Deer

I’m lucky to have a large park within jogging distance of my house. It’s along a rural-ish (although increasingly busy) road, and I often see deer there. The other day, a mother and her fawn were eating right in the park, and were completely unperturbed by the joggers and cyclists going past. I took this video of them grazing:

They headed down to the road after, so I followed to see if they got across it ok, and took this video of them wading across the creek on the other side:

A couple of days later, I was jogging along a path outside the park, and a doe sauntered across it right in front of me. I was close enough to touch her, but she was completely unconcerned and took her time. I think it was this same doe.

I really enjoy seeing the deer, but it also saddens me that they are caught in the middle of this rapidly developing area. There’s not really much woods here for them to live in, and they are frequently hit by cars (I also see remains on my runs, which is less charming to mention in a blog post). This city is currently building up this area, cutting down trees and expanding the road, and adding more four lane roads to intersect with it. I don’t know where the deer will go.

Tough Crowd

The baby smiles at me a lot and talks to me periodically, but she will not laugh at me. I thought she didn’t laugh at all, until I mentioned this one day and my mother said, “oh, she laughs all the time!” Then, the other day, I heard her absolutely losing her shit at something the nanny was doing. I ran in, and she wasn’t just laughing, she was waving her arms and legs back and forth in hysterics.

Today, I was determined to make her laugh. I spent the whole day pulling faces at her and dancing around maniacally, and she stared at me soberly, brow knitted. She looked confused, maybe slightly concerned, but I could elicit nothing even approaching amusement.

At the end of the day, her grandmother got back from running errands and came over to say hi, and the baby immediately broke into a delighted peal of laughter.

Nobody thinks their mother is funny, I guess.

Mom Guilt

I thought that I would be immune to mom guilt, because I typically am not subject to the pressures that come from wanting to be socially accepted or approved of, since I am genuinely comfortable being entirely isolated from other people (this is not really a good thing). However, I have been surprised to find that I am not immune.

By “mom guilt” I specifically mean guilt over something that I do not truly believe is harming my child, but still feel guilty about due to social stigma. This is to be distinguished from worry over things that I do suspect might be harming my child, which I shall term “mom anxiety.” I have a shitload of mom anxiety; I’m constantly worried that I’m not doing enough for Edith, or that I’m doing things wrong or making mistakes that will harm her, or even just short-changing her in some way. But this is surely inevitable if you actually care about your child? As a parent, you assume 100% control over the body, environment, health, happiness, and life of a tiny, helpless, extremely fragile infant. If you don’t worry constantly that you’re messing that up, you’re a sociopath.

Mom guilt is different. Mom guilt is feeling guilty for not adhering to the social expectations for mothers even if you don’t feel those standards actually affect the health and happiness of your child. I did not expect I would give a shit about these pressures, and I mostly don’t, but I do find that I constantly feel guilty and bad for doing my own thing instead of playing with Edith while the nanny is here.

Strictly speaking, I do not technically need a nanny while I’m on parental leave. I hired one to come a few days a week in preparation for something that didn’t end up happening, but she really is wonderful, so I’m glad that I hired her anyhow. Edith adores her and has an excellent time playing with her. I do not worry that spending time with the nanny instead of me is harming Edith. For one thing, research pretty clearly indicates that it’s good for children to bond with multiple adults and to have lots of people who care about them in their lives. For another, I am dealing a lot better than I thought I would with the lack of sleep that comes with having a baby, but still, I am largely braindead and frequently on autopilot, and even on the best days, I am not fresh and creative and engaging as a playmate, and the nanny is. I’m pretty sure Edith has more fun with her than she does me, and while I’m occasionally jealous of this, I do not worry it’s a bad thing — I want Edith to be having as much fun as possible. I want her to have fun with lots of people. I want her to be having fun all the time!

So, I don’t have mom anxiety about the nanny, but I do have mom guilt. I do not feel guilty if I use the time to exercise, or to shower, or to nap, or to do necessary chores and errands. And I would not feel guilty if I used the time to do something that would advance my career or earn money (I don’t), or to cook (I don’t cook). That is to say, it seems acceptable to take advantage of help in order to look after my physical or financial needs.

But I can see after all my physical needs and still have time left over, and what I mostly want to use that extra time for is to read, think, write, etc. That is, I want to use the time to look after my intellectual needs. And I feel great guilt about this, because as a new mom, I am not supposed to have any intellectual needs. I am only supposed to be interested in my baby. But I have not had a lobotomy and I need to use my mind now just as much as I needed to use it before I had Edith — more actually, because I have so much more to think about now.

I didn’t realize I was feeling this way until one day, I noticed that I was pretending to be napping when I was actually reading. Why was I pretending, I wondered? And I found that I felt guilty about reading while someone else played with my child. And then I thought that if I had a husband, he would 100% slip off to watch sports or something while the nanny was here, and people might think that was exasperating or even shitty of him, but no one would actually expect any different, because we do not expect men to be endlessly absorbed by the mostly stultifying work of caring for an infant, but we do expect for that work to be inherently interesting (or at least satisfying) to women.

Women admit to each other pretty readily that there is little more tedious than caring for an infant, but still, I feel like it’s not acceptable to outsource any of that. And I can already hear the women reading this saying, “but taking care of your own needs will make you a better mother to her!” and ok, that is true when it comes to my physical needs (which is maybe why I think it’s acceptable to take advantage of help to meet them), but honestly, spending time on my intellectual needs doesn’t actually make me a better mother; I’m the same with Edith either way. It’s just for me. And that’s the key of the mommy martyr pressure — once you have a child, you are not supposed to care about yourself at all anymore.

And the thing is, I don’t! Hell, I barely cared about myself before I had a child. But I still get bored, and I find boredom is a more difficult thing for me to tolerate than exhaustion, and I’ve surprised myself by feeling ashamed of this.

Pool Day

Today, we (my mother, the nanny, and I) took the baby to the neighborhood pool. It’s a nice pool, with a covered baby pool and a pretty elaborate splash pad. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for over two years, but I’d never used the pool, because I figured it’d be full of kids. But now I have a kid, so I took her down there.

You would not think it would take three adults to transport one very small baby to a pool, but between the diaper bag, the towels, the changes of clothes, the baby in her car seat, someone to take video of the experience, etc., we all had our hands full.

Edith is a very expressive baby generally, but when she is experiencing something new, she has a winning poker face. I swam her around in the baby pool for awhile, and she remained quite stoic throughout. She complained a couple of times when she knew for sure she did not like something (being tipped onto her back, for example), but otherwise, it was tough to say whether she was enjoying herself or not. If she could talk, I believe she would have said “I’m processing.” I think everything Edith does is perfect, but I especially think this is a rad way to be — she doesn’t feel pressured to perform delight or to provide feedback she isn’t ready to give. If you saw a movie with her and upon emerging asked “what did you think?” she would say, “if I cared to express an opinion, you would already have it.” Power moves.

Later, I perched her on my knee on the side of the baby pool and let her dip her feet in periodically. She seemed extremely interested in all the other children at the pool, particularly the big boys who were cannonballing off the side of the deeper end, and a little girl all in purple who was playing with swim rings in the baby pool.

I really wanted to walk her through the splash pad, but one thing at a time. We have all summer.

The experience wore us both out, and Edith napped all afternoon while I watched Mythic Quest. A delightful day.

On Birthdays and Water Picks

I have a reputation for being anti-adult birthday. This is not entirely true, but it’s close enough to the truth that I have leaned into it, since overall, I’m more anti than pro. In actuality, I mostly just feel that it’s unseemly for an adult to make a huge deal out of their birthday or to be especially demanding about it. Specifically, I feel it’s weird when an adult insists that their birthday be observed on their actual birthday, rather than, say, the following Saturday. It’s not polite to insist that everyone get babysitters and be out late on a random Tuesday just because you’re turning some unremarkable age like 36. It’s also weird when people insist they cannot do something important on a certain day because it’s their birthday. Just observe your birthday the following week, who gives a fuck?

For my birthday this year, I received a combination electric toothbrush and water pick, because I asked for it. It was not, therefore, a surprise. I don’t really understand adult presents, either, because most of us have our own money and can just buy anything that we want for ourselves. But every year, my parents ask me what I want, and usually I don’t have an answer, but this year, I had just gone to the dentist and they told me I needed an electric toothbrush and a water pick, so I said this. This was the first time I had been to the dentist in two years, and they told me that I have receding gums. They said I needed some sort of spraying treatment and that my insurance would only pay for them to do half my mouth at a time, so I had to go back again a second time. I don’t know if any of this is true — they could have just been making all of it up, how would I know? But anyway, I got the spraying treatment.

One thing that annoys me about going to the dentist is that you have to get x-rays. I have never had a cavity in my entire life, and I am never going to have a cavity, so the x-rays are always entirely unnecessary. I understand that the dentist cannot possibly know that in my case, they are unnecessary. They can’t just take my word for it that I’m not going to have a cavity. I tell them every time and they act smug about it, like “we’ll see” and then I don’t and they see also that I never have, and they praise me and say there is no one like me. If there is a hygienist present, usually the two of them will exclaim to each other about how excellent my teeth are, and how superior I am to their other patients.

One time a dentist told me that if I ever died in a fiery crash, they would have a hell of a time identifying my body, because my teeth are perfect. I think this is my favorite compliment I’ve ever received, the perfect combination of macabre and awkward.

Forty

I turned forty today. It feels like I’ve been forty for a long time, so although it’s rather a milestone birthday, it doesn’t feel like one.

The main thing about being forty is that I’m a mother now. I had a baby three and a half months ago. I’m not one of those people who think that everyone should have children, or that people cannot really understand life until they have a child, but for me personally, I was a real dead inside piece of shit before I had my daughter, and now I feel joy and sadness and all sorts of things. It’s as if when I went into the hospital, the world was in black-and-white, and I came out and it was in color.

Today, we (my mother, my daughter, and I) went to lunch at a restaurant and sat on the patio because we’re still a little nervous about taking the baby inside places, especially when they are crowded, which this place was because it’s Saturday. It’s boiling hot in Texas and there were fans and misters on the patio. This was the baby’s third time at a restaurant, which also means that it was my third time at a restaurant in about a year and a half. Ordinary things seem new to me twice over — because the world is opening back up a little and I have not done them in so long, and because I am getting to see all of them through my baby’s eyes and everything is a new adventure for her. She wore a navy blue onesie with flowers on it, and we worried that she might be getting too much sun, or that it might be too hot. She has bright red hair, and it’s long enough now that when she’s hot, it gets sweaty and curly in the back and fluffs up into a little ducktail.

I’m typing this in bed, and my daughter is right next to me in her basinet. She was asleep, but she has woken up and is staring at the ceiling fan now, and waving her arms back and forth. Every night I’m just amazed that I have this awesome little person next to me, that I get to end the day with her, and then we wake up and spend another day together.

It’s all so much fun! I hadn’t had fun in years, and now everything is fun. I was so deeply bored and had been for so long, and now everything is interesting.

So, I’m looking forward to my 40s overall.

Thoughts On the Pandemic

I don’t have much to say about the pandemic that has not already been said, but as things start to open up again in my neck of the woods (acknowledging that they very much are not many other places, and recognizing my immense privilege here, although I suspect it might be temporary), my lasting takeaways on the entire experience thus far are: 

Read More

II Samuel

We get a second book of Samuel, even though Samuel died halfway through the last one. We did see Samuel one time after his death as an especially pissed off ghost: does this second book indicate that he will keep turning up as an undead cranky old man? I hope so! But probably not.

Read More

I Samuel

I was misled by the brevity of Ruth. I forgot how long and repetitive a Bible book typically is, and embarked on I Samuel with good spirits, before slowly realizing that it is longer and more tedious than the pandemic has been. I feel completely beaten down by it. It’s the one where we meet David. Let’s get into it! 

Read More

Recent Reads

I read 70 books in 2020, not including a few books I read for work and one I abandoned part-way through (see below). Here’s the last batch, followed by a list of the ones I especially liked over the year (15). This was a typical year’s reading for me, as I’m an antisocial hermit and a big reader just in general, and so my lifestyle this year wasn’t really all that different than it is any other year (except that I didn’t travel or see family, and also I got pregnant).

Read More