New Year’s Day is both my favorite and least favorite day of the year. Aspiring perfectionists like me LOVE a clean slate, a chance to briefly share our neurosis with the world about “starting over” and kind of blend in for a little while. But it’s also a major brick wall when you realize that at 5 minutes after midnight you’ve already screwed up and the whole year has gone to hell and you’ll have to wait 364 days, 11 hours and 55 minutes to try again.
I cleaned the house top to bottom on the 30th. One of those cleanings that I only do when a loved one is in labor. For some reason when I “nested” I sent about 400 work emails, designed 3 months of ads and flyers, and shop-talked on my cell throughout my labor. The house was still a remarkable dump. I’ve found an odd phenom in recent years though, whenever a close friend or family member is in labor, I clean like a mad woman. Unfortunately, my friends refuse to continue to procreate so I can have a burst of energy and clean baseboards every 9.5 months. Selfish much?
Yet the New Year has an eerily similar effect. I am a harried mess of superstition and mania in that week between Christmas and New Year’s eve. So on the 30th, Peter hung with his favorite posy (Mama and Papa) and I cleaned with fury. I even painted the baseboards and all of the doors. Then at midnight I painted the cabinets too, in only a bra and underwear, and with the wrong “sheen” (???) or whatever, cementing the fact that I was truly a crazy woman and should’ve retired at least six hours earlier.
I couldn’t move on the 31st. Even my hair hurt. I also couldn’t stay up until midnight, so Gus and I drank some sparkling (shudder) sugar water grape juice, did the countdown, threw a bucket of water out the back door while wearing red underwear and doing the hokey pokey and I was fast asleep by 20:15.
My resolutions were:
- Exercise Daily (broken)
- Eat organically and vegan, only (soooooo broken)
- Lose the 20 lbs I gained since last summer (cough, cough, yeah right!)
- Keep the house in order by tidying up each evening (broken)
- Be the perfect wife (BROKEN), daughter (BROKEN), friend (BROKEN), and mother (BROKEN)
This is why the New Year holiday is so torturous for wannabe perfectionistas like myself. A big, huge, hurrah about new beginnings and an even bigger fall to defeat.
So I decided that perhaps my resolution should just be to love myself as I am, and stop trying to be everything to everyone. Oh, and to figure out my bank’s online bill pay.
Yesterday our little family went to the mall for pizza. P had been complaining about his ear on and off for a few days. It seemed fine, but he’d start screaming about how he needs to buy a new one (oh were it that easy, dear child) and how he only has one ear. I had put up a photo of him from a few years ago where he is facing somewhat sideways. It’s a black and white photo. You can’t see his left ear very well due to the angle. Apparently this was really disturbing, and compounding upon all the past ear trauma, we think the current ear freakouts are mostly psychosomatic. We thought a change of scenery was in order.
At the mall I suddenly became extremely emotional and overwrought. I was feeding P his pizza and thinking over and over in my head – “This year he’ll be FOUR. Not a baby anymore. Oh my god, he’s getting too big too fast.” It didn’t help that there was a newborn about 10 feet away, I imagine. I became inconsolable while Gus was off getting his food and had myself a proper New Year’s anxiety attack.
I couldn’t reconcile that my one and only child was becoming more and more independent by the day. And no, the irony is not lost on me that this is exactly what we’ve been working so hard for, but it was not a moment of reason – it was a moment of sheer and utter panic and loss.
My baby, the one who has needed me so much, but so rarely showed that he “wanted” me. The infant that I couldn’t hold and sooth, that found solace not in my arms but elsewhere. The baby that I feel I just found – is slipping into the world of a big boy. I can’t help but feel robbed. I just barely had the chance to experience something akin to that kind of bond I was so envious of, and now he’s gone and become a 3.5 year old over night.
While Gus was getting his Greek food, and I was cutting up pieces of pizza and feeding my “little” boy, I cried. I cried loud and hard. I drew stares. I couldn’t breathe. It was the first panic attack I’ve had in over a year.
And then, as if by some divine provocation, my Autistic toddler saved me from despair.
It went like this:
EB: “Mommy, you are crying in your eyes. What a matter, Mommy?”
Me: “It’s okay, P. Mommy’s just sad because her baby is getting to be such a big boy!”
EB: <Thoughtful Pause> “I clean your eyes <wiping my tears>, Mommy. For you to be happy”
Suddenly, it didn’t matter if he was going to turn four or forty this year. I knew he’d always be my baby.