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The other night a dear friend came to downtown LA to meet me and S jr for dinner at Peking Tavern (scallion pancake I love you forever) and between me feeding S jr bites of dumpling and lotus root and chicken with chopsticks he looked at me in the way only a dear friend of many years can and said So how is it? Being a mother?
I used to wonder this, too. When I visited friends with kids I always loved holding them, playing with them, making them laugh...but then skipped to my car and went WHEREVER THE HELL I WANTED.
Now, life is basically run by two small dictators, and while I'm loath to say it out loud, it's kinda true.
Not that babies mean to create a totalitarian state – they can't help it.
When my friend asked me those simple questions, a rush of thoughts entered my brain and I couldn't talk for a few seconds because I was overwhelmed. I think I stammered something about how it's everything they say it is, and then some, and then I said Your life is reduced to primitive survival techniques.
When one of the dictators has just started walking and the the other dictator goes through an average of five bibs per day, you don't hesitate to eat leftovers off your son's high chair tray, or use your sleeve to wipe your infant's barf off her face, or go to the bathroom holding a baby on your lap.
The landscape around you is occupied by need. Pure, blatant, constant need. Any sense of personal space has shifted to the space you take up while holding a child, and how impossible it is to do anything that requires both hands.
And the clock? The clock has become a sort of runaway metronome.
When I was deep in piano lessons throughout childhood, I hated the metronome. Even the name sounded bland and predictable, and utterly without mercy.
But the concept of time with two babies is like trying to play a never ending sonata with a constantly changing rhythm that you must keep OR YOU WILL ALL PERISH. Which is why I also told my friend that Having children makes you rethink everything you thought you knew about linear time.
First: it doesn't exist. That Einstein was really on to something. As Corey points out, time rockets forward whenever one of the babies is napping. And if one of us is alone with both of the babies, it can nearly stop. Relative is goddamn right.
And then: Corey has been taking Wee W out to the wilderness on the weekends, and each time they return, she looks different to me. They're only gone for a couple of days, but when we reunite it's like meeting a slightly new person. It throws me.
As parents, most of the time, Corey and I are just jogging along, shoving random food into our mouths and throwing cups of water into each other's faces. Naps, bottles, diapers, repeat. Then we'll notice a new tooth pushing its way into S jr's mouth or Wee W will make a BAA sound and suddenly everyone lurches forward, pushed by a kind of cosmic gust.
How is it? Being a mother? Terrifying and exhausting and wonderful and frustrating and hilarious and staggering.
And that was just today.