Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ode to her daddy

I think about sacrifices of time, of wondering if I am doing the right thing, if this work thing is ever really "working" for me now that I have Angelica. I wish it away in my mind, wish it weren't a necessity for us to have me working full-time, I fantasize about the possibility of going to part-time or maybe just working here or there or from home, and then I am running around and around in my head...again. If I were a dog I would be chasing my tail until I fell to the floor in a heap, exhausted from so much activity. It's the typical grass is always greener scenario. And so I have a lot of questions that don't have answers for the time being. How long do I have to keep up this insane schedule of teaching evenings after full days caring for my girl? Will it ever be possible for our family to not need the two incomes? How in the world would we do this with another child in the mix? How long can we go on like this, and make it work?

Discontent creeps in and I have to make a conscious effort to realize that even though it may not be exactly how I expected, somehow it really is working for now (even though very shakily at times). I have to stop and remind myself that the craziness is not forever, because in the moment it sure feels that way. It's easy to look around and compare, for example, in my case to point the finger and say "Well SHE doesn't have to work" or "Her husband has a job making much more money". Wait a minute. It was never about money when we were dating. It wasn't about how soon we'd be able to afford a new refrigerator or how much money we'd have in the bank, sitting there, waiting for the rainy day. No. It was about doing whatever it took to make it work, to let love be the north star. We sacrificed a lot to even be together; he came from a different country and learned a new language and culture just to be with me. And to think that the years go by and the lines get blurry and I find myself actually thinking that the things and the amounts and the accounts are what bind us?

I may not have the answers to the questions that haunt me; no I definitely don't have them and most likely won't get them until the questions have passed. So, I ask myself if the questions are really so important after all? What is important has been there all along. I look at my strong, independent, loving daughter (who's not even two!) and realize that she is who she is because she has a daddy. And not just any daddy, but a daddy who has always been there from day one. A daddy who's voice she recognized as she was placed in his arms, minutes after birth, her eyes locking on his as he spoke to her. Yes, she recognized that voice because it spoke lovingly to her in the womb. A daddy who learned the precise spot on my belly to rest his ear on, month after month of my pregnancy, in order to hear the heartbeat of his little princess-to-be (even though we thought she was he, the prince, in those days!) A daddy who bounces her on his shoulders, lifts her in the air standing on his hands, chases her around the living room to squeals of glee, and cradles her in his arms at night and sings the same sweet lulliby Hasta mañana, si Dios quiere, que descanses bien, llegó la hora de acostarte y de dormir también, porque mañana será otro día, hay que vivirlo con alegría...each night to her as she settles into his arms and looks into his eyes and sleepily repeats "día" at the end before drifting into dreamland. A daddy who because of the situation, spends four nights a week of one-on-one time with his little girl while mommy is away at work. They eat together, play together, he bathes her. That's after a full day of work for him, and he never complains. He lives for this time with her. Even though he's already out the door and off to work, she asks for him after waking most mornings: papá?

So I've begun to realize what a joy it is that they have this bond. It's so strong because they have this time together, time I have wished away because I resent that I have to be at work. When I look at it from that perspective, I realize that my work is our family blessing. Not just financially, but relationally as well. I guess I better be careful what I wish for, since what I have is what is supposed to be, for now, at this time, in the present. Gotta stop wishing the present away. Soon enough it will have passed and we will long for these sweet days with her. These days that I hope are laying a foundation for a strong childhood and teenage years and beyond. Where she will be able to look back and say "I don't remember how much we had or didn't have. I just remember being together".

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Angel girl

Tonight I had a few extra minutes before class, so I wandered down memory lane in the building I teach in. I hadn't taken that route down that corrider, into the bathroom and next to the classroom that I had taught in so many mornings for almost two years. I walked in and looked in the mirror, since I had snuck a glance of myself so many times in that mirror that semester. You see, the last time I had looked in that mirror, my pregnant self was looking back. I peered at myself closely tonight in that mirror and marveled at how things could be so different with that person looking back, even though the surroundings were completely the same. I could feel what I felt back then, the excitement, the anxiety, the endless possibilities. I want to tell that person to treasure those moments. I want to whisper in her ear that she is fine and things will all work out, that God has been with her every step of the way and all of her dreams of having a beautiful baby have come true.

But I ache for her, because so much else has changed in her life in those short 20 months or so. How could anyone have told that determined spring-in-her-step pregnant teacher that the boss that she had had for all of those years, so kind and gentle, loved by the entire university community would pass away that coming fall? That the work place she had known and thrived in for several years would be completely alien to her in term of leadership and direction as she reintered it after the baby was born? That her husband's family would also suffer tragic losses of family members and a year later she would lose the beloved pet of seven years that was her comfort and by her side during the physical ups and downs of those days, who was "the baby" before the baby came?

I guess now I know why I had been avoiding that particular route to get to my classroom. As I walked out of the bathroom and directly past the classroom where I would spend three consecutive hours teaching I was aware a few casual glances the students sitting on the benches outside of the door. I remembered sitting on those benches between my classes, resting in between with a yogurt drink or a granola bar. I remember joking about how the baby was hungry, or the day I taught body parts to those classes and as I pointed to my stomach, and pausing dramatically said: "el estómago graaaande". For someone who tends to forget things easily, the memories of that semester come back fast and furiously just by stopping by. By going back there, I desperately want to restore what has been lost but wasn't yet at that moment. I want to go back by going back, but there is no pathway that can lead me there.

And yet, that's just as it should be because I am not that person who I saw glimpses of in that mirror. Who could have told me I would become who I am today, because of this little being who sits on my lap and squeezes my hand and gives me spontaneous hugs and breaks into spontaneous, joyful laughter as she sees the panda bear or Elmo in one of her videos? Who was I before this little one entered my life? How did I exist before I knew her?

I can't make sense of the loss we suffer in this lifetime. But sometimes I think that God gives us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. I needed my Angel girl and she arrived just on time in May, at the end of that semester.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Just a typical day

Lately I feel like I have a little hurricane on my hands. She is always running from one activity to another, demanding "up" in the chair and then a moment later pointing down. Here to there, this toy to that, she has the attention span of, well I guess a 17 month old. I feel as tired as if I'd run a marathon when I finally leave to school to work at 4:15 each afternoon, and that's before I even start working! It doesn't help matters much that she is raring to go every morning by 6:00 or 6:30 as I groan and pull the covers over my head one..last...time before going in to her crib to start another whirlwind of a day. Every day we are out of the house by 9:30 (or earlier), because if we don't, both of us being cooped up in the house makes my pressure-cooker of a toddler start crawling up the walls with her boundless energy. We go to the library kid hours, to the musuem, to grandma's, to a playdate....we get out. We have to, because I don't want to let my natural response come out and scream at her. I have to keep my calm somehow, so we go out.

One day last week I mentally cheered as I left for work that afternoon. I was elated to have the chance to walk to my car without running behind a toddler squirming out of a jacket and toward a pile of leaves. Or to be more accurate, running from the neighbors' dogs to a pile of leaves and toward the road that leads out of our condo complex, as in--where the cars are. I kept telling her "No sweety, that's where the cars come by" and scooping her up, and not ten seconds later she was charging back through the leaves and down by the road again tickled pink in hysterical laughter, to my neighbors' chagrin who sat with their dogs watching every bit of it. Of course it was a game to her, as I left rubbing my aching back as I finally was able to scoop her up and get her to walk back to our place. By that time she had been awake for eight straight hours and showed no signs of sleepiness, even though she did take a break for a an hour or two when I finally got her down for a nap that day.

At the bookstore, the other toddlers sit on their parents' laps as the stories are being read. She proceeds to stand on the book already read, on the floor next to the story teller, until the story is done. Before story time, she had been running around delighted to be in the midst of so many other little ones, climbing on the (empty) fireplace cutout, climbing up to the top of the benches, and back down, peeking in carriers to offer her goldfish snacks to young babies, and grabbing blankets out of strollers. Is it any wonder that most days I must lie down while she naps, just to gather my frayed nerves...

As I've mentioned, I am an introvert. Big time. And as is becoming quite apparant to me as each month goes by with my daughter, she is not. She has a lot to teach me, I think about the joy of living and the freedom of letting your personality shine, shine, shine. If I were watching her in my pre-baby days, I shudder at the judgements I would have had for myself as a mom. "Get that kid to behave!" "Make her shut up!" "What is wrong with you, why do you bring a child into a bookstore?" Funny how the perspective changes once you're on the other side of that fence.

Even so, I wouldn't change her personality for the world. Like I said, I have a sneaking suspicion that this little whirwind was perfectly suited for an introvert like me for a reason.