Each morning before it gets too hot, Edith’s nanny takes her on a walk around the neighborhood. While they are out, I pace from room to room, wringing my hands and thinking about all the ways that Edith might be killed on her walk.
I pretend that I am not doing this, because it is insane. Next week and going forward, I will have to work while they are on their walk, and that might help a little bit.
But I’m starting to get a sneaking suspicion that this (endless, heightened, ludicrous anxiety about my child coming to harm in some way) is just how life is going to be from now on. Which…sucks? But also, I’m not sure that I wasn’t warned.
I wrote a bit yesterday about the end of my parental leave, and this morning, I read this piece on the topic at Popular Information:
Absent federal legislation, most private employers are not offering paid family leave to their employees. At present, just 19% of Americans — mostly high-wage workers — have access to paid family leave through their employer. A 2012 survey found that nearly one-in-four mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth. (The Family and Medical Leave Act, which became law in 1993, only provides unpaid leave in certain circumstances.) A comprehensive paid family leave benefit is outrageously popular across party lines. A 2018 survey found that 84% of Americans support a paid family leave policy “that would cover all working people who need leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child; their own serious illness or injury; a seriously ill, injured, elderly, or disabled family member; or to deal with the effects of a deployment or injury of a military service member.”
I really don’t see why we can’t get this done; everyone else has.
I am incredibly lucky to have a job that provides six months of paid parental leave. I am incredibly lucky to work from home. I am incredibly lucky to be able to afford an in-home nanny when I go back to work so that Edith can be here with me, and I can see her throughout the day.
I know all this. I’m unbelievably lucky, and I have no right to complain. Our country is cruel to mothers and babies (and to fathers and other primary caretakers as well). The lack of parental leave is appalling. No one should have to put their newborn into daycare and return to work while they’re still bleeding, and no one should have to choose between putting food on the table and having excellent, reliable, safe, attentive care for their children. Everyone agrees about this, and yet nothing changes. I don’t understand why. I guess it’s because our politicians are useless, and/or because some people think private corporations should pay for these things rather than taxpayers and that all the people who don’t have a job with a private corporation should go fuck themselves.
Regardless, as lucky as I am to have all this, and as privileged as my situation is, the idea of not being with Edith all day anymore is still so painful I can’t think about it. And on the other hand, I feel like if I have to go one more day without talking to other adults and using my brain, I’m going to implode.
I don’t know what the ideal situation would be. I guess as always it would be to be independently wealthy and not have to make any decisions based on income. But short of that, this is about as ideal as it gets.
Edith still hasn’t figured out how to crawl, but she’s working on it really hard. Because I watch her all day, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to learn to crawl. Persistence! Coordination! Strength! She has figured out how to push the front half of her body up. And she has figured out how to push the back half of her body up. She has figured out how to push off with her feet and legs so that she would be moving forward were the front half of her body not on the floor. She has figured out how to barrel roll around. She has figured out how to push herself along the floor backwards, and does that pretty regularly. Today she did downward-facing dog on the porch for probably thirty minutes, smushing her face directly into her play mat and displaying her diaper to the gods.
But no matter how hard she tries, she cannot seem to figure out how to push up AND forward at the same time.
“I never realized how many ways there are to not crawl,” I tell her. “You are really good at being bad at this.”
Really, I’m in no hurry for her to figure this out, because the last thing I want to make time for right now is baby-proofing this house.
Yesterday, I noticed that Edith’s Big Bunny (care of Zandy) had been blackballed by the other animals and was feeling, as the kids say, some type of way about it:
Jeremy Bearimy is obviously the instigator here, along with King Baby. They are the mean kids of the group. Bowie the Octopus looks remorseful and is subtly attempting to reach out. This is likely because Bowie is another Zandy special and so he and the Big Bunny are siblings of a kind. Fudge the Fat Pony is the sort of utter loser that no one even bothers to mess with because he isn’t even worth manipulating; he is too stupid to notice that he is being slighted. And Hubert the Elephant is an incredibly dull individual, and has decided that palling up with Fudge is better than being fully alone, so the two of them are full followers and only care about their own interests.
I sent in Agatha the Sheep to mend things. As the most senior of the group, Agatha is more respected although less feared than King Baby, and she is something of a diplomat. She is far too mature for this sort of high school bullshit and had she not been off attending to something else elsewhere in the nursery, it probably would never have happened to begin with.
At this point, Edith insisted that she be carried over to dress down the whole group, and I was surprised when she went after, of all people, Hubert. She pulled him off his shelf and began to beat him and scream at him in front of everyone. Now, making an example out of the weakest member of the group (always excepting Fudge) is not how I would have managed things, but I didn’t want to undermine Edith in front of her team. She’s got to develop her leadership style through making her own mistakes.
On another note, it’s entirely possible that I’m still not getting anywhere near enough sleep.
Last night, my mother shook me awake around 1:00a.m. and told me I had been screaming bloody murder and had scared the crap out of her.
This was upsetting news!
I remember what I was dreaming — I was not having sleep paralysis, but I was dreaming that I was telling someone about a time I had had sleep paralysis (in the dream world; not an actual time), and as I told the story, dream-me was also me in the story having sleep paralysis, and this nested me was attempting to scream myself awake in the story in the dream about the story.
Except apparently I was also screaming in actual real life.
Edith sleeps right next to me, and although I was screaming loud enough to bring Mom running from across the house (closed door and white noise machine notwithstanding), Edith slept on, unbothered. “Not my problem,” I imagine she thought, if she noticed it at all.
Meanwhile, at any point in the night where she so much as clears her throat slightly, I am up like a shot and preparing her a snack. It’s very apparent who the alpha is in this house.
My favorite part of the new house is the back porch, which is shady and big and mostly private (except on one side, which looks directly onto the neighbors’ porch and pool such that we have to wave at each other or it’s awkward) and looks out over a big back yard with lots of scrubby Texan struggle trees, and some rock features. Edith and I hang out on the porch for a large part of each day. I got her a baby mat she can loll around on and some citronella candles that don’t work.
Now, one thing about me is, I love a lizard. And there’s a great one that lives near a sideways plant pot in a rock feature just in front of the porch. This lizard is exactly the color of the ashes from an extinguished campfire — silvery white belly and darker grey markings along the back. The first day, I watched it sun itself atop the plant pot and various surrounding rocks, as well as do pushups and execute some frantic laps into the surrounding grass and back.
Today, I didn’t see it, although I looked for it all day. (It’s a sloppy digression from this story, but in case it comes up later, I feel the need to point out that there’s also another lizard that lives on the back fence, but at this point, it’s so far away that it’s simply a mysterious black lizard shape that migrates up and down the boards throughout the day; I don’t feel attached to it yet.) Eventually, I saw its little head poking up tentatively on the far side of the rock feature. I guess maybe Edith and I had made it feel less at home.
Then, all of a sudden, I thought I saw it scurry underneath a rock and onto a fertilized bit of soil, but when it came into the sunlight, I realized that this was a miniature version of the initial lizard! A tiny mini-me of it! A baby!
The lizard has a baby!
I also have a baby! We’re two moms with our babies just hanging out in the yard!
Today I was lying on the floor with Edith playing with some plastic stacking cups. She was gnawing on one of the cups, so I picked up another one and began to gnaw on it companionably, whereupon she snatched it from me and hovered possessively over both cups at once. We repeated this maneuver until she had a whole pile of slobbery cups guarded between her fat little forearms and I had nothing at all.
I recall my mother saying that when I first started trying to make friends, it was unsuccessful because when other kids came over for playdates, I thought the point was for them to sit there and watch me play. I wasn’t trying to be selfish; I simply didn’t understand playing with other children as a concept.
And if I’m being honest, that general pattern of relating to the world as performer to audience has pretty much persisted in every facet of my life. Most people seem to like me well enough despite my limitations, but still, I don’t want Edith to be self-centered, so I hope everyone gets their shots so I can socialize her early and nip this in the bud.
Children have no respect for closure or narrative structure. After I wrote that lovely poignant final post and spent the evening saying things like, “just think, it’s the last time I will floss my teeth while looking in this particular mirror,” Edith decided to pull an all-nighter the likes of which she hasn’t pulled since she was a newborn. The kind of all-nighter that results in a cry-off between mother and babe (the babe, being a thorough and unrepentant solipsist, will always win).
The maddening thing about this particular all-nighter is that, unlike when she was a newborn, this one was really just because she wanted to get up and play. Which she eventually accomplished at 5:30 a.m. when I finally just gave up. She played happily until 9:00 a.m. while I did my best impression of that dead woman from that horror movie (I can’t think of a more precise analogy because I didn’t get any sleep last night), and then my mom got up unawares and said “Good morning! Moving day, woo-hoo! Is that the garbage truck?” and I replied “HOW THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW, WHAT AM I THE GARBAGE TRUCK MAGI?!?!?!” and then burst into fresh tears.
So anyway, we’re moving tomorrow.
The plan was for the movers to move our stuff and then for Mom to come back up here and for us to load the car and van with our personal items and the baby and then go down to the new house and set up our rooms. So we just pushed the second half of that plan for tomorrow, and instead, Mom came back up and took Edith while I had a very brief nap, and then it was already bedtime. Realistically, I think our plan was too ambitious for one day anyway. So, this is the last last night, but for real this time.
Ok, so I know I said I did not want to know, but eventually I got curious enough to do some digging. The elusive singer of “Purple Monkey In a Bubblegum Tree” was not easy to track down, and on my journey through Google, I found many other parents who were also in search of her. At first, I stumbled across this link, and erroneously concluded that the Kurtz-like figure in question was, in fact, Shakira. That would have been an extremely unexpected reveal, but not much more unexpected than the fact that Fisher-Price had partnered with Shakira for a toy collaboration at all. Which they did do! Apparently.
But no, Shakira did not lend her famous warble to the kick-and-play baby piano. That singer is one Deb Lyons, who is, it would appear from her Wikipedia page, a legit Broadway performer. I think we can safely conclude that the Fisher-Price gig was not a career highlight for Lyons, but rather an amusing footnote. I am still curious about the payment structure for children’s toy vocalist, and have emailed Lyons to inquire. I will update you all if I get an answer.
Related, here is an interview with another Fisher-Price recording artist, Kate Higgins. Higgins is not responsible for Edith’s specific piano (she did a different line of toys), but I found the interview enlightening all the same.