband races around town trying to find him, searching park benches and alley ways…it’s just so upsetting. Corduroy has no idea how good he’s got it.  My daughter is the most loving attentive caregiver you could ever hope for. She is tender and loyal and funny. She dances with him every night. She tucks him into bed and serenades him to sleep. She shares her food with him and rocks him when he is feeling down. He’s the luckiest damn bear in the world.

 

The next time he tries something funny I’m going to put my foot down. “No Corduroy! Not on my watch! This ends now.” I’m going say my piece, not only for my daughter but for all children, all children who have been taken for granted and ditched and by their stuffed bears, and velveteen rabbits, and plush lovies, and…and…YES! THEIR FISH!!!