Riding Waves

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By 6:43 this morning I wanted to divorce my children. In any given moment all they need to do is look at one another and the squabbling begins. Refereeing is my least favorite part of parenting without doubt.  It sours my whole day, which is unfortunate when it starts before the day begins.

This morning conflict set in before the second was one even awake. No innocent bystander, she had not-so-passive-aggressively reclaimed a stuffed puppy from him as he snored and sweated in deep slumber. When he couldn’t find said dog upon waking all hell broke loose. She then dared to chastise him for waking her with his emotional outburst! He, in turn, took it out me when I sequestered the pup. Being the bad guy is a crappy job. Why again did I choose this?

Over the weekend I took my daughter to visit a beloved teacher’s newly adopted baby. She had many questions, and I would expect no less. The best by far:

When you adopt a baby does it come with a list of things the baby needs?

I couldn’t help but laugh. Of course there is no list; in this case the baby was handed over with four diapers, a half-can of formula and no name. The situation is no different for birth parents: no user’s manual provided. Each day we wing it, and with each day come the waves of emotions as intense, continuous and unpredictable as day one.

I’m not going to pretend that the emotional highs outnumber the emotional lows. But I will say that the peaks–however few and far between–are what make this parenting thing worthwhile. Last Wednesday was case in point.

From the moment I retrieved the clowns from school they were happy, kind, patient and darling. Off to the beach we went so that my daughter could surf and my son could, as per usual, avoid the sand and water–a challenging task given the circumstance.

Then something completely unforeseen happened: he ran headlong into the water, no parent attached. He let the waves crash over him, enveloping his whole being. With unbridled joy he played in that ocean as if this, in Rapunzel’s words, was the best day ever! This beach boy persona was a side to him that I had never, never seen and now absolutely adore. All those cursed hours of freezing cold mom-and-tot swim lessons and even colder (and much heavier) koala-carries in the ocean were forgiven.

Blood, sweat, tears yield this golden moment. And to top it off, he begged to go to the beach over the weekend so that he could try surfing. Who better to teach him than his surfer sister, who on that magical day caught her first wave from the outside and rode it all the way in? Fast forward to Saturday. With an unprecedented collaboration and fellowship of trust, she gave him some pointers, placed him on that board, turned him to catch his first wave. Up he popped.

No matter that the magical Wednesday was capped off with a ginormous night-time pee accident.

Riding waves indeed.

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The Birth Canal is a One Way Street

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When I think of a childfree life it is not one of glamour, adventure, romance, travel and leisure that I envision. Nope– it’s much more basic, encompassing the minutiae of life. It’s sitting down to a meal where the first bite isn’t interrupted by someone suddenly needing the potty. It’s sleeping consistently without someone screeching from night terrors or dropped Pillow Pets. It’s getting out of a car without cleaning the spilled contents of un-spillable milk boxes that have seeped into the crevices. It’s reading Time Magazine’s The Childfree Life on the toilet, undisturbed.

Clearly my dreams are not lofty. For me the short hours of the school day (thank you, September) most closely resemble a childfree life. Oh to go for a run post-drop-off alone in Torrey Pines is simply blissful! Or to be out in the open waters, surrounded by old school surf dudes and some (gentle) marine life–paradise!

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And when I want solitary time–no people, no conversation, no kids– I might find myself here where a swim in a most perfect pool is just two bucks.

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And of course there is the productivity component: being able to accomplish the goals of the day that require a chaos-free environment such as offering nutrition advice, composing blog posts and writing my yet-to-be-published children’s stories. This is my childfree life.

According to the article in Time Magazine some opt for life sans-children because instead of reproducing they pursued interests, talents and careers that yield a certain lifestyle–one that is comfortable and fulfilling. Why change all that?

I had children fairly young, though not according to North Carolina standards where we were living at the time. There if you don’t have several kids by your late 20’s you were deemed barren. Or so it seemed. I finished school, including a graduate degree, and happily worked for $16.50 per hour.  I enjoyed a comfortable life, but not one so luxurious or exotic that introducing kids might complicate. Into this life Thing One arrived. And we were happy. By the time Thing Two joined us our lifestyle hadn’t evolved too much. In fact, living standards had declined due to our move to the pricier New Jersey. And we made the decision to rely on one income largely because my chosen field was not exactly lucrative. Nannies and daycare would be more costly than my own attempts at raising the clowns.

Yet I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t question my choice. At least once a day. I think anyone who claims that he or she doesn’t at times pine for a childfree life is not being truthful. I’m the first to admit that I am completely challenged, frustrated and depleted by my kids. It’s all too easy to imagine what I’d do with my time without them. So much activity and productivity!

Let me pose this question: would I appreciate a childfree life as much if I were actually childfree? It’s like East Coasters maintaining that they need the seasons to appreciate good weather. West Coasters (particularly down in the SoCal) don’t buy it: living in Utopia doesn’t make it any less satisfying.

But of this I am sure: the birth canal is a one way street. You can’t put the kids back (though no doubt one of mine would climb right in if he could). The fact is I do love my kids.  And the last thing I do before turning in at night is remind myself of that. I take a peek at them sleeping, a peaceful snapshot in which they truly are adorable and almost angelic.

I am also quite certain that had I opted for a childfree life, this would be the image I’d conjure when inevitably pining for children.