Me: Olive, I’m hoping to get some writing done today. But to do that, I need you to play quietly in your room for a bit. Do you think you can do that?
Me: Olive, I’m hoping to get some writing done today. But to do that, I need you to play quietly in your room for a bit. Do you think you can do that?
Beg desperately at high-pitched volumes for you to help them get dressed in a ridiculously complex item of clothing.
Start screaming the second you finish. Make you undress them again.
Repeat, with different yet equally complex item of clothing.
Why Olive, whyyyyy.
Yesterday began with me dragging Olive out of bed early, because yesterday was my book signing.
The signing began at 2PM, which falls right in the middle of her usual 2 hour nap so I had hoped that by waking her up early, she would nap early, and then finish napping early, so that I could get to Chapters in time to hand her off to Adam, and start the fun!
This did not happen. Of course not! Ha! Haha! Oh god! Why toddlers, why?
Spectacular backfire. Not only did she not nap an hour earlier than normal, but she didn’t even nap at her regular naptime and so then, there we were with an hour until I had to be at the bookstore, with her rolling around in her crib, moaning and giggling and just generally being completely oblivious to the fact that she was at that very moment ruining my life.
So I did what I think any sane mother would do, I ran around getting my stuff together and packed her out the door, relying on the magic of the automobile to lull her to sleep. It worked, thank
With a powerhouse of a child like Olive, it’s always good to know that she has a weakness. That kid is absolutely powerless against anything with a motor.
So, O asleep, I drove downtown and sat, in a sweltering car outside the bookstore as my hair gradually fell apart, taking terrifying anxious selfies as the butterflies in my stomach grew and multiplied.
When it was close to two I woke Olive again, and hauled her and everything else (including my cardboard box for Terracycle collections) into the store.
Turns out Adam had a scheduling conflict at work and wasn’t going to be able to make it, (which kind of broke my heart) so I called in reserves in the form of my fabulous friend Colleen (armed with about four pounds of blueberries for O) and my sister-in-law Kate (armed with a coffee jar, water bottle, apple, and nectarines for me.)
These women, I tell you. THESE WOMEN. They are the shit. I do not at all deserve them.
Once all of that getting there chaos was out of the way it was just me sitting at a table with a bunch of books. My books.
I sat there, and I looked at that stack of books. I looked at my hands and the pen and thought about what was happening, and I felt this swell of incredulous pride rush through me.
And then they just pushed it right over the top- one of the fabulous Chapters staff came over and brought me a peppermint tea, and then someone else announced me over the store loudspeaker and I swear it was like I was a real somebody, or a lost child!
It was absolutely surreal.
The best part, hands-down, about this fantastic experience was that when each person would approach the table they would pick up my book and start to leaf through it. I would smile and say hello, and then they would usually ask something like, “So, you wrote this?” and I would smile so big that my cheeks hurt and say, “I sure did!”
And almost without exception, every single person would meet that response by raising their eyebrows and saying, “Wow!”
And look, I understand that wow is kind of a placeholder word, a word that stands in line waiting for other, more coherent thoughts to trickle through and usurp them. I know that wow doesn’t always mean wow!, sometimes it means oh, and sometimes it means I see, and sometimes it simply means, I don’t know what to say.
I know this.
But still, each time someone would say wow, I would repeat it in my head, feel it echo in my heart and resonate in my bones and I would start laughing.
“I know!” I’d say, “How’d that happen?”
I needed this signing. So much of this side of the book gives me intense anxiety. The radio interviews and podcasts, the thought of speaking live to an audience who I can’t see and can’t reach, my words lasting forever online where anyone can access a flub or a missed word or a sentence that was stumbled over.
I really enjoy them when I am in the middle, deep in the swing of it, but am a wreck before each one, just like I was a wreck in the hours leading up to today.
It’s not that I am terrible with people – I think I comport myself fairly well in social situations and have been really happy with how my interviews have gone so far. It’s just that this zone, the going and doing and meeting and speaking, it’s not where I live. I prefer to reside in these carefully measured written words where I can delete or erase or edit without censure.
So although I am incredibly, truly grateful for the reason behind the stress (I mean radio interviews?! What a fantastic problem to have!), I still find it challenging to manage.
I think I am improving a little each time, each time it feels more and more natural, but it is a definite learning curve for me. A steep one. A large, lurching step outside my comfort zone.
Anyway, all of this senseless blathering is trying to say that I absolutely loved being able to see people face to face, one on one. I loved being able to have conversations where they spoke back, asked questions, shared their own stories. It was something I had been missing and I am so glad I was able to experience it.
If you came today – thank you! If you didn’t, we missed you! I really hope that I will be fortunate enough to have other opportunities like this in the future, but even if I don’t – I mean.
This really was one for the books.
I have spent many of my days as a mother trying – mostly unsuccessfully- to imprint moments on my memory forever.
Holding Olive that first night in the hospital, she lay tiny and snuggled up in the crook of my arm. Every time a nurse came in I was afraid they would take her away from me and make her sleep in the bassinet so I’d pretend to be sleeping. Every time they left I would open my eyes again and stare at her. That dark hair, those plooshy lips. I was trying to memorize everything from that moment, clawing it tight to my chest so I could keep it forever.
It was everything.
How many times have I done that in the days, weeks, and months since? How many times have I looked at a balled fist or gurgling laugh or specific expression and vowed fiercely to never forget it?
How many times have I forgotten?
Today was different. Today I looked at her, head bobbing as she fell asleep in her high chair and I shook so hard with laughter that I could barely steady the video I was taking for Adam, and I wanted her to remember.
I want Olive to remember June 2, 2014. The day that she helped me hang laundry outside. The day that we wandered around the block while she picked “flowers” (dandelions) from people’s lawns and ran to hand them to me over and over until my pockets were full and her chubby palms were stained yellow.
This was the day that we walked to the grocery store, where she careened around with a tiny shopping cart filled to the brim with avocados and tomatoes, spinach and black beans. I want her to remember how the old couple pronounced her Just darling!, the teen girls adored her, and how she waved an exaggerated “Hiyyyyy” to every single person she saw.
I want her to remember how many times I hugged her close to me, how I looked dancing like a fool in the kitchen just to see her laugh. I want her to remember napping in the sun-dappled shade of the tree in the backyard, as Gus lay snoring a few feet away.
There was so much to this perfect, perfectly ordinary day that kept sitting with me for a few moments after the moment had passed.
I want her to remember everything, but I know that she won’t. I mean, she can’t.
My first memories don’t date back to much earlier than 6 I don’t think. The early years are just a haze. So all of today – the shopping and the strangers; when she made Adam’s day by pointing to a picture of a bearded underwear model and saying “Papa!”, and the way she fell asleep with shorts on over her pajamas – all of it just…washes away.
Her screwing up her nose and yelling “No meem!” as I tried to apply sunscreen.
Her giant grin when I gave her one of the coconut milk popsicles I made.
The look, the look she gave me when I told her she was going to have to get down from dinner if she kept putting her feet on the kitchen table. She didn’t break eye contact for even a second as she raised her foot and touched it ever so daintily to the table’s edge. (Sometimes she is all Adam, this one.)
What do I do with all of this, all of these things that when put together make up the thing that was today?
What do I do with the fragments of this ordinary day that leave me sitting here with no evidence that any of it even happened, except for a few loads of clean folded laundry and fresh groceries?
I know she won’t remember so I’m doing it for her. I’ll witness this day.
I’m writing down the way she looked after she woke up from her nap, how she flung her arms around my neck. How she kept repeating our Realtor’s name after hearing me talking to him on the phone “Hiyyy Durtis. Hiyyy Durtis, hiyy”
I will remember all of this for her – how she skipped her nap and then fell asleep in her supper, how she thought the leaves of the tree were butterflies, how she has all of a sudden stopped calling my brother Liam, Um, and started calling him Miam. Just like I did when I was her age.
June 2, June 2. My favourite ordinary day.
I’m clutching the last five minutes of it close to my chest and vowing – fiercely – to remember.
I used to write monthly updates about Olive and I stopped after a year, I think because I wasn’t doing the monthly photos anymore so I lost that prompt. But in the last few weeks I’ve just been thinking how much I thoroughly enjoy this age, and I wanted to immortalize it forever on The Internets. BEHOLD! A nineteen-month update!
Olive’s age right now is truly one of my favourites, ever.
She is nineteen months old (which in the immensely more straightforward language of normal people translates to a year and a half) and an absolute delight to be around.
[Tangent: I know! I’m sorry! One of my favorite bloggers recently posted a comment about parents continuing to state their child’s age in months after a year, and I totally get it. BUT! There is a reason. And that reason is that there is a HUGE difference between “one-and-a-half” meaning fourteen months, and “one-and-a-half” meaning nineteen months but they both round to a year and a half old. How are you supposed to figure out whether your child is extremely gifted, or start nervously googling things at 3AM if you don’t know who on the playground to compare her to? Exactly. These inane “seventy-three month” delineations serve a purpose. For neurotic parents everywhere. Let us have it. (I’ll stop at 24 months old) (I mean two. Dammit.) END TANGENT]
The tantrums have subsided (barring the typical hungry/tired/teething/possessed-by-demon scenarios), and she is talking up a storm and even putting two and three words together to make magnificent sentences to the caliber of “‘Banana mummy, please” (which of course actually sounds like ” ‘nana ….mummy…..pease” but I will spare you the phonetic representations of her speech, for which you can thank me with large quantities of chocolate and maybe the perfect pair of ankle boots, too.)
Adam and I think she is the smartest kid ever. We discuss it often in a completely obnoxious way and I would rather someone read my google search history to a room full of stranger than eavesdrop on one of these “She’s so smart…[insert banal anecdote here]”
Okay okay I’ll share one! If you insist.
Every Sunday I go to hot yoga, because contorting myself into pretzels with sixty other people in a room so hot that my shins sweat is my idea of a good evening. I don’t recall ever specifically explaining the concept of hot yoga to her, but last week she was looking for me and Adam told her I went to yoga. THEN, this genius child of mine, who is basically Einstein in a toddler-skin suit signed, and said, “Hot”.
HOT! Genius, right?
She is doing all of these incredible toddler things that make toddlers not only bearable but infinitely adorable. She has developed clear ideas about what she does and does not like to wear and she enjoys creating her own outfits which often feature Adam’s shoes and hats.
She feeds herself and is utterly besotted with food. This surprises me a little, because I am somewhat of a picky eater (Although I confess that I really detest that label. Isn’t a lady allowed to have many very specific likes and dislikes – most of which happen to relate food’s texture and/or origin?I have a discerning palate, so shoot me. Truthfully, I suspect I am a supertaster. Go ahead and tell me beets don’t taste like dirt, TELL ME TO MY FACE.)
Anyway, because I don’t often find myself eagerly digging into bowls of Brussels sprouts or eating whole bananas I sort of imagined Olive doing much the same. Developing likes and dislikes, you know, like a normal person.
No. She eats anything, anytime, anywhere.
She literally would not go to sleep last night because she wanted to keep eating. The way that I knew this is that she was standing bolt upright in her crib bellowing “EAT! EAT! EEEAAAATTT!” at the top of her lungs and enunciating each syllable as though the only conceivable reason why I wasn’t bringing her food was that I didn’t understand what she was asking for.
So. 9PM found her sitting beside me in bed, eating half a chicken breast and scrambled eggs leftover from breakfast. Adam walked in on this strange scene and was all “Wtf?” and I was all “Don’t disturb her or make eye contact- she’s eating!”
Then he asked, “So, is this how it’s going to be, Olive? You’re going to eat a second dinner every night before bed?” and she, my genius nineteen-and-a-half-month old daughter looked at him from her position reclined on one elbow and, in between bites of chicken, said clear as a bell: “Yup.”
Like I said, fabulous.
The nitty-gritty for the interested parents out there who want to get a head start on either anxious googling or feeling smug in comparison : Bedtimes have become sort of hit and miss since we stopped nursing to sleep. Sometimes she goes down with a few books and a snuggle, sometimes it gets drawn out longer (with the chicken, and such.) She naps for an hour a day and usually sleeps 11-12 hours a night depending on if I have to get her up in the morning or not.
She’s very much a mama’s girl these days, although it’s way better than when we first moved. Today she fell while running on the sidewalk and came away with a skinned knee and a bloody lip – which made her already plooshy lips swell to Angelina-esque proportions.
I don’t want to raise her to be afraid (something I’ve written about before here) so I am trying really hard to stop myself from shouting “Careful! Careful” when she runs now. She was up and running again ten minutes after falling, while I replayed it over and over wishing I’d been able to prevent it, with blood and tears still staining my shoulder.
It’s really hard to step back.
I believe in skinned knees, I believe in busted lips. I believe in bare feet and kids running so fast that sometimes their legs can’t keep up. They need that. I believe in all of that but when you see your girl with a lip swollen like Texas with tears in her eyes and a bloody mouth (real blood! Blood that I made!) it’s challenging to not insist that she always hold my hand. It’s tough to resist letting her run only on grass. It’s near-impossible to stop pointing out the dangers all around her, “Watch out for the curb! Look out for the rock! Slow down! Olive, slow down!”
I am trying. I’m trying to not worry for her, so she learns to worry for herself.
So, so easier said than done.
At nineteen months Olive fell asleep on my chest as I read “The Crown On Your Head”, which I now have memorized. Before I transferred her to her crib I just lay there feeling the weight of her. My daughter.
She is just so solidly there.
She used to be a theoretical, a someday. Then she was a decision made, then a line on a stick, then – incredibly-a black and white blur on a screen.
Nineteen months and eleven days ago she became a real live citizen of this world and I laid there tonight thinking how utterly strange it all is. All of that progress in all of those months.
She is there and I am here, and every day she pulls apart a little further even as she clings closer. She won’t hold my hand but can’t go to sleep without me. She runs away from me so fast that she falls, but still cries if I leave without remembering to say goodbye.
I know how it must feel to crave the closeness and the independence, too. I find myself playing this strange game of push and pull but from the other side. I want her to stay like this forever, and I want to watch her grow up. I want desperately to keep her from injuries big and small, hurts to the head and the heart, just as much as I want her to feel pain and learn from it, heal and grow through it.
I want her to become the fully developed person I have already begun to see glimpses of, but oh my god when did she get so big? When did she stop being a baby? When did she start running and having conversations and inching closer and closer to 2?
I know posts from parents often take this tone – I’ve never felt so high but also so low! I’m so exhausted but so happy! My life is mind-numbingly boring but it’s the best and I wouldn’t trade it for anything! – and although it feels cliché and I recognize it as such, to be honest, it’s really hard to avoid.
Parenthood is the most contradictory experience I have ever embarked upon. I have never felt such a broad spectrum of emotions in the span of a single day – or a single hour. Joy, boredom, envy, fascination, heartbreak, frustration, amazement, selfishness, selflessness. I think that this as much as anything accounts for the fatigue you feel as a parent, as a mother. The simple act of bouncing around between emotional highs and lows is completely draining.
(But oh, I do I need to complete the sentence that is now a mandatory addendum to all complaining-mother sentences? Say it with me now: but it’s so worth it.)
In conclusion, nineteen months is my absolute favourite – even with eye teeth coming in, and weaning halfway, and nine PM chicken battles. This girl is just simply legit.
Happy year-and-a-half-and-a-month, Olive Grace. We are so proud of you, skinned knees and all.