The Good Life
Motherhood is seriously intense. If it doesn’t feel intense to you then you’re either utterly detached (which I’m pretty sure is super unhealthy for you as a mom and really bad for your children) or you’ve got a secret magical formula for staying completely calm and sane all at same the time. And that shit just doesn’t exist . . . I guarantee you that even Brangelina’s kids sometimes poop at the absolutely most inconvenient times! When you have really small children, life is unpredictable, loud, messy, exhausting, and challenging all around. You are busting your butt all morning, day, and night to keep these little beings fed, clean, rested, educated, entertained, safe, calm, and in my house, from killing one another most of the time. So, it’s really helpful to have a reliable method in place to quiet the noise, calm the storm, and slow down the warp speed pace in which everything is always moving. You basically need to have a sure-fire way to turn the dial down on the intensity and crazy heights that so many moments throughout the day seem to reach. This is story about how I spontaneously learned to dial myself down and in the process, miraculously, dialed my children too. This is another example of my continued on-the-job training, which I’m starting to realize may just be the most optimal way to learn everything . . . in the thick of it!
So we begin with a drive to parent-child class when Ari was about fourteen-months-old. Dylan would be born soon and I was having major anxiety about how I would handle having two babies in my care all day long. I was physically exhausted from the pregnancy and lack of sleep. I basically don’t sleep the last trimester because I can never get comfortable. Or if I finally do wedge myself between enough pillows to be in the right position then I’ll inevitably have to get up and pee once I’m finally settled in. This bladder thing, by the way, never goes away. I’m still getting up in the middle of the night to pee. But don’t even get me started on the drama that is otherwise known as Meredith’s bladder. That’s an entirely different story. So I’m at the height of being emotionally exhausted with my all consuming fear . . . a genuine wreck, trying to prepare my baby daughter and our home for the arrival of what I was sure to be another baby daughter equally as demanding as the first.
We weren’t in the car for more than a few minutes when Ari dropped her Elmo on the floor in the back seat. She began to scream for him at the top of her lungs “Et (get) him, Mommy! Et him, Mommy! Elmo!” This is the time when you wished you’d never opened up your mouth to anyone bragging about how lucky you were to have such a verbal child at such a young age. For as you know, once they start talking, they never ever stop! And so it went, high-pitched shrieks over the fact that her furry red friend was lying face-down in a lifeless heap on the floor of the car. I couldn’t take it. I pulled over to the side of the road and retrieved Elmo for her. She smiled thankfully and squeezed him to her chest. The situation was diffused. Or at least I thought it was.
So there I was in the front seat, feeling Dylan dig her legs into my ribs reminding me constantly of her impending arrival, and there is Ari happily hugging Elmo in her car seat. All was calm. I should’ve known it wouldn’t last. We’re driving along, a few minutes go by, and all of a sudden I hear even more screaming. This time it’s escalated to a whole new level. “Mommy, my baba! Mommy, my baba!!!” I look in the rearview mirror and Ari’s entire shirt and pants are covered in milk. We were in such a hurry not to be late for our little Mommy and Me class that I apparently didn’t seal the lid to her bottle on tight enough and of course it came off in the car and spilled all over her clothes and the recently-rescued Elmo. Are you freakin’ kidding me???
I already started out the day at a pretty low-tolerance level because of my fatigue, another chronic nosebleed (one of many I had with little Dylan who dried out my nasal cavities like the Sahara desert), total annoyance at the fact that my favorite velour sweatpants were still in the wash because I forgot to switch them to the dryer the night before (yes, I wore velour all the time during the pregnancies and no, my short term memory still hasn’t returned in case you were wondering). Anyway, I had very little bandwidth left to deal with the ridiculous situation unfolding on the ride to class. What now? Screaming wet child with no milk left to drink, no Elmo to hold, and we were already running late. I simply couldn’t deal. Who could at this point?
And that’s when I snapped. In hindsight, it wasn’t that big of a deal. But hindsight is always twenty-twenty, right? When you’re in those moments it feels like the weight of the world is bearing down on you and the force is so overwhelming it makes you either want to scream your bloody head off or cry your eyes out. But that particular morning, I chose to do neither of those things. I’m not sure what exactly came over me or why.
But at the next stop light, while poor Ari was bawling her little eyes out, I started digging through the console to find some music to cheer her up. If only I could find one of the CDs from her baby music class with those songs we sing together that she’ll recognize. I just needed a distraction, anything to make the screaming and crying stop. I could tell I was gonna full throttle lose it. And then, I loaded what I thought was the Music Together CD into the car stereo (had to be, since at that point our automotive music life had been reduced to infant/toddler nursery rhymes and cheesy lullaby songs). Before listening to any of the CD, I skipped it to the song that I know Ari loves the most, but to my great surprise something else came blaring out of the speakers: “Good Life” by Kanye West.
What in the world? How did this CD make its way into our car? I thought all of hip hop discs had been relegated to boxes underneath the basement staircase. But, it didn’t matter how Kanye got in the car with us the morning. All that mattered was that he was here and he was rapping and it was loud, and the bass and beat were glorious and without even realizing it my eight-month pregnant torso started moving and grooving and swaying.
My head started nodding back and forth and my arms flew wildly up in the air. I was no longer in the car on my way to Mommy and Me class with a screaming baby in the backseat and another baby due to arrive in a month. Somehow the music instantly transported me. I was at the club in my pre-baby body rocking out to the music on the dance floor. I was popping and locking and no one could stop me. Even when I rolled up to the next stop light and people in the lanes on both sides of the car were no doubt staring at me. I didn’t care. I didn’t even notice. And I sure as hell didn’t stop dancing! Kanye was sayin’ “I go for mine, I gots to shine, now throw your hands up in the sky, I’ma get on this TV, mama, I’ma, I’ma put shit down.” Hey hey hey, hey hey hey . . . I’m good.”
It was the best sound I’d ever heard. Mama was dancing in the car and no one could do a damn thing about it! I turned the music up and rolled the window down (yes, in December) and did my groove thang in the driver’s seat. I didn’t stop until the whole song was over. I was a third-trimester dancin’ machine!
And then suddenly, Kanye’s voice stopped. Reality set in. Oh, poor Ari, I’ve been ignoring her screams and cries and she’s all wet and upset and I’m a horrible, neglectful mother and what a lunatic I must look like to all the people passing me by. I have lost my mind. Nodding my head and swinging my shoulders to the beautiful beat while my baby is neglected in the back seat. But here’s where the little miracle in tale enters the picture. To my utter amazement, when I turned around to check on Ari, she was smiling and bobbing her head and squealing with delight, “Again, Mommy! Again, Mommy! AGAIN!!!!!”
And that was the morning I introduced my daughters to hip hop. That was also the morning I introduced them to a part of me they never knew before. The me who loves dancing and singing and being totally loose and silly and carefree. That was the morning they got to see an authentic piece of me that I never realized was allowed to be a part of the mommy me. I understood, thankfully, that I didn’t need to tuck that part of me away and hide it from the parent me. Not only should it be a part of motherhood to embrace but it actually has become one of the best gifts I can offer my children throughout their lives—the vital gift of being my true, flawed, ridiculous, but often joyful, self in front of them. Allowing them to see what brings me genuine happiness so that they can, hopefully, do the same for themselves.
That was the morning they came to understand that Mommy is more fun than any book, CD, DVD, or class. That was the morning I realized that almost any scream or cry or spilt milk can be instantly diffused with the right music. That was the morning our family discovered how much we all love to dance together. And most nights we still dance together after dinner. We pop the iPod in the doc and rock out. Now on the way to preschool, the grocery store, wherever . . . I still play Disney discs, and Sesame Street, and Curious George. But Mama gets to be DJ sometimes too and on those days the girls get to hear really good music and I display all my latest moves. Their current favorites are Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Katy Perry, but we throw in some Eminem, Snoop, Jay-Z and Biggie too. But since that cold December morning when things could’ve taken a turn for the worst, in our hearts, Kanye is still king. So, thank you, Mr. West. It is a good life, indeed.