Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Story in My Locks

I am reminded daily of the birth of my children when I look in the mirror, not because of stretch marks--though those surely still remain--but because of my hair. Thanks to my son, each time I comb it large handfuls fall out, wrapping around my fingers as I seek to detangle it. With my daughter I eventually lost half my volume--months of shedding culminating in a slowly growing crown of short hairs that mirrored the fuzzy growth of my daughter though a bit less socially acceptable. But a funny thing happened as it grew--it came in straight. As someone that has wrestled and made my peace with a head of thick, curly hair, this threw me for a loop--what was this? Is this my new normal? And thus my hair came to catch the persona of my life: new, different, unfamiliar. The stress of a newborn, the trials of postpartum anxiety and depression, the shift in hormones with a birth and breastfeeding: all of these likely played their part in my awkward hair growth. Yet as time progressed and I became acquainted with motherhood, my hair settled in as well, curling lightly once again, growing out from baby hairs to locks that fell around my face.

All of this came to light a couple months ago when I cut my hair shortly before giving birth to my son. It had been over a year since my last cut, and I had several inches cut off, creating a fresh layered look to elongate my ever round face. And when I looked in the mirror after washing it, I was struck by the curl that emerged, freed by the extra weight that dissipated when the inches were cut. But instead of the strongest curl being near the base of my hair where it was the lightest, it was near my head with the fresh growth. The bottom few inches were barely waves and awkwardly hanging beneath the peppy curl higher up. This last evidence of one of the hardest years of my life causes me to pause on a regular basis. The stretch marks from that first pregnancy have long since faded. My body has lost weight, carried another pregnancy and gathered more stretch marks to tell of my son's gestation. This transition has been easier for any number of reasons, not the least of which being I knew what to expect. He sleeps better, cries less, eats well and is generally such a happy child. Part of this is undoubtedly due to his disposition; part is likely due to the fact that he can sense I am at ease--a reality that was a long time in coming with my daughter. And while those dark nights and darks days I weathered as my daughter aged were something I would happily never live through again, I am reminded these days that they are etched in who I am. They changed me, challenged me, made me stronger and revealed my true weaknesses and fears; they grew my faith even as it was challenged daily and sometimes hourly. I am thankful for those months of trial even as I detested every hour of them.

I need a haircut once again, and in this next trim I will likely lose the last physical evidence of that time after my daughter was born, a step that will leave me with locks of even curls, a head a little lighter, and a heart a little nostalgic.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Nomenclature

Knowing an item's proper name is almost as important to her as knowing it belongs to her...a small chair, fitting for no one to use except her small frame, fits this bill perfectly. I am not looking forward to the day her brother learns to claim things for himself; she will not be thrilled with the competition.

I'm not sure when she learned how to respond to the question, but at some point this summer she determined the answer people were looking for when they asked her "What's your name?" Around the same time she discovered that everything has a name. Everything.

"Stop sign"
"Seat belt"
"Door handle"
"Rearview mirror"
"Wheel"
"Exhaust pipe"

"What's this called?" she repeats over and over and over. The construction equipment around town needs a proper name; the different types of dinosaurs in the orange plastic container from Uncle Josh need a name; the metal pieces that hold up the railing along our stairs need a name. 

"Sewing Machine"
"Needle"
"Ruler"
"Rotary Cutter"
"Fabric"
"Iron"
"Sewing Machine"

It can be a bit embarrassing at times when a new person walks in the room and she loudly proclaims, pointing at the human that now stands before her, "What's that called?" She doesn't want to know their gender--she will happily tell you that if you ask--she wants a name. And she will repeat it to herself ad nauseum once she knows it.

"Windex"
"Rag"
"Toilet bowl cleaner"
"Toilet brush"
"Toilet seat"

At the end of the day, when I'm hoping for peace and quiet and she is still moving full speed I find it challenging to answer these requests patiently, especially as they circle around to the same items repeatedly because she has forgotten what I told her the first time. Other times she shocks me by naming an item we haven't seen (or discussed) for weeks. She remembers more than she forgets, a trait I envy at times and condemn at others. 

"Tea cup"
"Saucer"
"Tea pot"
"Sugar bowl"
"Lid"

She is in tune with so much these days: the rhythm she has come to count on with our schedule, the items she expects to eat at regular meals based on frequency, the meanings of the different noises her brother makes, the probable location we are headed based on the route we are driving in the car. 

"I need food", she declared this morning, almost an hour before we typically eat lunch. "I need breakfast, a banana," she added to amend her initial request. Now that she can communicate, she regularly tries her hand at negotiation, requesting "one more time" with an item she is not ready to put away, "one second" for an action she is not ready to quit. We realize the phrases we speak without thinking because she repeats them back to us--over and over and over again.

When you become a parent, people warn you of the challenges you will face. What you don't understand initially is how these little people will wear you down. It's not just that they don't sleep--it's that they don't sleep for months. It's not that they throw fits when they don't get their way, it's that they do it over and over and over again. Even when you don't give in to their whims, even when you make it clear that you are the boss, they continue to try---for days, and weeks, and sometimes months. And if they don't wear you down with misbehavior, they may slowly drive you insane with the little questions asked all day, every day.

Yet, even as my husband and I high five over getting two kids to bed to close out another day, we spend the evening chuckling about the funny things our daughter said, the adorable grin flashed by our baby son, the hilarious chain of events that took place earlier in the day. And in that way, it is probably a gift that our memories are not quite as sharp these days: how quickly we forget the exasperating moments as they are overshadowed by the adorable. I am thankful for the short memory I have these days; I would rather start relatively fresh each morning. Perhaps the sleep deprivation is a gift, after all.