Prompt 2

Slow day today, so time for another prompt! Today’s is:

What are you passionate about?

I HATE this question. At some point in the last five years, everybody started asking this question constantly and talking about what they’re “passionate” about, and expecting to be “passionate” about whatever work they do or whatever. Where did this come from? Why did everyone all of a sudden start expecting to feel passion on a daily basis? I mean, I think feeling contentment on a daily basis is a much more reasonable goal. Feeling passionate is a pretty high bar! I’m not sure I’ve experienced passion even once in my whole life; I sure as shit don’t experience it in my daily work.

The first definition of “passion” is “strong and barely controllable emotion.” So the question at hand is “what makes you so extremely emotional you can hardly control it?”

(Interesting sidenote: the definition of euphoria is “a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness.” I would have thought euphoria is a more extreme emotional state than passion but the dictionary definitions indicate the opposite — that passion is “barely controllable,” whereas euphoria is intense, but one would assume manageable.)

What a weird question for one’s HR department to be constantly asking! You’d think they’d want you to avoid work that causes this, not seek it out! It’s almost like this is a completely empty watered-down platitude that actually means nothing at all! That when we talk about being “passionate” about something, what we really mean is something like “this is what I’d like to do with my time if I could, that I suspect I could also make a reasonable income at.”

But these days, the Lords of Capital are not longer content with us merely having work ethic. They want us to convince them that we experience transportive and uncontrollable love and desire for our work, that we’re carried away by it, that we fantasize about it in our beds at night.

Anyway, if I take the question at face value, as “what makes you lose control of yourself” I’d have to say…nothing. I’m not an especially emotional person, and I’m pretty in control of myself at all times. I experience depression that I can’t control sometimes, but that’s more the absence of all emotion than strong and uncontrollable emotion. I experience some uncontrollable worry and anxiety, but although this particular definition doesn’t make this explicit, passion is generally understood to indicate a positive emotion.

So. Do I ever experience nearly uncontrollable positive emotions?

No.

So the answer to this prompt is: Nothing.

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.

Mama

Today Edith was climbing into my lap chattering to herself and then she looked at me and said, “mama.”

My heart absolutely exploded.

Now, she did not know what she was saying. She’s just learned to make the “muh” sound and often says “mamamamama.” But this was the first time she’d limited it to two syllables and looked at me while saying it, and I was shocked by the emotional avalanche it set off in me.

“You shall inherit all I have, my first and most treasured, perfect child,” I murmured into her hair.

She then picked up a plastic cup at my feet and addressed it as, “dada.”

Oops

Well, loathe as I am to do so, I have to talk about sleep again. A couple of nights ago, Edith woke up at 2:30am wailing. She does this every so often, but goes back to sleep immediately after a pat. Not this night — she wailed off and on for 90 minutes, falling back asleep and then waking back up, and she didn’t calm down at all when I rubbed her back or anything. I held firm, but it was not easy. It seemed to be an anomaly.

But then last night, she woke up wailing around the same time. This time, when I stroked her back she stopped crying, which made me feel worse about it — if she just screams and there’s nothing I can do, there’s nothing I can do, but if my presence actually calms her, then withholding it makes me feel like I’m hurting her. So I gave up and took her into my bed for the first time since I sleep-trained her. I thought something must be wrong, this was such an unusual regression.

That little shit just wanted to play! As soon as I put her in bed, she cheered up and started giggling and climbing on top of me and chattering and poking me in the eyes. But the damage was already done, so I let her stay. She shoved at me and climbed on me and pulled my hair and I steadily ignored her, and I guess she fell asleep at some point, but altogether, we were up for another 90 minutes or so.

The problem now is: I caved. She knows I’m weak. She played the long game, and she won. Do I have to start all over now? Did I undo everything? Does she have the upper hand? One thing I have learned about my daughter: she’s tenacious. She absolutely does not give up, it doesn’t even tire her not to. She’s like a robot, like some terminator. You cannot outlast her, you can only distract her.

Am I never sleeping again?

I guess I find out tonight.

Prompts

I have now been blogging for 144 days straight. Why? I don’t know. I just started doing it. It’s satisfying, though — a small thing I can check off a to-do list every day that makes me feel like I’m still using my brain even though I spend most of my time crawling around on the ground after an infant.

But today, it finally happened. I opened up the new post window, and I had nothing to say. That’s not true — I have a lot to say. But the things I have to say are long, complex topics that would take me much time and mental energy to write, which is entirely contrary to the purpose of this daily posting activity — a quick burst of creativity I don’t have to think too much about.

Fortunately, I saw this coming some time ago, and downloaded a free ebook called “100 Days of Self-Exploration,” a “Self Discovery Journal.” It being free, I don’t expect much, but I figure it could be a useful jumping off point for those rare days when Edith hasn’t done anything new worth talking about.

So here we go, the first prompt:

Who are you?

Well. This seems like a gimme. I’m Elizabeth Urello. Not an especially deep prompt, but I guess this is like putting your name at the top of the paper, an easy intro to the subject at hand.

I hope it’s been as fun for all of you as it has been for me!

Baby Ambitions

Yesterday as I was seriously considering spending $150 on a series of baby books covering various disciplines in the field of physics, I had the opportunity to consider whether I was perhaps projecting my own regrets and thwarted desires onto my seven-month-old.

This gave me pause long enough for me to close the tab and eat something, so Edith has escaped for now, but it certainly will not be the last time.

(It did tickle me that the many reviews from parents of this particular series of books agreed that, while the content was excellent, the books were not of high enough quality to stand up to repeated gnawing. These comments were not, so far as I could tell, remotely tongue-in-cheek.)

Rituals

As I gradually try to ease Edith into the rituals of being a person, I sometimes think about how baffling it must all be from her point of view. Like, ok, sleeping makes sense, as does drinking milk, and playing, and going for walks. But now every night, it’s time to sit in a weird chair and play with goos for awhile, after which I put her in a little warm bowl of water for about fifteen minutes while she plays with a duck and a cup and I rub her with a rag. What must she think of that! Why am I so committed to these two strange acts, such that we must do them every single night! And now that she has teeth, I’ve added another one — twice a day, I stick a little rubber thingy in her mouth and swish it around. I mean, it’s fine, she likes to bite it. But it’s yet another bizarre practice I enact upon her for seemingly no reason.

Then there are screens — I stare at screens all the time, and all Edith wants to do is to take the screens and gnaw on them, but I act as if they are precious household gods that she mustn’t touch except for every Sunday when I insist that she gambol in front of a screen for about an hour while a man (grandpa) talks to her. I’m not sure she can even see him, really. It must seem to her like we’re paying some sort of obeisance to a disembodied voice issuing forth from one of the objects I am continually in thrall to.

Divorced of meaning and context, everything we do on a daily basis must seem like some peculiar religious observation. I often feel like all the normal human daily routines are meaningless — washing and feeding and dressing the body only to do it all again ad infinitum — but to an infant, they actually are meaningless and not even in an existential sense. Indeed, I’m indoctrinating her into a set of practices I myself have fundamental doubts about, so perhaps I am a religious person after all.

Feats of Strength

All Edith wants to do these days is crawl and throw heavy things around.

Every time I put her down at the starting point of the playroom, she crawls out of the playroom up and down the hall and around the kitchen and into the living room and back. She hasn’t yet ventured into the side halls, and she doesn’t go into our bedroom (chamber of sorrows) unless carried there, but everywhere else is well trod ground at this point. When her knees get tired she stands up on her feet and hands and sort of scampers around like an anime horror movie monster. Whenever I’m looking at my phone or hunched over the kitchen counter quickly eating something disgusting, I feel a tug on my pants leg, and I look down and there she is, attempting to claw her way up to my face, or pull me down to her so that she can wrench my hair and shove her dimpled fist into my mouth.

While she does all this, she blows raspberries — big, enthusiastic ones. She’s a tiny Mabel Longhetti careering around the house, and there are rivulets of saliva everywhere she’s been. She is not especially interested in her toys these days except for the bigger ones, which she wants to lift and topple. She likes to exert her diminutive will over larger things — her walker, her piano gym, the rocking chair, her donut seat, me. She wants to pull everything over, and then straddle it and gnaw on it, like it’s fresh kill.

Then she lifts her tiny face to the ceiling fan and crows in triumph, her two little stub teeth shining in the late afternoon light.