Thursday, April 28, 2011

Baby Love



I'm glad you enjoyed yesterday's surprise coffee-cup elephant silliness! This morning, as I got ready to leave the house, I actually witnessed a certain little someone out of the corner of my eye, quick as a flash, grab my cup off the couch and race to the dollhouse to make her stowaway mischief! First time I've seen it happen, and glad I did, because I got to give hugs and smooches and say thank you for sending elephant company with me! 

I keep thinking I'll write a post about crazy child-love and child-fascination, but where do you begin? It's the hugest thing, the way your life reorients around this new center. Weird to think, how you cease to be the center of your own life, and it's not only okay, it's endless delight, constant heart fireworks. Clementine is talking up a storm these days, new words every second, and she's such a silly that she has "tones" and "voices" for different occasions, and does mimicry, and sings and sings, making up nonsense language, kind of like Cocteau Twins or Sigur Ros (by the way, when she requests to listen to Sigur Ros on itunes for her bedtime dance, she refers to them as "jaybirds" for obvious reasons :-) She loves Radiohead and the White Stripes and Tokyo Police Club and Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, requests them all by name, and her favorite song right now is Stay Up Late by the Talking Heads, to which she knows ALL THE WORDS (20 months! She's 20 months!). She says, "Oh yeeahhhhh," like a blues singer, and "So awesome" like a beach girl. She's getting into the dressing-herself phase, which is fun-beyond-fun. I can't wait for her to put together insane little girl mismatch outfits. 

In short, it's more fun than we ever knew, but it's so beyond fun, beyond any expectation. I've never been a big one for babies. When they were put into my arms, I'd go through the motions, you know, and I could recognize cuteness and all, but I didn't get melty and want to sniff heads or anything. But I trusted what people said that when it's your own baby, it's different. And that is true, but it doesn't even begin to say it. 

I remember an episode of Scrubs (did you ever watch that?) where Carla wanted to have a baby and Turk was unconvinced until someone told him it was like "having a dog that slowly learns to talk." And he lit up and said, "Awesome!" and then he was on board. Ha ha. As dog people, Jim and I laughed, so in love with our canine babies at the time, and it is like that. And knowing that the amazingness of this growing brain of hers is only beginning, and it isn't going to hit a plateau any time soon. Clementine is just going to keep blowing our minds every second for the rest of our lives, and in bigger and bigger ways.

I always knew I wanted children, but I knew it in this kind of dispassionate way, like ... I saw our future with a family rather than without, because that seemed better than getting old without younger people around to change the high light bulbs, ha ha. (No, seriously, I had a very happy childhood, and I love childhood, and wanted more of it in our lives! And big family Christmases, and beach holidays things like that. That was my vision of having kids, really: the trimmings, the memories, not the day-to-day.) But Jim and I always said, if it doesn't work out that's fine too, we'll be totally happy and fulfilled either way. And I think that's true too. We would have no basis for comparison. We would never know the dimensions of life that open up when you have a child, so we wouldn't miss them. But now that we do know, it's like this: It's like there's a door in your brain you walked past a million times without even noticing it, and when you open it, there is a whole WORLD there with new languages, new feelings, new colors. Not all of them are good, sure, but by far most of them are, and so good that they make you want to invent new words for good.

So, in a quick pre-writing scribble, that is a small piece of how I feel about being a parent. And I do not want to suggest for a second that one's life is lacking if you do not have kids, or that it is for everybody. This is just me, and my still-full-of-hormones personal feelings. AND ... I get why a lot of professional women and creative women opt to remain the center of their own lives -- it is not easy to balance it all, even when it is the best of all possible worlds. Truly it is not easy.

It has just hit me, seeing a preliminary calendar of my travel this year to promote Daughter of Smoke and Bone, that my writing dreams are coming true in such amazing ways ... but maybe not at the very best time! And my brain squints shut from shame to even think something so ungrateful at such an amazing time, but here it is. I will have to be away from Jim and Clementine a lot this year. I cannot say enough how I am getting what I have always wanted professionally and SO MUCH MORE, and I have what I have always wanted personally and SO MUCH MORE, and I believe I am the luckiest person in the entire world to have my dream career and wonderful family, but ... how to balance them in the coming months? 

How to relish my great good fortune with this book and the road ahead (I have always always ALWAYS wanted book tours and I am SO EXCITED!!!), and square it all with my mommy-self who dreads the thought of a single missed bedtime (you should see the absurdly tall stacks of books Clementine picks out each night to be read) or a single missed new word or new song? And it won't be a single bedtime or word or song, but many

It's so weird how joy and dread can inhabit the same space. I imagine them all cuddled up, a little joy-dread duo so tangled you can't tell which arms and legs belong to who. They're lovers, an "almost animal," as from this amazing poem that for some reason just popped into my head, from my long-ago bookstore employee days when the poet himself (later to serve as US Poet Laureate) would come from across the bay to read. But I digress.

All right. All right. To work with me. To writing. 

(Incidentally, I am taking a couple of days from the novel-in-progress to finish a short story I am doing for an anthology, and I am having So. Much. Fun. If you are in the writing doldrums and can't seem to summon a memory of why you even wanted to write in the first place, stop what you are doing and write a short story. Let it go where it wants, however strange. Just trail along behind it going, wait, what are you eating, and huh, you sure you want to roll in that? Okay, go ahead ... Joy bliss joy bliss. Writing love!)



21 comments:

paris parfait said...

Yes! A child is all that and more. And I knew you and Jim would be amazing parents. As for all the much-deserved success your writing is bringing you, enjoy it! Everything else will work itself out and your time with your daughter will be golden!

Q said...

When will you know where you're going on tour?

Connie Onnie said...

What a beautiful post, thank you for sharing. I loved the scrubs line I will have to share that with my friend, she will love it.

Cynthia Lee said...

She dances to Sigur Ros? That made my heart hurt a little - in a good way.

Alexa said...

This is such a gorgeous post and you sum up motherhood so well. My son is 23 months and makes every day magical :)

I just discovered your blog a week or so ago but it is fast becoming one of my favourites and your book sounds amazing.

MonsterAteMy said...

I think you summed up parenthood very nicely, especially that new-parent feeling of oh, so *that's* what everyone was talking about!.

When my oldest son was born, it was just like a light going on deep inside, illuminating all these places that I never knew existed.
(The effect was less dramatic when my second son was born-- the light was already on, but things just got brighter!)

Faith Pray said...

Oh, my! Cutest Baby on the Planet! Parenting is like finding all the good endings in a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. (Said while my 8 month old wails in the background.)

~Michelle~ said...

It truly is such an amazing adventure.

MacDougal Street Baby said...

I can only imagine the dread you feel knowing you'll be away from your family for so long. Sadly it brings to mind something my mother used to say when watching celebrities on tv juggling work and parenthood. They're fooling themselves, she'd say. You can't possibly have it all. Maybe she was right.

Janet Lee Carey said...

You'll do the tour and momhood, Laini! I'm excited to hear about Daughter of Smoke and Bone -- loved Lips Touch!

Will you be touring in the Seattle area?? Let us know.

Catherine Denton said...

Stop it. I already had a cute attack yesterday just picturing her excited little face hiding that elephant. But this...

THIS!

It's beyond cute. BEYOND I SAY!!

megwrites said...

I remember reading on Shannon Hale's blog a couple years ago how she took her daughter (and a babysitter) along with her on a tour. Maybe something like that could work out?

sarah-painter.com said...

Thank you for this lovely, thoughtful, love-ful post. You really nail my own feelings about motherhood and family life and, as a creative woman facing a long holiday weekend of push-pull (want to write, want to spend time with the kids), it has done me the power of good to be reminded that I am *far* from alone in this struggle. My heart goes out to you re. the travel/being away from your family, but I believe that in following your creative passion (and professional success!), you are being the very best mummy that Clementine could ever have. Hats off to you, Laini, you are an inspiration.

tone almhjell said...

I stand in awe of the coolest and cleverest little kid in the universe. Magnus is amazing, don't get me wrong. But... all the words? Huh? Oh, she's going to be the most fantastic person. She already is, but I just imagine her musing over teenage drama in your writing room with spiky hair, a large cup of coffee and an elephant necklace she made herself. I adore her, and so does Magnus. He can't say Clementine, but everytime he sees her, he cries 'more, more!'

I pictured the trimmings, too, you know. It was all very vague, and the everyday (everynight) work... let's just say it's not vague. But it's pretty wonderful all the same. Magnus just started talking, and everytime he says a new word, like this morning (tiger!), I'm completely filled with glee.

Kjersten said...

These are the good kind of problems to have, and it's clear you see it, Laini. You can totally do this. And the time away from Clementine just shows her (subconsciously) that mommy is a person too. Such a lovely post about being a parent. Thanks.

Jenn B-H said...

Definitely in the writing doldrums at the moment and it's because of my short story collection. Your advice is always helpful and I'll just starting scribing something once I get my barings. Hope the upcoming tour isn't too stressful and is fun and you get to come home and hang with the family for that much longer.
I, personally, can't wait to see you at Book Expo next month. Take care!

Amber said...

Hitting the nail on the head as only you can. I can tell you it just gets better, and believe it or not, you only fall deeper in love.

And again I say, lucky little child to have you guys as parents.

:)

johanna said...

Beautiful, well said! What an amazing creature, that Clementine. I can't believe how long it's been since we've seen you guys, must squeeze in some huggles, very soon!

Deb said...

First of all, that picture is ah.maze.ing. Oh my goodness she is so beautiful.
I am a mother and I get/love this post. I am sorry about dread and joy shacking up on you, but I am sure it will work out. Good luck. And there is always skype, right?

bronwyn said...

This was such a beautiful post. The bit about being delighted that you are not the center of your life anymore is spot on. My little girl is a little older than Clementine and it completely blows my mind that we can have conversations now. The things she thinks of! I used to wonder what was on her mind and now I know. Amazing. Clementine is ridiculously beautiful.

anne said...

you are spot-on w/the How It Is To Have A Child stuff. I also never fussed over babies, etc. Still don't. But my own, they were/are my heart (and still are, in the their 20s!)Perhaps little Pie could do some tours with you.....seems possible.
Hooray for Appreciation of Good Fortune!

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