Wednesday, March 23, 2016
We took a weekend away, just the three of us, into the mountains. It was supposed to be just Justin and I, reconnecting before everything changes again. The weekend that it worked for both of us to be off work ended up being difficult one to get a baby sitter for so we decided to take Merek and make it a family event.
As I told my friend yesterday, you can do more with a child than people try to tell you, but it just takes more energy. “It takes more spoons? she asked. “Yes, exactly.”, I said. Being 35 weeks pregnant takes more spoons as well, at least for me.
I told Justin I wanted to be outside. I wanted to sit in the wilderness somewhere and stare at trees for a while. I wanted to drive where I could see massive mountains and listen to birds sing in fir trees.
Just because you have children growing up around you and inside you, doesn’t mean you aren’t still fundamentally the same. They say motherhood changes you, but not the basics, okay? So if you are like I was and are terrified that having a child will push you into a bizarre, blank caricature of yourself that is obsessed with cheerios and what color the diaper contents were today, rest easy. It’s not that dramatic.
I still like to be spontaneous, drink hot tea, read for hours, and I still want to sit and stare at trees, even though I don’t get to as often.
The main thing that changes is that you don’t get to be so obsessed with yourself and what you need, which is never a bad place to grow, I imagine. You get to be selfless every day, all the time, even when you are in a bad mood.
We did drive and stare at mountains and I did hear birds sing. We hiked along a creek and Merek ran, and “ooohed”, and tried to throw himself off the bank into the water at every chance he could. It was perfect. We went on spontaneous exploratory trips to find wild places that ended up being covered/closed/inaccessible because of snow, but got out to enjoy the landscape anyways . I like snow. Merek, we discovered, is terrified of it and views it with deep distrust. Some Canadian he turned out to be.
We attempted a museum to be good educational parents, which was only partly successful because all Merek wanted to do was be outside, running around the museum grounds and happily poking sticks in their little landscaped streams.
Justin stopped whenever I wanted and let me look at trees and sit by rivers and breathe. We ate food I didn’t have to cook and cute, hole-in-the-wall places we happened upon.
It was not all idyllic though.
One evening, after our afternoon hike and supper, it had become too cold to spend more time outside but not late enough to head to bed. We assumed shopping would be our best bet, only to discover, after wandering around for several hours that everything closed early. Winter hours? I was so cold and Merek was very tired of his carseat and was screaming in the back.
“I just want a cup of tea”, I pleaded.
Yelp revealed that the first 10 coffee shops listed were already closed. I found one, far down the list, that was still opened. We drove around for about 30 min looking for the café only to discover no parking and standing room only due to a Celtic Music event they were hosting. If Merek wasn’t along we would have parked farther away and squeezed in to join the party, but holding Merek in a crowd of swaying hipsters seemed overly ambitious even for us. My pregnant self was almost out of spoons. I found a Starbucks, farther down the list that said it was open. We drove around for another half century looking for it, only to pull up to the doors and find it closed.
By this time all I could think about was that elusive cup of hot tea.
“I need a cup of teaaaa”, I moaned.
We found another Starbucks that promised us it was open later than the rest and drove another 10 minutes to find it.
It was open. Hallejullia. And there was lots of space and empty leather couches.
I breathlessly ordered the largest, sweetest London Fog they could give me and collapsed into a chair, imagining Justin and I softly chatting over our drinks while Merek sat tiredly on the couch and played with his new puzzle.
No sooner had I sat down than I realized Merek was past the sleeply-tired stage and into the manic, over-tired stage. Probably brought on by spending the last 2 hours in his car seat.
He promptly took each piece of the wooden puzzle and threw it over the back of his head where they clattered below tables and couches. Then he pulled the straw out of his drink and tried dump the liquid onto the floor. He pulled the little end table, screeching behind him, across the wood floor.
This was all before Justin had even joined us with his order. My feet were swollen, I was still cold, and I just wanted to drink a cup of tea in peace.
After about 5 minutes of Merek racing crazily from one end of the café to the next, bouncing off whatever he hit, Justin picked him up and I dejectedly followed them out to the car where we headed back to our motel room for the night. I drank my tea on the motel bed while Merek ran off his manic hyperactivity in circles around the room.
Having children doesn’t mean I don’t like tea anymore. It just means that sometimes I don’t get to sip it by the river or in a quiet café like I really, really want. I sip it on a motel bed with an overtired toddler sneaking in the bathroom to empty all the little free cosmetic bottles into the toilet. As I told that same friend yesterday, that doesn’t make me unselfish or heroic, it just makes me mother. A unselfish mother would have probably been playing with her toddler, not sipping tea on the bed while he snuck into the bathroom.
On our way home we stopped at a favorite summer swimming hole in the mountains to let Merek throw countless rocks into the river and I sat in the wet sand for the short thirty minutes we had left. The moss was damp and warm in the sun. Someone had thrown an ugly, outdated TV down the bank, but the trilliums and violets were blooming around it and the air smelled like spring. I thought about the next few months and the sleepless nights that are coming up along with marathon nursing days and two children in diapers. I thought of all the unheroic, normal things I would do for the sake of my two babies just because I needed to. I thought about all the horrible things happening around the world and how I could make a difference. This is why I knew I needed nature. To think and pray while filling my senses with beauty and order that I was not responsible for creating or maintaining. It is strangely comforting when you feel like you are always responsible and always maintaining to realize that along river banks and mountainsides there is moss and wildflowers, growing and blooming and being beautiful without your help.
Ten minutes later we walked up the bank and finished our weekend with supper at the local Mexican restaurant and then took Merek home to his own bed. I drank a cup of tea in peace that night and thought what a gift it is to drink tea in a warm, safe house with my baby asleep in the next room. A gift, not something I deserve or a right I possess.
Now when I have trouble sleeping at night I remember the mountains and the blue-green river and I think about the violets and how beautiful they are even beside a broken, abandoned TV screen. And I remind myself that my own life doesn’t need me to be heroic and unselfish and full of energy all the time to make it beautiful. Then I turn over and I go back to sleep.