“Did you feel the house sway?” I asked, trepidatiously.
The people around me all nodded, as we peered outside the sunroom windows, staring at a blowing blanket of white snow.
“I know that we all felt the house move when that cyclone passed over us, but our house is over 100 years old, so it must be strong, because it has been through so many storms, right?”
The quickness of my speech belied the calm affect I was trying to employ.
Everyone around me was chatting, saying things like,
“I’ve never seen anything like this!”
“There aren’t usually tornadoes like this in Philadelphia!”
and I chimed in with,
“I guess this is a SNOWNADO!”
We had seen it coming during a snowstorm, bracing ourselves for impact when the white flurries turned into a dark, ominous looking swirl, growing in size and speed by the second. The feeling of our house swaying was one I had only felt before during the earthquake of 2011, a feeling that has haunted me ever since.
The snow continued to fall, I decided to contact my loved ones to check on their safety, and, the next thing I knew, I woke up.
It was 5 o’clock this morning, and yet I knew I was up for the day.
I have been recovering from a migraine, and since it was a doozy, I had to take my medicine, and it knocks me out, so I fell asleep around six last night, woke up at 11 to eat some Oreos, and then went back to sleep.
It was early, the sun not yet peeking into the sky, and I was still feeling shaken.
“A snownado,” I thought to myself. “Well, at least I was creative.”
Just moments ago, the third clap of thunder boomed from above.
“What’s that?” asked Beau, with the same cautiousness that I know so well.
“It’s just thunder!” I said calmly, this time belying the anxiety I really feel inside.
Both kids are home with me, today.
Despite the weather forecast for a warm, cloudy morning, I am staring out my window at the deluge of rain, falling in torrents; I am counting each clash of thunder.
What my kids do not know is that as a child, I had a severe phobia of thunderstorms.
I cannot tell them this. Why not? I do not want to impart my fears onto them, and, most of the time, thunderstorms aren’t actually scary.
Beau chimed in with a legitimate concern. “Will daddy be safe?”
I assured him that we will all be safe, and daddy will be able to get home to us without a problem.
As I write, the rain continues to fall.
I see squiggles of light in my line of sight.
Belle is reading in her room, Beau is playing a computer game in mine.
And, the same words keep repeating over and over in my head, on an endless loop:
Being a parent is hard.
I have amazing parents. Earlier this week, when I texted my mom to see if she remembered my pushcart, a 25-year-old project for which I was particularly proud
(I carefully and meticulously used all of my third grade skills to design a pushcart, with little, tiny baskets lined with colorful fabrics, and fruit crafted from modeling clay),
she responded immediately with, “I still have it!!!!!!!”
Not only does she remember, but she lived this with me, and it is still a part of her consciousness.
Yesterday, when my dad heard that Beau had been feeling sad, and had tried to make a wish that he was sure would not come true, he came to my house on his way to work, at seven in the morning, to bring my son a snorkel.
“This was my wish! My wish came true!” Beau shouted with glee.
Not only did he take in my little anecdote about his grandson, but he wanted to make magic for him.
My parents are amazing.
And, my parents are the first to say, “There is not a manual for being a parent.”
Being a parent is hard.
I can remember my first summer as a mom, around nine years ago, when I lamented Belle’s changing non-schedule of a schedule.
“They aren’t robots,” my mommom said, as we settled into her beach house for the weekend.
At the time, I resented her comment, finding it to be flippant. But, I see what she meant. Every time we think we have it down, the rules of the game change; it is an ever-moving target. Just as soon as I get my grip on how to parent a child of this age, and at this stage, the age and the stage evolves, and I am left, once again, to figure it out, often by the seat of my pants.
This stage of parenthood is pretty awesome. My kids are people, now.
They both teach me things that I do not know, and I find it to be fascinating and brilliant and beautiful.
Belle is into farming, and composting, and weeding, and worms. She devours books, and loves graphic novels, and spends her time drawing, writing, and looming. She is politically and socially aware (at our Passover Seder this year, she chimed in and proclaimed that Pharoah was just like Bill Barr). She likes things that I don’t like. She is her own person. And yet, she is still nine.
Beau is into Star Wars, and building, and quirky things like maps, planets, and…snorkels. He is like an encyclopedia of knowledge about the alternate universes that he explores, and he has an incredible memory. He just asked me how to spell “MONSTER” so he could type it into his Mincraft world. He is loving and curious. He likes things that I don’t like. He is his own person. And yet, he is still five.
The fact that my kids are now actual kids, and not babies, makes the decision about expanding our family (the subject of my second book, which is now in the copy-writing stage of production!) more complex. On one hand, having a baby now seems like a piece of cake. I’d have built in help! My kids would love a little brother! On the other hand, we would be starting all over again, at a time when we are in a very different stage (without schedules, or diapers, or the inability to communicate effectively with words), and we would have a rather large age difference to contend with. But, there is something else that holds us back. It is not just my former battle with postpartum depression.
Being a parent is hard.
I have learned that in an instant, just like it did in my dream, the world can shift.
It might not literally sway like a SNOWNADO, but it can feel like it.
Thunder can so quickly turn into sunshine. As I sit and write, the rain has stopped falling, and I see light through my bedroom window. All in the span of one little blog post.
Yesterday was a hard day for me. I shared the following on my Instagram page
This is a weird selfie. It’s real, though. This is exactly what I was doing in the moment that I decided to write this post. I was in the backyard, a watering can in one hand, my phone in the other, in a sundress from my best friend & soccer sandals on my blue-toed feet, and I realized that I wanted to share.
This has been a hard time for a lot of people I know. I don’t know what planet is in retrograde or moon is eclipsing but I know so many people – members of my tribe – who are hurting right now; for whom life isn’t the most beautiful. I feel you.
This morning was hard. I didn’t want to get up & dressed & head out to the garden, which signaled to me that I was not OK. So, I spoke to Kenny. “I’m not OK,” I said. I talked to my best friends via text. My sis called. I want to be clear in saying that yes, I am OK, & I don’t mean to sound hyperbolic, but I’m shaky.
It wasn’t easy to get up & dressed & head out to the garden, but I did. I watered my greenhouse veggies & herbs as the thermometer in there read 97.3; I watered all of my annuals; I saw that the rose bushes have started to bloom, resplendent in different shades of pink; I tended to my new pumpkin patch, in an outdoor area by the swing set; I replaced the seeds in our bird feeder; I took stock of the perennials that have surprised me this week. “The world isn’t so beautiful, right now,” I said to myself. “But this is.”
I let myself feel the sun on my open back, and then I snapped this weird photo of myself, leaning into one of my favorite new flowers. It’s OK to not be OK, they say. I’ve said. This is what it looks like to be OK and not OK at the same time. We can hold so much in our two hands.
To those of you who are also feeling burdened by those things less than beautiful, you are not alone. You are seen. At least by 1 girl in a sundress & soccer sandals.
When I think of what we know about being a parent, my mind goes back to the metaphor of the oxygen mask.
“You must put on your own mask first,” we are told.
And I get that, and I try to adhere to it sometimes, but that is just one thing that can happen on a plane.
You see, what my children do not know is that I still have a pretty bad fear of flying. I have flown all over the world, and yet it is my biggest phobia. The last time I flew, the pilot gave me wings. I was 31.
So, while we parents worry about how to occupy our children on plane rides, and what they will have to eat, and cross fingers that they will nap, or won’t nap, and
please do not let them kick the seat in front of us
I also have my own issues to tend to. On top of all of the logistics and parenting, I have to gracefully accompany my children on airplane flights when I am supremely terrified, AND I cannot let them know.
You know that I talk very openly with my kids about feelings and fears, and I have normalized emotions in our house to the best of my ability. They know that there are things that I am scared of. BUT, I never want my phobias to plant seeds in their minds, and therefore potentially hold them back.
I have told them that I am scared of snakes. This is true! Why was I honest about this?
Because, in my mind, worst case scenario is that my kids would also be scared of snakes (just like my dad, and my grandmother before him). We would avoid the reptile house at the zoo, and all run screaming at the sight of anything slithery.
But, it is also something that I have been able to show them – tangibly – that I can conquer, at least enough to pet the snake at the demonstration at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Showing them that, “we can let it scare us but we don’t have to let it stop us” is huge for me.
Another one of my fears? Space. I don’t even want to talk about it.
Being a parent is hard.
“Look! Look outside!” I just told Beau, as we curl up in my bed.
“It’s not raining,” he said, without much emotion.
Once again, the world had changed. Some fears were abated as others grew.
“And no more thunder.” he added, as he built a patio out of wood and obsidian, which he favors because it can be used to make portals, for his latest house in Minecraft.