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Eva 2 months old

I remember…

…settling into the sofa, knowing I wouldn’t get up again for the next eight hours at least. Mike leaving for class or work, my chest tightening, deep breath, we’ll be okay. Stockpiling the end table with liters of water, pistachios, roasted almonds, dried cranberries, dates, dried apricots and dried cherries, a cup of coffee hot and creamy, an extra pair of breast shields, a nail file to file down sharp newborn nails, my phone, and all the TV remotes. Comfy clothes and lots of pillows and just me and Eva for hours and hours while she nursed, napped, nursed, napped, nursed throughout the day. I would tuck her, naked except her diaper, inside my loose shirt to keep her skin-to-skin. Leaving the sofa only to change her diaper or use the bathroom. Michelle or my mother would come around lunch time to fix me a sandwich and hold her while I ate. If they had a little extra time I’d hop in the shower while they cuddled her. I watched two seasons of “Call the Midwife” and season 6 of “Mad Men” this way…

…how terrified I was of dropping her, or of someone else dropping her…

…touching my face in the shower, my still half-paralyzed face, a face I’d spent years analyzing for flaws, hating and picking and feeling ashamed of. Touching this face with my fingers and feeling not my face, but my daughter’s face instead, and suddenly being overwhelmed with self-love, something I had not ever experienced in my entire life. Touching my belly, still big and round, now soft and squishy. Loving this big soft belly that housed my daughter, wanting to show it off and proclaim to anyone who would listen: THIS belly made this baby! This belly was her home! This gorgeous, big, round, squishy belly! How Eva kneaded my belly with her toes and how I was so happy and glad that my body was soft and big like a pillow for her tiny body to curl into…

…how proud and delighted I was when, at her three-day check-up, I learned she had gained six ounces since her birth, instead of losing weight like most babies do. My milk was making her nice and fat and I was amazed and thrilled when the doctor told me how she was thriving…

…the dark downy fur across the backs of her shoulders and her lower back, down into her bottom. My little monkey baby…

…how her fingers reminded me of an old lady’s fingers, how they were somehow familiar, like I’d seen those old lady fingers before, on my Aunt Sue maybe?…

…how she snuggled her face into my bosom after nursing, as if it was the world’s most comfortable, coziest pillow…

Mama, Papa, Baby and dogs

Someone finally turned a light on in there

NYC_10-07

Halloween 2007, New York City

When I turned 13 my father said, “Over the next few years, you’re going to start to think your parents are really stupid. You’re going to think we don’t know anything. And that’s ok. A few years later, sometime in your twenties, you’ll realize you were wrong, that in fact we know a lot and we have  a lot to offer.”

No way, I thought. That’s totally stupid.

When I was 15 I lied and told my parents that a particular New Years Eve party would be chaperoned by the under-age host’s parents. Of course it wasn’t. Of course the kid’s parents were in Hawaii and the only supervision we’d have would be from my friend’s twenty-one-year-old boyfriend who’d purchased three kegs and a pile of weed. My parents could always tell when I was lying, so as soon as I left for the party, they called the kid’s house. Ten minutes later, as I was walking up the front steps to the thudding of a subwoofer somewhere inside the party, my father’s car was pulling up to the driveway. He leaned over and threw open the passenger door.

“Get in the car. Now.”

I sputtered and balked, hot-faced and humiliated. I was furious, but I knew better than to try to defend myself. I had lied, after all. So, I got in the car and sulked the whole way home. I spent the rest of the evening watching Dick Clark with my parents, convinced they were trying to ruin my life.

That was the worst part of adolescence, I think. The feeling that I was a grown-up and I knew how to take care of myself and why wouldn’t they just leave me alone and let me live my life? Why were they always butting their nose in and taking over and so what if I want to go to a party where there aren’t any parents home? I can take care of myself and gawd they are so stupid. They totally don’t get me.

It might seem ridiculous now, but I remember those feelings well. Utter frustration and abject loneliness. The injustice of it all.  Teen angst at it’s angstiest.

Sometime between college graduation and New York City, I realized it wasn’t my parents that didn’t get me. They totally got me. They got me so well they knew what I was up to even before I did. It was me who didn’t get them. But they didn’t let my inability to understand stop them from being good parents. They knew I’d get it one day, and in the meantime, they loved me enough to sacrifice being liked by me. They gave up being cool and fun because being my friend wasn’t important. Being my parents – keeping me safe, healthy, and cared for – was what counted.

Nowadays you really could call me a grown-up. I’m married with beasts and I have a little bit of life experience under my belt. My parents are still my parents, of course, and I’m still their child, but I have a whole new appreciation for the parents they were while I was growing up. I mostly take care of myself now, though I often ask for their advice and guidance. After all these years, they’ve become two of my best friends. And much to the chagrin of my fifteen-year-old self, it turns out my parents are totally rad and really smart. Take it from me, kids. Listen to your parents. They totally get you.