When pushed, push

Hugely eventful week in our household. It started with the aforementioned would-be date night ending in the potty trauma (mostly for me) of pee on the floor and nearly four hours of defiance....and wraps up seven surprising days later. After a maddening yet hilarious do-it-in-the-yard phase we now have a potty-trained 3.5 year old who rides her bike up and down the street like a little cottonwood seed dancing on the air. She cruises over bumps and circles around and dodges obstacles and does it all without training wheels. "She looks like a baby riding a bike," said my husband, who taught her to do it in a week of loving moments. "It looks completely wrong."

It almost makes me believe all those wacky beauty pageant moms who insist their preschooler competes in talent competitions because it's what the child wants. In this case, Peony really did push to take her training wheels off, and she's asked to practice every single day since then. I think we were pushing her on the potty training issue, so she pushed somewhere too - and in this case it happened to be on something with wheels. She went far.

Over the weekend, the guest room became a baby room and the preschooler room became a big girl room. Things moved into the basement and things moved in and out of rooms. Our house began to feel a little smaller, but fuller. A lot of laundry was done. My feet hurt from going up and down the stairs with a large person living inside of me (OK, he's actually pretty small, but still, he's a full-term person). I kept thinking it wouldn't take a whole day of moving, but it did. And then we were done.

Today I visited my doctor, who talked lovingly about how what I want, in labor, is to feel very uncomfortable. How things should feel very wrong - and that indicates progress. The worse it feels, usually, the better it is. I'll feel pushed - and I should push in return.


Father's Day Weekend

These sublime spring weekends. Even 3 tortuous hours in the bathroom while our 3 year old "holds it" in sheer defiance of the potty were peppered with joyful moments. A babysitter's cancellation inexplicably turned our would-be date night into a funny, crazy, agonizing potty training marathon. She's defying so she can be free, but we need us all to be free of diapers. And I love to see her free. Freedom in the strawberry fields, eating her weight in berries, traipsing around with a toddler friend; freedom on her bike with no training wheels, balancing for the first time in the arms of her wonderful father on Father's Day while neighbors applaud up and down the street; even the look in her eyes when she high-fived me after a day of no diapers - her first ever. She didn't use the potty - not once. She used, instead, our backyard, rather like a wild animal. But she only did that after careful, lengthy, and serious negotiation with me and her dad, and the combination of her remarkable language development and her general nudity and freedom in the wild and with her cognizant, but animal, self was, to me, continually stunning. She seemed amazing.

I spent part of cool Saturday afternoon going through her baby clothes, setting some aside to keep for her, tons to give away, and the least girly to keep for her new brother, due in less than 4 weeks. I thought it would just be a chore, but it was much more than that. It was wildly emotional. I was standing in my bedroom, feeling strenuously pregnant, but I was sobbing. In my heart, I was naked in the yard, too, wind blowing my hair as it dusted white pine needles off the trees across the way. The hat she wore in the hospital, the onesies smaller in span than the length of my hand - that this person I love beyond belief should ever age at all is tragic and of course exactly what I want.

It was a stormy way to plumb the depths of the contradictions in my heart lately.  I love my job, but I want more time with our daughter, and soon, our son. I love our home but I need a professional life in which I am challenged to grow and compete and innovate. I love my child but I deeply want more time with just her dad. I love being with them together but I want time to nurture just me. I want to take classes, be home with the baby, get a dog, stop cleaning up after children and animals, get promoted, work less, be in the spotlight, have a private life. Complete this pregnancy and not be pregnant again; enjoy every moment of pregnancy.

This morning I woke up with aching hips after my usual late-pregnancy interrupted sleep, feeling hungry, which happens a lot now that I am avoiding cereal, bread, pasta, cake, muffins, etc so that I can avoid heartburn. I was exhausted and it was only 6am. The baby was somehow slipping his feet up under my ribs. I cried, again, and my husband spent his early morning Father's Day hours comforting me. And then our wonderful day started, and everything was miraculous and precious and intensely beautiful and fleeting. "Just soak up this day," he said, and I did.



You are lying on your back in a hammock. Light filters through deepening shades of green leaves circling blue sky high above your head. Your eyes rest on different leaf shapes: oak, maple, maple, crabapple, white pine. A little wind blows. Seventy-five degrees, maybe seventy-six. Your eyes follow a bird soaring over the roof of your house. Your blond three-year-old rolls from her place cradled next to your seriously pregnant body and turns gently off your arm, executing a practiced move to land on the stone path between you and your backyard pond. As she begins to trot towards the house, she suddenly says, "You moved the hammock while I was trying to get out." No I didn't, sweetie, you say earnestly. "Yes, you did, so don't say you didn't," she insists, looking more angry. It just moved in response to you rolling out, my little bear, you say. "You moved it while I was trying to get out!" Suddenly her voice is louder.

"I wouldn't do that to you, honey," you say, gazing at the leaves as though you may not see them again all weekend. She turns around. "Stop complaining!" she commands tersely. "That's not an OK way to talk to Mama or Daddy," you say in an even voice.  You tear your eyes from the cerulean sky so the two of you can lock gazes in a sudden power struggle. She says, "STOP. COMPLAINING."

Is she three? Is she thirteen? Does it matter? You engage what's left of your stomach muscles to slowly roll yourself and your 35-week-old pregnancy - two weeks until full term - up out of the hammock, take her hand, and bring her in for a timeout. If you lay in the hammock - if you just stay in the hammock and keep breathing in the perfumed, late spring air - she'll conclude, in some little determined searching part of her brain, that you accept her behavior. Instead, you stand glumly in the kitchen while she howls like a banshee from the stairs. This little being, this love of your life (after the other love of your life, who happens to be at a conference in England), is going to take the most beautiful moments of the most beautiful, precious day with her and twist them into provoked discipline.

Once two minutes have passed, you go over to have a chat at the stairs about how we don't talk rudely to Mama or Daddy. She defends her position. You reiterate yours. She continues to defend. You have no idea what to do. You calmly suggest she stay on timeout. In response, she tearfully accepts your position. The two of you get up, clean her sad little face, and go back outside, but it's not the same. Her will has been bluntly stemmed, and your heart is a little broken. You are reminded that your role in her life is not just to ardently love her and bring her as much joy as possible while teaching her everything you know - but it's also to discipline. And this weekend, for some unknowable reason, it appears it's mostly to discipline. Which is in no way what you feel like doing. You might actually start fantasizing about going to work on Monday. But this runs counter to a lifetime of desire to be present in the moment. And then you employ a Buddhist mantra you learned at twenty three but it doesn't work and you start to freak out that all of parenting is discipline and here you are weeks away from kicking it all off again and it'll be years and years of wanting to be in the hammock without any sort of provocation at all and how does anyone ever do it.

Even though there were three timeouts today (why? why?), the day did end with her and I wolfing down veggie burgers in our kitchen so we could follow our neighbors to Cabot's for ice cream cones at the counter. "I'm so glad you and I decided to do this," I said to her as she licked her Peachy Peach cone. "Yeah, me too," she said, smiling at me through a mouthful of ice cream.