It has certainly been an emotional rollercoaster (pardon the cliche) for both Little Champ and myself the last couple of weeks. It’s as if I’ve been surrounded with fire hydrants, and one after the other has been depressurizing itself on me.
Fire hydrant #1: Cat drama
Turns out our psychotic cat was only psychotic when he was all cooped up inside. Of course, the regulation on base is that animals cannot be outside, unless they are leashed or fenced in. Henry didn’t like the porch, and there was no way I was paying for a fence that the cat would probably escape from. As if he would wear a leash.
Henry got out once or twice, and since then, was feeling the call of the wild. Or, rather, the call of the bushes in front of our house, which he rarely left. Even for a cat, he was scaredy.
When he could be outside (read: when he would escape), Henry was an absolute angel inside. No homicidal tendencies, no preying on babies. Even snuggling. But I value my husband more than the cat, and LT could get in trouble if housing found out we were letting our cat outside. So I tried keeping Henry inside. He became even more sulky and angsty than I was when I was 14 and couldn’t go to my first homecoming dance. He’d meow and wail and even swipe at me if I stood in his way.
I’ve always seen Henry as my “problem child.” My training for the payback I am sure to incur from my own years of teenage attitude. If I couldn’t make it work with a cat, how could I make it work with a child?
Then I realized that this line of thinking was the same line of thinking that kept me in bad dating relationships. If I can’t make it work with this guy, through all of these problems, how can I make it in marriage, which (I’ve been told) is full of problems?
I had to break up with the cat. Even though I loved him unconditionally, through all of his psychoses and all the scratches on my legs, the carpet fibers all over my wood floors, I had to realize that parting with him would actually be for his own good, not just for my own good. So the past few weeks I looked for a new home for him—that was dramatic. I found a new home for him—that was traumatic. And I have already heard that he is terrorizing his new owners, though they tell me they are going to stick it out (I told them to just let the beast outside once in a while).
So even though I am heartbroken and feel like a failed mother, Henry has a new home. And I am sure that someday I will feel less sad and more relieved. I bought a new carpet that hasn’t been scratched, and I haven’t had to yell at the cat for misbehaving 300 times a day.
Fire hydrant #2: Growing Baby with separation anxiety
With growth spurts come moodiness and crying and fussing, and the baby is even worse! Little Champ is on the verge of crawling, and he STILL HAS NOT CUT ANY TEETH, so whining and fussing and screaming have been the soundtrack of the day for several weeks. I don’t quite understand why growing is always accompanied by anguish. Maybe it’s to prepare us for the growing pains when we have to be more independent. <cue PBS music> Change is hard, but if we don’t change, we don’t grow, and if we don’t grow, we die. (I actually learned something from 10th grade Bio!)
One of those things that I thought before I became a mother was that I would be a mom, and that I wouldn’t be perfect, but that I would be able to manage by myself. I knew I wouldn’t run home to mommy—I have never run home to my mother. But of course I was also certain I would never marry a Marine. So I would always have my husband around because I’d never go through a deployment.
Isn’t life funny?
In the last 8 months, I have learned that children are not meant to be raised by just two people, let alone one. Even single parents have to work; they aren’t with their babies 24/7. And though I love my son with my whole heart, motherhood takes a lot out of someone. It’s not a full-time job—full time is 40 hours a week. It’s a never-ending job. It’s the best job and the hardest job in the world. Every day I love being a mother. But you only have to be a mom for half an hour to realize you need a break.
I have had great friends offer to take Little Champ off my hands for an hour here and there, but during those hours, I was cleaning. During nap time, I was cleaning. During his sleep time, I was trying to sleep and usually not succeeding. During his awake time, I was holding him or chasing him or playing with him, or else he was screaming. I haven’t had a break for months. So two weeks ago, I bought a plane ticket to fly to my parents’ house in Colorado. They want to see the baby, and I want to get away from things like this.
Fire hydrant #3: tantrums
Little Champ is really exploring the limits of human emotions. If you have ever spent time with a toddler, you have an idea of the theatrics involved in a temper tantrum. If you’ve never witnessed one, hang out at a Walmart in the toy section and wait for a few minutes. Or come over to my house and do the same. In fact, you could come over right now.
Last night was horrible. I am against the Cry-it-out method of sleep training where people leave their child in a room and let them bawl for hours on end. Even Dr. Ferber, the guy people credit the CIO method with, says you should check on your child every 15 minutes. But bedtime came and went, and Little Champ would not go to sleep, even though he was exhausted, even though I nursed him and rocked him and changed him and held him. In my arms he was screaming, arching his back, pitching a fit. So I put him in his crib and let the storm pass, like I would do with an older baby, and kept checking up on him every 5, 10, 15 minutes to comfort him. He would not be comforted. Eventually he fell asleep. Then he woke up and we went through the whole cycle again. After he fell asleep the second time, he slept for 7 hours. He woke up at 7 am, fussing, so I came and got him and brought him into my bed and nursed him (I was going on 5 hours of sleep), and then we both slept for 2-3 more hours.
He woke up happy! He was even happy when I changed his diaper (he’s been in the habit of throwing fits every time I change him—he hates being on his back). But then when he was playing on the floor, I made the mistake of going around the corner into the kitchen to make his breakfast. Separation anxiety, anyone? I put him in his high chair. Still crying. I gave him a spoonful of cereal. Still mad.
So I did what anybody else would do in this situation, or so I tell myself.
I let him stick his hands into his cereal.
I’m praying that his smile will include a tooth in the next couple of days.