Sunday, June 28, 2015

Breaking the Skin

36 Weeks

Ren's new teeth 
Kill our sweet sleep
He wriggles and cries all night

We lay there and say:
"Tomorrow we'll pay,"
and try not to dwell on Ren's plight

Ren wakes with a smile
We walk into walls for awhile
and hope this will change very soon

Sleep deprivation 
Is a torturous station
There's a reason loon rhymes with the moon

We do it again
"Is it better for Ren?"
Co-workers ask with a cringe

"Well, he's doing all right.
Surely the end there's some light."
Coffee is more than a binge

The weekend appears
Distracting our fears
It's clear a first crush can heal all

Writing is cheap
For the vacation we seek
But it makes all the hard things banal

Friday, June 5, 2015

Might as well jump—JUMP!

35 Weeks

As summer and new summer fun/responsibilities/traditions/necessities present themselves, our lives have gone from time for thinking before leaping to realizing we're mid-leap when we see a cloud pass though our windy hair. "Honey! When did this happen?! What?! Parachute??!!! AHH!! PUUUULLLL!!!!"

This weekend was all about family and new friends coming into Ren's point of view. It was his fantastic first cousin, Emma's second birthday bash, his first trip to the Big Apple (if you count an Inwood picnic as a welcome to NYC), and the first day of his Papa-son's two-month visit. While mommy felt like the coked up, washed up, game show host of the Ren World Tour, Ren sat back and took it all in with plenty of giggles and few complaints.

"The kids are all asleep! Time for the adults to wake up!!!"

After Emma's celebration, the moms check on the kids and we all find ourselves sitting around a cozy campfire. I choose an empty seat next to my father-in-law. In the past two years he's gone from job to retirement and from 'Dad' to 'Poppy'. I know how much our own lives have quickly changed, I start to think about his new turn. I casually try on his proverbial shoes: "Hey Dad, what's it like?"

What came after made me consider tying our stack of parenting books together to make a footstool.

"Well. I don't feel like a grandfather."


"I feel like I'm playing a role. You know what that's like. All the world's a stage and all that."

My father-in-law coached both his boys' little league teams. He also championed them through camps, games, plays, Boy Scouts, first dates, first jobs, and universities.

"It all went by so fast. We only have so much time. And now I'm a grandfather. I don't feel it. It's just a name."

I didn't expect his sincerity; his vulnerability. Perhaps a greeting card sentence on blessings or a joke about diapers. Wow. I don't know why I was surprised. My father-in-law has always been refreshingly frank.

"Yeah, it took me a while to realize I'm not suddenly just A MOM. I'm a woman who is also a new mother."

"Well. You're a mom first."

"Of course."

"But then you're something else."


"First it's about keeping them alive. You're a mom... Then you're a teacher."

My father-in-law worked night jobs cleaning and stocking grocery shelves to make ends meet.

"You teach them right from wrong. Over and over. You make sure they understand the rules."

"Wow, Dad. Yeah."

"Then— Once I took one of them, Mark or Greg, I can't remember— I drove him and a date to a scary movie and then drove them home through the graveyard..."

"That was Greg! I love that story!"

We laugh at a skinny, mustached Greg sitting in the backseat.

"After you teach them. Then you're the parent. You gotta discipline. Make sure they stay on track with all you told 'em."

My father-in-law taught me how to trim a hedge. When my mother-in-law yelled at him for making me do yard work, he answered for me: "She isn't around grass in the city. She wants the dirt under her fingers for once!"


My father-in-law looks across the campfire at his sons. Greg is sitting in a chair. Mark is dancing around the fire. 80's music plays and I find myself singing along with the hair-band chorus.

"Mark and Greg. They're different. Always have been. I remember peeking in their rooms at night. Late at night. 3 a.m. when they were teenagers..."

My father-in-law tells me stories about watching his sons turn their attentions towards girls.

"That's when you start to let go. Before you know it, they're off to college and you just hope that they hold on to everything you taught them and helped them through. That's when you're in the background."

"And... that's the hardest part..."

"Well, of course. You're never as important again. And then you're Grandpa. It's not a bad thing. It's how it should be. It's how it is. You just pray you taught 'em all the right stuff. You pray they don't do stupid things."

We both look over the flames and take in the scene. Here is our Hallmark hallmark.

"I think you did all right."

"Yep. I did."

I run into the house and when I come back out my father-in-law is giggling and flirting with his wife until she smacks his hand away. I wonder how many cliffs they've jumped off together. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Blue Suede Shoes

34 Weeks

Our hearts are aching for our dear gentle, generous, and amazingly thoughtful nanny who has lost her chosen partner in life. His transition came suddenly and left many with a gapping whole in their guts. We hope they can find peace. While, of course, Ren does not understand why his favorite playmate hasn't been around, he's adapted fantastically to meeting a new caretaker—a fun, present, and vibrant woman who is young enough to be our daughter. 

Even though Ren has proved his flexibility time and time again (he's Fonzie, he's cool) we are ever grateful that he's curious and trusting enough to open his little arms to new people. As I passed him over to a new sitter for the first time, I also hand over my fears and tell myself to have faith that most people take childrearing seriously. We have many preferences when it comes to how Ren is raised. Our nanny knows them all and then some. You don't want to overwhelm the interim person. There's no room for micromanagement in triage. "You can do anything as long as you keep him safe. If he isn't injured or bleeding when I get home, I'll consider this a success." I realized in that moment how incredibly vulnerable we are. All of us. The ripple effect one life can have on another. The situation that lead to this situation. Strangers helping strangers. Sure we pay the folks who watch Ren, but $11 an hour ain't going to incentivize a person to take a bullet. I think a major part of parenting feels like Russian Roulette. You can only pray the people you entrust to have the same gun-law politics. 

As we dropped off Stand-in Nanny, she pops in the backseat to kiss Ren goodbye. "See you next semester. It was nice to meet you, Little Man." Ren looks a bit sad then smiles. We giggle at his charm. I swear if Ren could have pounded a juke box in that moment, music would have played.

Nine Inch Nails

33 Weeks

"You bite them. Sounds gross but it works. They're thin."

"Wait until he's asleep. Sneak in and do it."

"Yeah. Good luck with that..."

Once a year, our office resembles the backstage of a live 72-hour, 100-man chainsaw juggling act. Lots of men and women with emergency missions. If we aren't present, some one's gonna get hurt. We are the folks behind a three-day Commencement and Reunion celebration for Bard College. It's a lot of fun and a great reminder of all it takes to make a good mind. I just happen to be one of the masses of soldiers assigned to keeping the saws in the air and in comparison to many, my tasks were easy this year. However, because of the show, I didn't get to see Ren much this week except when he first woke in the morning. Now... Ren—the everything that is Ren—has grow exponentially. I know, I know... I'm continuously shocked at how fast he grows, but the milestones were flooding in so quickly, I started to get concerned that we haven't saved enough for his own college education in these past seven months. At this rate, he will start applying to his first choices before the new year.

Ren is now officially cracking jokes. Crawling. (Well, doing what Greg calls, "reaching for the phone after he's been shot." I was told it's also named the "army crawl.") Ren has three teeth showing. Thanks to his fantastic nanny, all he wants to do is sit on your lap and go, "DOOOWWWNNNN" and "UUUUPPPP" by leaning back to the point of a headstand and then pulling up to jump enthusiastically on your lap. If anyone else is in the room while he does this, he makes sure they are watching and claps approvingly. Ren can turn on and off the light switch to the ceiling fan and he knows the shell game. We are booking him for Vegas next week. I hope he isn't troubled by the mittens taped around his wrists. I can't keep him still long enough to trim his nails and he's going to accidentally pierce the dog with the next tug of ear.