But with freedom comes responsibility. In high school my mom woke me every morning banging pots and pans or vacuuming, so I can remember the first week of college finally experiencing what it was like to stay out all night drinking and then sleep in the next day. And then I learned what it felt like to struggle through what classes I did bother making it to and then try to keep my stamina up while kicking in dance practice for two hours. I quickly learned that in order to have some freedom I still needed to learn how to balance work and play . . . and I learned I indeed didn't have the freedom to do what I really wanted to do, which was play.
Ah, herein lies the dilema. How do we balance the two? I need to know because there isn't much balance for me right now. Honestly, I should have more freedom than I've ever had in my life. I'm not in school, I'm not working, and I live in a town where I am not yet a member of a church, a social club, or a volunteer group. There are no close family or friends around that might need my help. Basically no one expects anything out of me.
That is, no one except these guys.
First of all, we have Mimi. Whew. She takes my breath away. Literally. I am so tired after wrestling with her and chasing her and disciplining her. And keeping her fed and happy and not tearing the house and the dog apart. I've found the only time I have freedom with her is when I turn on the TV. Needless to say, the TV stays on way too much. And then she learns things from TV like how to say, "No way. Get away. I'm mad." Thank you, Kai-Lan. We will no longer be watching you and your bratty little friend Ho Ho. What kind of name is that anyway? I can't take a shower in the morning if she is already awake and Clint is leaving because she will climb in the bathtub and turn on the water or eat dog food or put sharp objects in Mack's crib. I can't even think about making my coffee until she has a dry diaper, a banana with a cereal bar and milk at her high chair, and something to entertain her (usually the stupid TV). And then by the time I have my coffee made and breakfast ready, she is already into something messy and dangerous. I can't have a phone conversation while she's awake because as soon as I'm not paying attention to her she decides to push another child at the park, pull Ruthie's hair and legs, or knock over a lamp. So many days I do not have the freedom to eat, shower, or talk to another adult.
Then we move on the the lower maintenance child, Mack. As long as he's fed, he's fine. But he sure does like to be fed. Like, all the time. We had his 2 month check-up today, and baby brother weighs 12lb 9oz. He's in the 75 percentile for weight -- Mimi was always in the 10th -- so this blows my mind . . . but not really because I know how often he is hungry. But as all parents of newborns know, the entire day revolves around feeding the little one. Figuring out when he ate the last time and how long I can shop in Target before he completely loses it. When I can go to the park and how long I can stay. What time I can finally go to sleep and how long until he wakes up to want to be fed again. He eats and then I try to walk a couple of blocks by myself to buy wine, and Clint is calling me telling me he's gnawing his fist crying because he's very hungry. Mack knows when I have found 5 minutes of freedom -- he senses this . . . and then he decides he's starving.
And the lowest on the totem pole, Ruthie. She's the oldest child, but is treated like the red-headed stepchild, poor thing. Part of this is our fault for not sticking to her training when she was a pup, but I really struggle with taking her on walks and not taking her upstairs to lock her in the bathroom every time she starts barking. As soon as I feel that the house is in order and the babies are calm, Ruthie seems to screw it all up by finding a cartoon dog on TV that needs an earful of her deafening barks. Or she'll totally mess up what I had planned to be a relaxing walk with her by lunging at an innocent pedestrian or squirrel.
I see young, single girls walking to the train in the morning with coffee in their hands and IPods in their ears. I see them taking their time shopping at the grocery store and the Gap. I notice how they obviously have plenty of time to straighten their hair, choose their outfit, and even change their purse so it matches their shoes. Then I think back to when I was in this stage. Completely free to spend 4 hours shopping if I wanted. And I did that. A lot. Being able to sit at a coffee shop for hours and surf the internet or work a crossword puzzle. Free to lie on the couch all day on Sunday and watch Meg Ryan movies.
Although I sound all jealous and envious, here's the thing: that freedom didn't satisfy me. Not at all. Because at that time I didn't see my life as free -- I saw it as empty. I was responsible for absolutely nothing -- no dog, no husband, no mortgage. I was wandering aimlessly through my days, and I honestly felt very insignificant. I was too alone.
A few years ago I watched the movie Into the Wild, and it rocked my world (a true story -- wishing I had read the book first). In a nutshell, a young guy goes out on his own with the goal of working his way to the wild of Alaska to rough it on his own. Along the way he stops to work to earn money and gain advice from others about how to survive in Alaska. He does make it to a remote part of Alaska and works really hard to survive and be happy only to discover that in order to have true happiness one must have others to share it with. His happiest moments in his life happened when he was spending time with others on his way to Alaska. I won't give away the end, but I will say that it left me in a gloomy fog for days . . . "Happiness is only real when shared" . . . so glad I have Clint and my babies to share it with.
Yesterday Mimi had a couple of sweet friends over for a playdate and while they were playing in her room she popped her head out every few minutes to say, "Hey Mommy, Mimi is sharing! I'm sharing my toys with my fwiends!" We have been working so very hard at learning about sharing and playing nice with others, so this is satisfaction.
Today Mack's pediatrician and I chatted for a while about what is "normal" for a two-month-old, and she was so complimentary about what a sweet and calm baby Mack is -- and how confident and calm I seem with having both him and a two-year-old. He is so happy and content. This is satisfaction.
As of this week, I have tried to remember what I learned in Ruthie's obedience classes we took several years ago and have been implementing these lessons at home and on our walks. And you know what? She's better. Much better. And she is letting me use her booty as an arm rest while I'm typing this :). Satisfied once again.
It's funny how I want so badly what I didn't even appreciate a few years ago. The time to drink an entire cup of coffee before it goes cold. The time to take a long shower and be able to put together an outfit (rather than just pull something out of the laundry basket so I don't have to fold it or hang it up). The freedom to go on a date with my husband every night -- even if it was just watching South Park at home with a bottle of wine. The freedom to know that at night it is okay for me to wash off my make-up because I know I will have time to put more on in the morning (yes, this thought crosses my mind every night).
But what's really funny is that when I do have some free time now, what do I do? I sew clothes for my children. I search for play groups and preschools on the internet. I clean up Mimi's mess and try to pull out toys she'll like. I go through Mack's clothes and stretch them so he can wear those sweet things just one more time (fatty). I hold my babies and smell their hair. I write a blog about their little lives. As crazy as it seems, I'll choose my little responsibilities over freedom any day.