Most days I wonder if I have completely abandoned all those parenting books after I had my fourth kid and went on with making my own up as I go.
I crawl into bed, my body is exhausted and I am hoping to convince my brain to do the same. It is considerably early for me (midnight) but since the world isn’t designed for people like me, I vow every night to go to bed early and set an alarm for 7 A.M. I press my eyes closed in hopes of not starting my week off with the disappointment that sleeping in has given me lately. The word lazy floats around in my head as give myself a mental pep talk on the pro list of getting up early. (Number one- toddlers are still asleep. And I forget the rest). Cece is sleeping in the middle of our bed. Her forehead is matted with wet curls. Why do babies sweat so much in their sleep? Layla would wake up drenched in sweat and I would worry, the way mothers do with their first-born. I move a piece of hair that is stuck to her cheek in a combination of drool and sweat and kiss her squishy skin, not minding the sweat/drool puddle that leaked onto the top of my lip. She reacts by burrowing into me, my security blanket. There is always a little part of me that is happy she is there- until I wake up at 4 am with a foot resting on my nose as she unknowingly flops her way along the middle of the bed leaving Josh and I to rest uneasily on the far edges of our queen size bed. I think about all the articles and books I read when the girls were little. Don’t let them sleep with you. The words taunt me as I make a case for my side of the argument, the one that goes just like this: I have four kids. Oh, and her bed is still in the garage waiting a mattress purchase and another room reorganization and the assembly process. So she sleeps with us some nights and with Jackson on the other nights as we reinvent the idea of what it is to be normal.
Cece is sucking her thumb while the other hand plays with a latch on the vacuum – a reminder that I should put it away. It is a slight interruption to her pouting. She wants her shoes on; she wants to go to “Papa House”. I can’t explain the logistical impossibility in words she would understand and her pouty tantrum is a result. She bangs her head on the stove, a move borrowed from her brother. Then she hangs her head in exaggerated sadness breathing out of her nose, a move she invented. The Jackson influence on her toddler development is evident in how colorful and vibrant her tantrums have been lately- a wildflower garden of emotion. Cece is learning toddler habits from the worst possible influence, and there isn’t much I can do about it. I thumb through the old baby books and scour Google on how to prevent one toddler from infesting another one with the asshole bug. Nothing. Does she take naps? Sometimes. I suppose. It is normally collapsing onto a couch in a fit of exhaustion. We can call that a nap. Does she have a normal bedtime? Kinda. About four times a week we can get her to go to bed. The rest of the time she is dozing off to whatever we are binge watching as we give her bottle after bottle hoping that one will knock her out. She should be off the bottle. The books warn. I know. I know. I hesitate to bring up that she gets the majority of her hydration from bottles and lapping up water from the dog bowl. Cute. I think. Only to realize it isn’t water she is licking, but mud. I did it! She exclaims, looking up with a goofy grin brought on by the satisfaction of gourmet mud. I absentmindedly eat one of her gold fish. My diet consists of half food and half gold fish I don’t realize I am eating. They are always lying around in toddler dishes as a constant reminder she is going through the “ too busy to eat” phase – an exact replica of Jackson a year a go. Not exactly a pillar of the food pyramid toddlers are recommended to eat as she is living on cheese and milk. Some days it is a victory to get her to eat a meal.
The thing about Cece is that she is my fourth one, my last one. This is my last chance to savor these moments. She blew my pressure gasket and I realized all the things I was trying to accomplish were not truly who I was since there isn’t time or energy to put into things that don’t matter. She was climbing on the playground, in all the same moves she carefully learned by watching her brother. She climbs to the slide. I don’t climb after her, I am confident in her ability. She slides down and catches herself at the bottom. I don’t even go over to check on her. She climbs up a ladder. A really steep ladder and I ignore the perceived look from the other mother climbing around after her daughter. She climbs higher and higher to the top of the big-kids playground. She steps right to the top of the winding slide and slid down. I hear her clunking around inside the tube but somehow she lands perfectly on her feet laughing. Again! I stop worrying that I am not following the moments by the book and continue to write my own.