The other day, the only way I got through the grocery store with Arlo was to let him suck on my braid. By the time I got to the checkout, my hair and shoulder were drenched with baby drool, and he was still gripped to my pigtail like it was the rope that would save him from pirhanas. The cashier politely ignored my glazed eyes.
But we had food.
As I worked feverishly on a consulting project deadline after getting Arlo to bed one night, I heard a wail rise from upstairs. Running up, I met Noah at the bedroom door. He told me that he was terrified of a cartoon creature in a book he was reading. "I can't get over it," he said matter-of-factly. "I have to sleep in your bed." So Arlo, me, and Noah, slept sandwiched together on my side of our king-sized bed, until deep in the night when Noah was peacefully heavy and I could drag him back into his twin bed a few feet away.
But he woke happy.
The eighth time I called my internet service provider to learn that a technician had actually been to my house, had checked a wire outside and repaired a "sync issue," but hadn't bothered to knock on the door to determine whether my computer actually could connect to the internet, which it couldn't, I thought my head might split open as I calmly said, "It must be something other than a sync issue then. I'm glad to hear at least that isn't the problem," having no idea what a sync issue is. "Can you please send a technician to come inside my house?"
But my internet works again.
So many days I ask myself, "What else can I possibly simplify?" My schedule, my life, my home, my business. Selling three of our five vehicles. Giving away the old lawn mower. Regifting, consigning, Goodwill-ing. Forgoing a vegetable garden this year. Putting away calendars so there are less pages to flip, or daily blocks to rotate each morning. Eliminating idiosyncratic feeding systems for the cats. Trying to make it easier to focus on Noah and Arlo and keep afloat.
My dear aunt Barbara often reminds me, as a mom of two grown boys who have families of their own now, that having two children can get wild. It is always good to hear this, as I have a hard time supporting myself when I think about one of the doctors in our local practice, who raised five children, or my mother-in-law, who also had five. Having two children at the heart of my life has turned every day into an adventure in meeting needs, getting food, creating fun, supporting good health. The simple truth is that there is nothing simple about it. I cannot simultaneously go for a bike ride with Noah and lie down with Arlo for him to take a nap, no matter how skilled I am at multitasking. And this moment, like most of the waking ones, takes active negotiation. Do this poorly, and there will be another issue to negotiate shortly.
Sometimes I imagine myself as a waterlogged fish. Overwhelmed in my preferred environment. Confused, because being out of the bowl isn't an option. Partly afraid of drowning. Loving the water. It just doesn't make sense. It must just be like this, being a fish? Even with all the reality mommy media out there in the culture, it does not come easy to me to say, this is me with two children. Often I feel instead like "Surely, we can do better." Most of the time, though, there is rarely anything to actually do except sink or swim.