Ask the Internet

I’m sitting at the computer, searching for answers to questions Peanut has asked this week. When he asks me something I can’t answer, I save his queries on my phone for a calm moment at home. Then we sit down together and search for answers at least once a week. Part of the process is teaching him how to search for answers in a post-encyclopedia era. And part of the process is nestling next to each other and staring at a screen.

It’s unreasonable, I know, to make the learning process into a fear about some day losing him. But that’s where my brain goes when he’s not in the room. When he wants to know something, I can help him, but too much of the time he’s with someone else, asking someone else, exploring the world without me. And it will only get larger, the chasm of time that exists between moments that I get to see him. Breakfast…blink…almost dinner. I can’t help but think, as we find photos of icebergs and technical discussions of cave extraction, that he’s with me for so short a time. And I ache with the thought that some day he’ll be gone. I want to tell him all the things and listen to his every thought and absorb the way he thinks. And I know that sounds creepy and it’s probably just early-morning-me waxing affectionate about a wonderful creature who will frustrate me to within an inch of my life over the next 13 hours. But my love for my children grabs me at quiet moments and shakes me until my teeth chatter and my brain liquifies.

I want our lives full of wonder and exploration and creation. But how to create that when our days are chock full of getting ready and doing chores and running errands and doing things that need to be done? All of us. Not just my family, but every adult human on the planet. Paying bills and getting to work or looking for a job. Preparing food, cleaning up, making appointments, taking the bus.

So much of life is drudgery. How do we find enough magic to get us through the inane tasks?  How much wonder does a child need so that she arrives at adulthood appreciating life and marveling at the world enough to want to take care of it? How much wonder do we need to create to engage them?

I have tabs open so we can read through a slideshow of megaliths, glaciers, and base jumping technical equipment. And I  marvel at how far we’ve come from my childhood when you took questions to the encyclopedia at the library. I wonder what life and technology and knowledge will look like when my children are grown.

And gone.

See what my brain does? “How to get through, is this enough, are we enough, this is nice, my children will leave.”

Anybody else turn a question about glaciers into a panic that this moment is fleeting and that loved ones will change, grow, and drift away?

Can’t just be me, right?

Doesn’t matter, I guess. It’s almost time for him to wake up and make me pancakes. It’s the least he can do, since I’m going to show him what the Internet has to say about cave extraction techniques and since he will someday need to make pancakes for himself…and probably someone special. Oh, geez. I need to go breathe into a paper bag.

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And….scene.

I am proud to announce that I am now mother to a seven-year-old and a three-year-old.

Feels weird. The youngest is no longer a toddling disaster waiting to happen, though he is about as fully Three as a young human can be. If you don’t know what a scathing epithet “Three” can be, please search the interwebs and ask your friends. Three is so adorably horrible it…ah, what the heck. I have all year to tell you. And an archive full of 2009’s Three-based rants to tide you over.

In addition to morphing of young Mr. Needs Attention All the Time into Mr. Needs Attention Most of the Time, 2013 has brought to our home a full-fledged seven-year-old person with all manner of ideas and stories to tell. And mischief to orchestrate. He’s delightful. When he’s not surly. Or ignoring simply requests. Or antagonizing his brother and parents.So I might be able to spend five minutes a day actually focused on this young man, now that his brother is less hazard than attitude problem.

But several moms this week have told me that nine is really he beginning of puberty and its signature mood swings, detestable behaviors, and frequent parenting moments.

So I have two years to enjoy the delightful creature whom I’ve basically ignored for two years while his brother has been tearing around like a Tasmanian devil. I have to make the most of every single moment, for after those two years, the creature formerly called Peanut will become hormonally-altered, and I will be shut out forever.

(Have I mentioned I’m a huge fan of hyperbole? Probably not, and since it’s potentially not obvious from my hysterical rantings, I’ll mention it here. Hyperbole is the best thing ever!)

And I have two years to guide the little tea kettle of irrational lunges toward independence before he blossoms into a lovely, individual creature who will privilege his peers’ opinions over mine and relish his long hours at school without me. As we now know, most five-year-olds fall in with the wrong crowd and ignore their parents for the rest of their young lives.

A crossroads. One is in the middle of his best four childhood years. And the other is in the middle of his toughest childhood years. In 730 days they will transition into the initial phases of teenager and the initial phases of elementary schooler.

730 days. That’s all I have. After that it’s…well, it’s…it’s another 1460 days before things get really dicey, with a teen and a tween. And then only 1095 more days until one is driving and both are shaving. And then only 730 days before one leaves for college.

Sob!

My baby is going to college in 4,198 days! I have to go make sure we have enough soap and shampoo and extra-long twin sheets to get him there!

Hang on. How many leap years between now and 2024? I have to go do some research. I’ll get back to you soon with how long I actually have before I start sobbing and taking on new hobbies and…wait. The other one will still be here. I won’t be alone and depressed and needing seven new hobbies until at least 2028.

Just when I was thinking four years was a crummy spread because one is always in a challenging phase and so consuming my maternal energy I miss the other’s delightful age…

No problem. 2028.

I can hold off panicking until then.

Phew.

Now I have time to panic about getting through Three.

And Seven.

Adrenaline

In the darkness,
A helpless scream.
It is loud; it jolts
jumbled and dangerous.
I stifle panic to help.

In the dawn,
A cheerful yelp.
It is loud; it pierces
frenetic and portentous.
I stifle panic to engage.

In the morn,
A vengeful yell.
It is loud; it seeks
maligned and lost.
I stifle panic to redirect.

As we warm,
A resentful resistance.
It is loud; it sprouts
truculent and bristly.
I stifle panic to push.

Come on.

As we leave,
A rueful screech.
We are loud; we fly
dynamic and unkempt.
I stifle panic to herd.

Come on, please.

As we arrive,
A mournful whine.
It is loud; it asks
uncertain and small.
I stifle panic to guide.

As we carry on,
A joyful cry.
It is loud; it leaps
wild and safe.
I relish smiles and luxuriate.

As we encounter,
A ferocious NO!
It is loud, it refuses
unfettered and rabid.
I stifle panic to offer.

As we collect,
A tired shout.
It is loud; it smears
certain and threatening.
I stifle exhaustion to resist.

As we circle,
A questioning cry.
It is loud; it rings
true and dangerous.
I stifle panic to answer.

As we meet,
A tired whimper.
It is denuded; it breathes
honest and sad.
I stifle nothing and give.

As we roam,
Angry shrieks.
They are loud; they battle
fierce and cruel.
I stifle panic and manage.

As we retreat,
Frustrated cries.
They are loud; they shrug
worn and empty
Among loud people cars businesses trucks people people people.
I stifle panic and do.

As we settle,
Many unmet needs SCREAM.
They are loud; they reach
jumbled frenetic maligned bristly dynamic uncertain wild rabid portentous dangerous sad fierce worn true.
I stifle panic and hold on.

As we ablute,
Nerves grate.
They are loud; they fray
raw and needy.
I stifle everything.

As we center,
Resistance eases.
They are softer.
They fade.
I release.

We all sleep.

Talk of the town

I’m not a people watcher. Couldn’t care less. Can sit in an airport or train station and never see the people around me. But I am a people listener. I hear the conversations behind me, in the stall next to me, at the table down the aisle. I listen, picturing how the people speaking could be in a novel, a play, a movie–what their whole story is and what moves them. I’m listening, empathizing with their plights, cheering their successes. I listen to people when I run, loving our new (if temporary) digs along the waterfront because I run and listen in on dozens of conversations from walkers, cyclists, and joggers.

And I have never, in decades of listening, experienced anything like this week.

Every single voice I heard, amongst those explicitly not talking to me, was talking about the economy. Every one. The ladies walking on the levee, the businessmen at the cafe, the family at Fleet Week, the couples holding hands at the library. Every, single non-me-focused voice is talking about the shitstorm that is our economy. How did we get here (that one I know…traunches); what is happening next (that one I know…massive recession); what is the government going to do (that one I don’t know…depends on the election, and neither option will fix things economically). And the people on whom I’m eavesdropping aren’t even in New York, looking at this.

It’s amazing to hear, for the first time, an eerily similar conversation from EVERYONE. (And really good for my novels, because people walking around just paralyzed with fear make for really good characters. I’m sorry we’re all hurting and scared. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s a major boon for my fiction.)

Check with The Fourth Turning, btw. This, even more than Sept. 11, puts us in another Crisis period; which puts me, as I’ve always suspected, with the Lost expat writers of the 20s. Our current generation of Hemingways and Steins and Fitzgeralds and Nins is working right now. And watch out–they’re listening when you go Rollerblading on the levee.