Grocery Store

My friend came to visit me and Edith for Thanksgiving and she offered to cook us a feast, which meant going to the grocery store. I had not ever taken Edith into a store, but I knew I would have to start eventually, and I didn’t think I could leave my friend to spend all day grocery shopping by herself in addition to traveling all this way and cooking, so off we went!

In retrospect, picking the most crowded shopping day of the year was probably not the best way to ease us into things. But it was fun for me to go to the store — any outing is exciting for me these days. Edith wasn’t that impressed by the store. She’s going through a clingy phase and I think it was too much to take in anyhow. She just wanted to stare at my face and clutch at my shirt and pull my mask off and beg to be picked up.

But I had lots to look at. People are so weird! There are so many different types! I don’t much like people, but they do interest me, at least at a distance. I like to look at their purchases and think about their lives. I saw an older lady with only one of those almond-covered cheeseballs and a single slim bottle of white wine in her cart, looking pissed. I saw two punk-rock looking young guys, one with a mask and one without, and the one without was monologuing very enthusiastically at the masked one who looked tired and bored. Cousins? Friends who’ve grown apart? I saw a bizarre family with a fully 10-year-old girl sitting hunched over in the basket of their cart, filling most of it, her face hidden in her knees and their purchases stacked up all around her.

Then I had an anxiety attack and Edith and I had to go wait in the car.

I kept going back and forth over whether it was ok to have Edith in there at all. I mean, case counts are well down even though school has gone back, I’m not in a hot spot, people have calmed down a lot, and life has sort of moved on, -ish, and a lot of other people had their babies in there — I saw two newborns. But also, it was a packed store, and we’re still in a pandemic! This was nuts, I was nuts! I am the worst mother alive! Also, anyone could open fire at any second! Or there could be a stampede!

My friend was having her own small nightmare. I have gotten used to the warehouse-like stores in Texas, but she is from LA and was overwhelmed by the massive spread and the crowds. She looked like I did the first and only time I entered a Costco.

I felt badly about bailing, but everything was chill in the car. Edith cuddled in my lap for a full hour happy as a clam, and then she had a complete meltdown that lasted the rest of the day.

Oh, well. We’ll try again in five years.

Cabbie

One time I was in a cab with a bunch of friends, including the adorable young daughter of one of my friends. I was sitting in the front with the cab driver, and he was making faces at the little girl, who was interacting with him through the plastic screen, and he said to me, “Awww, what is her name?”

Except I thought he said, “Awww, what is your name?”

So I said, “Elizabeth.”

And he called over his shoulder in a baby voice, “Hi Elizabeth! Are you having a fun night, Elizabeth? How old are you?”

I was immediately mortified, and hoped everyone would be too confused by the general chaos of being crowded into a cab in heavy traffic to notice or point this out, and indeed, everyone was. Thankfully, it was a short cab ride. We got out in a second (he called, “Bye, Elizabeth!” after us), and nobody seemed to really notice or question it.

I was thinking about this this morning, because I don’t think this is a mistake I would make now that I have a child and am very child-focused myself. Not that many people who don’t have children are as self-obsessed as I am; I’m sure most people would have realized he was asking for the baby’s name regardless. Why the hell would he be asking for my name? But it just…wasn’t on my radar at the time.

Now, though, I only care about Edith, so when people ask “how are you” politely and not really caring, I reply, “well, Edith has got two teeth and is sleeping through the night and crawling, and I think it won’t be long before she starts walking….” and twenty minutes later, I remember too late and say, “and you?”

Limits

Edith is continuing to put me through my paces. She has finally clicked to the fact that I am not merely an extension of her, and so now she is experimenting with to what extent she can make me behave like one. All weekend, she followed me around the house slowly and relentlessly like the entity from It Follows in baby form. If I were sitting in the playroom and she wandered off elsewhere and then wanted to return, she’d then face me from wherever she had ended up and wail at me for several beats. If I didn’t hop up and come fetch her, she would crawl back toward me a few paces and then try it again. By this method, she discovered at what exact distance I was willing to come to her rather than the other way around.

She is perfectly capable of holding her own bottle by this point, but she shows absolutely no desire to do so. Instead, she currently feeds fully reclined on a little pillow with her head tipped back and her arms flung out to either side, while I hold the bottle in her mouth for her and follow her around with it if she wants to look from side-to-side. When she wants to pause from drinking, she knows how to pull off the bottle, but she now prefers to slap it impatiently to one side, spraying milk across the playroom. If she isn’t finished, she will prop her head up briefly, look me dead in the eyes and say, “mmwwwaaahhh!!!!” at which point, I will resume feeding position and she will flop back down.

Booster nap finally bit the dust this morning. She seemed to be slowing down, so I took her to bed, but no matter how long I wrestled with her, she wouldn’t quiet. She was like an aging comedian, impossible to suppress. So we got back up and an hour later, she was screaming at me relentlessly. “Well, it’s too late now!” I told her. “You didn’t want to sleep earlier, so now you just have to push through.”

When the nanny arrived, Edith flew down the hall to her as if she were being rescued from an island, and I tried very hard not to feel offended.

Mom

At the park today there was a mom with three kids, and we got to talking, and I am pretty sure she’s another fully single mom. (This is what I’m calling SMBC for now, since if you recall, I don’t like the SMBC label.) She was using “my” and “I” instead of “our” and “we” and she presented herself like a woman who has absolutely no interest whatsoever in attracting men (this is a look everyone knows, although there’s not a term for it, but I’d call it, like, normcore butch-lite). Plus, there’s just a vibe. I’m like 90% sure. But I didn’t ask, because how do you even ask that? There should be like a signal or something.

Why does it matter? Well, it matters for two reasons: most importantly, I really want for Edith to know some other kids who don’t have dads (or don’t have moms) as she is growing up, so she doesn’t feel like she’s the only one. And yes, I know a lot of kids don’t have dads, but they all actually do — even if their dads suck and vanished, they still exist. I want Edith to know some other kids who just don’t have them at all.

And secondly, I would really like to know some other women like me. I have always wanted this. I would really like to know some other people who are perfectly happy and whole outside of the context of romantic relationships and who intentionally started their own families — not from a sense of lack or loss, not as a plan B, not as making the best of a bad lot, but joyfully and intentionally, because it’s authentically who they are. This doesn’t describe all fully single moms, but I’m finding that it describes a whole lot of them.

I had given up a long time ago on finding this, but since having Edith, I’ve realized that I’m not actually alone — there are a lot of women like me, and they are all over the place. I had previously thought having kids on your own was rather a privileged white woman thing to do, but I now know from Facebook that there are women starting their own families all over the world, from every conceivable economic background, of every race and ethnicity, in major cities and rural villages. There are a bunch in Austin, and I hope eventually to meet them. And there is maybe even one just over in the next neighborhood, here in Kyle.

Hinges

Edith has become fascinated by the hinges on doors. She will kneel next to a door for probably twenty minutes patting the hinge or banging a toy against it and lecturing it. I am able to peruse Twitter uninterrupted for quite long periods of time (not necessarily a good thing), so preoccupied is she with the door hinges.

I don’t know from whence this fascination comes, but of course, once she is capable of moving the door, she will not be allowed to play with the hinges anymore, so hopefully she moves onto something else before then.

Earlier fascinations of Edith’s that she has graduated from: ceiling fans, the corner of roof of the house next door to my old house. Ongoing fascinations that continue: tags, window blinds, light bulbs, computer cords, the outlet that’s sunk into the floor of the living room, the bathmat, the shower drain. Newest fascination: door hinges.

Booster Nap

Edith wakes up at five, which sometimes is more like ten till five or quarter till. I don’t love this, but it is what it is. I try to ensure I’m asleep by nine, but usually it’s more like 9:30, and also Edith sometimes wakes up and complains for 30 minutes or so (not steadily) in the middle of the night. So, I don’t get the nine hours I need minimum by any means.

However, we have booster nap! About an hour after she gets up, Edith gets cranky, and we go back to bed. I tuck her in under my arm and sort of smother her in my arms until she gives up the struggle and stops thrashing and falls asleep. Sometimes we sleep for an hour! Those are great mornings. Usually it’s more like 20-40 minutes, which is nice, too. It’s definitely enough to get me over the line from deeply exhausted to mostly functional.

But a terrible thing is happening: Edith is outgrowing the need for booster nap. I’m in denial about this. She used to start crying and could not be pleased and it was clearly time for booster nap, but now it’s more that I see her frown slightly and pounce on the opportunity: “Uh-oh, booster nap time!”

She used to fall asleep a minute or so after we got into position, but now she’s wide awake and kicking for a good fifteen minutes as I rock her thrashing body in complete denial. “Yes, so sleepy,” I coo to my wide awake child who just got up for the day. “Just relax, baby. You can go to sleep.” Eventually, she does, but it’s a real struggle and I can’t keep this up for much longer.

But…what will I do without booster nap?!?!?!? She might not need it anymore, but I desperately rely on it! I don’t know what will happen if I have to give it up. I guess I could start trying to be asleep by eight.

Bagel

I think pretty much everyone has had it with Kendall by now, but if he weren’t already on my shit list, giving a rabbit a bagel would surely have put him there. Of all the many carelessly evil things the Roys have done, this is arguably the one that bothers me most. The second he had that phone call I was like, well, there’s a nice case of GI stasis coming for you, asshole. It was a real Chekhov’s bagel situation.

Mostly, this show makes me extremely relieved to not be an executive assistant anymore. Much in the same way that anyone who has ever waited tables will always have a bit of stress in a restaurant setting, watching the various extremely pinched-looking pretty young women in the show hustle around looking terrified as people bark unpredictable orders and/or vent inappropriate emotions in their direction has my shoulders up around my ears by the end of every episode.

I’m not saying I never get that cold, sick “I think I fucked up” feeling in my stomach at work anymore, but at least now when it happens I can take my bra off. Being young sucks, just generally.

Gnawing

It seems the baby has been chewing on the wood furniture:

Is this…normal behavior? For a human baby?

Crying

Unfortunately, Edith seems to have figured out cause-and-effect — particularly that if she cries, she can sometimes alter the course of events in her favor. So for some time today my chill baby who previously only cried when hungry or tired cried incessantly about all manner of things. This was clearly a test; I could see her analyzing me through her streaming eyes to see what I would do. Some reasons why Edith cried today:

  • I was out of sight for half of one second.
  • I would not let her eat a tissue.
  • I would not let her lick some sort of powder that had collected in the crevice under the dishwasher.
  • She wanted a hug, and even though I was hugging her, it wasn’t as fully satisfying as she had anticipated.
  • I only let her dig her fist into my peanut butter sandwich one time and not repeatedly.
  • My nose would not come off.
  • The wall she was pushing on with both hands refused to move.
  • The floor felt too much like floor.
  • She wanted to sit in my lap and explore the hallway simultaneously and the laws of physics would not permit it.
  • Agatha the Lamb said some shit to her that was unacceptable.
  • The sound of her own crying was annoying to her.
  • Bored.

I’m hoping this is a phase that doesn’t last very long. It’s unfortunate that it’s started right before we have a series of houseguests.

Swim Class

It’s gotten to the point where Edith and I have to do something, so I signed her up for baby swim lessons on Saturday mornings. I have this problem where I relentlessly rehearse in my head all the tiny little micro-steps that it takes to do anything over and over before doing the thing, and it’s so exhausting to me that I usually end up just not doing the thing at all. I’ve always been this way. So I almost talked myself out of swimming lessons many times, because whoo boy, the logistics!

We’d need her swimsuit and my swimsuit and her street clothes and my street clothes, and the diaper bag, and towels, and when we got there, I’d have to find some way to change while keeping her from crawling around and licking the locker room floor, and if I had to use the bathroom, and after we’d have to shower, and I’d have to juggle her and the floor situation while I dried off and changed and dried her off and changed and if cold would require layers and COVID also with assorted precautions and need flip-flops for the pool even if normal shoes for car and then swim diaper and sometimes will be on my period and if bring stroller in where to put it and wallet somewhere and then if Edith gets hungry in the pool need milk stuff to be adjacent and I just really, really hate my brain.

But I can’t just not take my kid anywhere because the mental rehearsals of the administrative details are exhausting to me, so I signed us up and this morning we got in the car, and off we went!

The natatorium (a term I only know because my previous bedroom community was engaged in a years-long fight about whether or not the taxpayers should pay for one) is on the grounds of a private Christian college in San Marcos, and it turned out I did not have to worry about the locker room situation, because we didn’t have access. Instead, the group of bored college girls who conducted the swim school set up a couple of zipper pods next to the pool, and then low tables with padded changing pads for the babies.

After somehow successfully navigating the bathroom with Edith clenched under one arm the whole time, Edith and I entered one of these pods, and I sat her down on the cement floor right next to someone’s big hunk of chewed gum and started to change.

At which point, Edith, for some reason, kicked up a howl to rival entire packs of wolves. This was my first experience having a screaming baby in a public place where I’d rather not have had a screaming baby. Being that we were at an indoor swimming pool, her screams were magnified and echoed around each other, which made her scream more and from within the changing pod, I could feel the “oh fuck” from the college girls and the few Moms and toddlers who were on the other side of the pool.

I tried to shush Edith, but she was NOT having it, and let me tell you, wrestling a swimming tank top over a pair of enormous mom boobs is difficult enough at the best of times — doing it hunched over in a 90-degree nylon pod while your infant shatters your eardrums and those of everyone else in a five-mile radius is not something I ever want to do again.

I finally got changed, swept up Edith, and proceeded to the baby changing spot. There were two, and another mother had her toddler on the other one, and she tried to smile gamely as we approached but she didn’t fool either one of us, or our babies, for that matter.

“Look, Edith, a little boy!” I said. “Look!”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHAHAAAAAAAHHHH” said Edith.

“She never does this, I don’t know what’s–” I said to the woman’s quickly retreating back.

I wondered if we should just leave. Edith seems so game and adventurous at home, and she really never freaks out, and I thought she was ready for something different and some socializing, but now I was suddenly feeling like I was completely insane for bringing a literal infant to a swimming class and that everyone present was judging me for dragging a tiny baby out to a pool. I began to panic that this was one of those things that everyone knows not to do except for me.

Then, I thought Edith was maybe just hungry, so I carried her half-dressed and screaming back across the pool to where I’d left my diaper bag, and we sat down and I tried to quickly fix a bottle while Edith writhed and screamed on my lap and I grinned nervously at everyone around and tried to act like I was totally chill about this and said things like, “my, we’re not happy today, are we! We’re probably just hungry” and meanwhile spilled milk all over my male bathing suit trunks as sweat visibly poured down my face.

Edith wasn’t hungry at all, so after that debacle, I had to carry her back around the pool, screaming, to where we’d left her cast-off swimwear and apparently my phone.

Anyway, we finally got changed and in the water and Edith calmed down and cheered up and started being her usual chill, happy self. At first, there was just us and two other moms with toddlers, but after the class started some other moms came in and one of them had a teeny goggle-eyed peanut of a five-month-old (who did his very best in the water with great seriousness and who I somehow managed to avoid abducting), so I was relieved. The mothers were all friendly and all of them except one were wearing masks (well, and except for me because Edith immediately pulled mine off my face and submerged it in the pool).

We did kicking and splashing and sang songs and floated, and Edith had a good time with one exception. One exercise we did for probably the bulk of the class involved swimming the babies up to the side of the pool, putting their hands on the edge and then helping them go along the wall, knocking down a series of foam turtles.

Edith HATED the wall. She wouldn’t even pretend to tolerate it for a minute; every single time I put her little hands on it, she began to scream like she was touching a hot stove. I don’t know what that was all about, it was very weird. But I respected her boundary.

At the end of the class, they put the babies in little inner-tubes and give them toys to play with, sort of the swimming class equivalent to savasana. The girl handed Edith a little plastic thing that looked just like the poop emoji with long tendrils hanging off it.

“Oh boy, a little poop!” I said to Edith.

“A jellyfish,” corrected the girl.

“Right, that’s what I meant, a jellyfish!” I agreed hastily.

This bit suited Edith right down to the ground. She luxuriated in her donut sucking on the jellyfish and gazing at the ceiling overhead in bliss. It only lasted a couple seconds, though, and then we were invited to leave the pool.

By this time, the pool had become very crowded with moms and dads and children of all sizes. I had thought we might just bundle back into the car wet, but then I realized I can’t do things like that, because Edith is a baby and she’ll be cold and she can’t just grit her teeth and handle it for 30 minutes. So back to the hateful changing station we went. But this time, a cherubic-looking blond woman with a gang of adorable tiny mop-haired boys offered to watch Edith for me while I changed, which made me want to fall to my knees and embrace her ankles.

I don’t know that I noticed this type of woman much before I had a baby, but now I see them everywhere and I am obsessed with them — these calm, steady, cheerful women who effortlessly corral gangs of tiny children. They have absolutely nailed motherhood, and they go about shepherding their broods with this complete ease and relaxed competence. They exude this sort of transcendent wisdom. I’m in awe of them.

Anyway, this one added some stranger’s infant to her docket like a master juggler incorporating another ball, and I changed in peace, collected my baby, and left.

When we got home it was somehow only just 11:00am.

But overall, a very successful outing. It felt good to do something, even if it was also a mild nightmare to do something. We’ll be doing this every Saturday going forward.