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18 weeks | Ask. Play. Roam. (The party will come to you in the new year) | no. 0011
Minutes before I leave the old year in the hands of my memories, my face is pressed to the munchkin’s lovely, round cheek. He is deep in sleep after a long day of listening to mommy talk out much of her life with an old friend. His breathing is soft and I feel every ounce of his four months against my body. I love this moment.
Without interrupting his slumber, I pull out my writing lab book and make a spiralgram. This is the closest I’ve come to pondering new year’s resolutions, and with fifteen minutes to spare before midnight I map out three verbs on the spiral now representing “2014”. There is something satisfyingly concise about these one-syllabled words that are very open for interpretation. Each one embodies the thematic intention of so many visions that are brewing. In an experiment to mirror the energy of these words in my writing this week, I am going to try to just say what I mean as quickly and clearly as possible.
Ask. All day I am guessing at what the munchkin needs. He is spectacularly fussy as I trace the arc of my mothering journeys in the stories I tell my friend. Is it the teething? Is it a bubble? Hungry? Sleepy? Wet? Whaaaat? I realize many of our conversations are these stilted Q&A’s where he grunts and I use the odds of elimination to hypothesize what might make him feel better right now. Of course, he can’t yet use his words, so really I am just talking to myself. Somewhere in the many failed attempts to satiate him, I remember one of the core lessons from my work as a movement facilitator. My job is simply to ask the best question that initiates the most meaningful discovery in the body. It occurs to me that when I ask the munchkin limiting questions about “what’s wrong,” I generate short-lived relief. I think we’d both experience less frustration if I cast a wider net of wonder when contemplating the munchkin’s agitation. This perspective, I see, has even more implications for every part of my life.
From now on I am asking bold, looming questions that keep my imagination hungry and receptive. I embrace the conundrums that have tangled truths, that cannot be quenched with a search engine, that will never have one, fixed meaning. This willingness to bloom through the unstable and the unknown is the substance of my true mothering.
Play. Before story time I let the munchkin practice sitting up on his own. He almost has it and then falls backwards. It’s only when I see his big smile that it occurs to me that I am more stressed about him learning this critical life skill than is actually necessary. He enjoys this game of being let go and then being picked up. He looks at me with an expectant grin that I imagine translates to, Remember to play, Mommy. Oscar laughs with the munchkin all the time. But many times when we’re alone, me and baby are not practicing our giggle sequences. I sometimes worry that he will think I’m not the “fun” one because he sees me in heavily concentrated thought about something vital most of the time. He watches me laboring over my laptop, strategically changing his diaper and soiled onesie, negotiating a more solid latch so I can finally place that phone call, assembling all the pieces of dinner while carrying his fullness on my body, learning how to balance his immediate needs with my still-waiting wishes. He sees mommy working. But does he see me playing? Is there time to play, I wonder some days. The randomly selected book I am reading to him is about a mama kangaroo who’s trying to make her baby kangaroo smile. I think it’s no accident that in the middle of animating the characters with my voice I remember my long ago goal of becoming a storyteller, of mastering old tales and devising new myths for my dances, experimental performance art, embodied character work, and children’s books. It excites me thinking about how much time I can spend in make-believe land telling stories to my son. It makes me happy acknowledging that the munchkin will see mommy’s play side too.
I am going to play everyday. It doesn’t matter its form or duration. It’s only critical that I give some of my day over to the rhythm of things that bring about laughter, giggles, “wow” feelings, and the pleasant stimulation of something new. I am going to make the most of the moments when intensity is optional and I can choose a lighter breath. My mothering can be fun when it wants to be.
Roam. This is a wilderness, but it can be a gentle wilderness. This I scribble into the spiralgram just before the next year begins. I place each word on the page in between the laughter as Oscar, my friend, and I swap stories about childhood employment options, legendary political scandals, and best practices for getting children to sleep when they don’t want to be in bed. Our little place is more full than usual in an unplanned turn of events that’s found us happily welcoming new folks into our space to watch for the new year. The sleeping munchkin is oblivious to all the activity and heavy in my non-writing arm. This new life I have created plays out another scene of the metaphor in my head. I often see this journey as being in a forest that changes as I change. There is no going back to life before mothering. My body, my art, my sensitivities are forever transformed. That place where I used to be in the forest of my be(come)ing has moved and I will lose time looking for it to still be there.
Really, I know, it is time to roam this vast newness that is me. To wander as much as I wonder. To stumble and prick my beliefs on things that shift my understanding of what I think I know about who I am.
The party has found us for a change. Toys are everywhere, the sink is full of plates, eyelids are heavy over bright eyes. I think it’s a sign that our home is becoming this welcome space for more people wanting to feel the warmth and love of family, togetherness, creativity, and youthful energy. I had been worried about having a too-quiet evening because we weren’t going out. But the out came in and it was just enough excitement for new mommy and munchkin. Even more, I think the magic of roaming through my wilderness is that I am able to attract beauty and action to me.
I am going to keep exploring these verbs. Feel where they grow over the year. Now though, I am about to make this hoppin john so we can have our happy new year ritual. Oscar, who was born in Uganda, enjoys rooting himself in the ancestral powers of black America. He resonates with many things, especially this culinary tradition from the African American people once enslaved on plantations. He waits for this dish every year, and was thrilled to go to the store and get the black-eyed peas, rice, collards, spices, and the special, hard-to-find-got-to-get-a-manager-to-search-for-it, vegetarian alternative to ham hocks. Looking forward to a yummy, vibrant adventure in the kitchen.
Happy new blooms beautiful world!
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.