PK

A few days ago, my coworker, and more than that now, my close friend, talked about a story of us teaching together just around five years ago. We talked around the door frame of my classroom, and I said honestly that I couldn’t  remember much about that time. I remember fragments, little memories of laughing together over something funny I said in class, lessons we created alongside one another. I told her essentially that it’s as if that time didn’t happen, that it felt like such a long time ago. I felt just awful as I saw her sweet face change a bit as she tried not to take it personally.

Our friendship has enriched so much since then, and comparing our relationship now to the one we had as coworkers years ago contributes to the disconnection in my mind. However, the second and larger challenge was clarified so well by our mutual friend: she said that “details just phase in and out of focus” after you have kids. It makes me think of dating abbreviations I’d learn in high school history class–B.C. and A.D. So many events in history would be clarified with just those two letters.

Well, then I’m P.K., post kids.

When I was in college, I was always busy. Even in the short span before grad school, I was planning the wedding, applying to schools, taking classes, working as an intern; it was as if I’d squeeze the last drop out of each hour. Seems like some of that adrenaline has never left me.

Part of my BK (before kids) history clicked by so fast. It’s weird to really feel with the storyteller in Naguib Mahfouz’s fantastic story “Half a Day,” where the young boy finds himself a grandfather in what feels like just an afternoon. But if my history reel opened up right now,  it would look like a roll of exposed film, like the kind we used to get for our cameras. 12 pictures. 24 pictures. 36 pictures. We had to be selective about what we remembered or the entire string may get distorted. Lots has happened in my world of one, our world of two, our world of three, and now our world of four.

Around this month alone, we experienced big events. Layla lost two teeth. I call her “beedandoon,” which means “without teeth”in Farsi. I sing her this two-word song, “bedanooon, beedanoooon,” and she giggles with me, exposing a smile that relieves me since she still has a whole bunch more teeth to lose (sigh!). She only partially believed in the tooth fairy for 12 hours.  In fact,she pulled out her second tooth on her own just to confirm that it was really Mom and not the fairy. Can’t say she’s not determined to get to the honest.

Layla cute

While Layla practiced dentistry, Zade has become an avid storyteller. Today he told Layla he saw tree swinger at school, or the swinging tree, or something magical like that (even Layla was confused as she passed me in the hall on the way back from her shower). I found crumpled toilet paper in the eye of the cool-mist humidifier and had to sweep it out with a q-tip. When I asked Zade if he did it, he finally revealed that “he was running really fast and the paper wad just fell into the hole.”

And I’ve found out that my husband and close friends can be the best little white liars for which a friend could ask. They knew for almost two weeks that I’d won something incredibly important to me: Teacher of the Year. I gasped and broke down with such release and happiness when they called my name for a contest I convinced myself I had not won this year. When Kal and the kids walked over to me from the stage, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t recognized that the light-up shoes behind the curtain belonged to Zade or that Kal hadn’t caved in on the secret. Layla told Kal on the way to surprise me, “I’m so happy Mommy won. She will be so proud of herself.”

TOTY 1

But ask me what I did last month, and I’ll have to really think hard at it. Ask me what 2010 was like, and I’ll think, “Mmmm…Layla was 1, so I was pregnant with Zade then. I spent half that year curled on the couch waiting out the nausea.” Ask me what 2013 was like, and I’ll start, “well, Zade was in Montessori by then…” My timeline isn’t marked by my own impressions as much; it’s etched by the kids’.

I felt disconcerted by my hazy memory and worried that I’d lost the experiences if I couldn’t remember them. After thinking on it a bit more, I have to say, “I ain’t got time for that!” I’ll do my best like I usually do, and I’ll hope things stick where they are supposed to. I’ll rely on my friends’ memories while trying to write down some of my own. And the romantic in me will rely on the feelings I remember when a beautiful song changes key and my heart slips into nestled cove, similar to when I’d listen to 70s pop artists like Abba or Googoosh with my mom as she cleaned the house.

I can say I’ve followed the string that brought me here. I’m certain the string was there; I can’t remember the color exactly or how it looked, but that’s alright, too. The end result is just as appreciated.

Toty 2

 

 

 

 

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A Day

I was the first one to wake up this morning. I hit the kettle and looked around the quiet house. I started to think about how motherhood comes with a certain awareness, like a light shadow capable to cast on all the decisions you have made in the day. Most evenings after work, I’m concentrating so hard on what comedian Maz Jobrani alludes to—the hours before bedtime. Dinner, homework, bathing–when that all needs to start to get them to the finish line. I try to aim for a balance in the day; I think so many of us do. Sometimes I have enough energy to recognize and try to remedy when being a sous chef overshadows my time with the kids. In a small quiet moment, I ask myself, did I even play with them tonight? Did I look at them in their eyes, or was it just over their heads as I knelt down to pick up the toys, or when I set down their dinner, or when I unpacked their lunch boxes to get them washed and packed up again.

I go to bed hoping they didn’t notice. When I play back the day in my head, I try really hard to reel in some of the good I did: making them fresh food, being home on time, hugging them hard when I got home, packing their favorite treats for lunch, getting their art out of their binders and into our memory trunk. I hope they would see that, remember that. Not the times I wasn’t sitting with them or playing on the floor.

A series of cool moments happened yesterday as the day elongated to hold up a morning birthday party. Layla had a donut morning with her dad while I took Zade to his friend’s birthday party. Without really planning it, it became a day with Zade alone for me. I got to watch Zade’s excitement unfold as he fed ducks and played dinosaurs with his friends.

Getting duck food

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A few times, I observed his friends playing quietly until Zade came around and stirred up excitement, making up silly words and taking his friends from one corner of the party to another: he reminded me of both Kal and me, my desire to make conversation and encourage a party and Kal’s desire to lead the and be subtly mischievous. After the party, Zade and I picked out a mirror for their bathroom and a couple of toys. And then we had a very impromptu lunch with a great friend and hostess who opened her house to us and our crazy.

Zade leading

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When we got home, I got to the task of cooking because I thought we’d have company. When they cancelled, I still made two times as much food so I could avoid cooking today. Three and a half hours later, I practically limped out of the kitchen. Sure, I had one task done that would free up some time later, but then I felt disconnected from Layla, someone I hadn’t really seen all day. It’s easy to see the bigger picture and recognize that a small day is okay; however, when you have that light shadow creep up that makes you aware of what’s been left out of the balance, you can’t ignore it easily.

So I balled up loads of laundry I had intended to fold, hurled them off of Zade’s bed, and threw them onto his train table. I told the kids they could stay up; Layla was so pleased. She made play stations for us involving pencil erasers and puzzles. We put on Kung Fu Panda and laughed, Kal and I looking at each other during the moments only adults can appreciate.

Layla's maze

We rolled and got comfortable under soft throws. After 20 minutes, I looked at Layla: she was fast asleep, content and warm under her pink Valentine’s Day blanket that her grandmother bought her.

And balance was restored. A few minutes after that, with Zade in my arms, I fell asleep.

There are many days where I don’t feel that equilibrium, where the orange level stick’s bubble and line we’ve relied on to hang pictures and frames would be way off if used as a lens against my idea of what I want us to remember at the end of the day. I’m thankful today for yesterday, and in the wise words of Kung Fu Panda, I’m grateful for the present, which is why it’s called a present.

It’s true that you so often can’t see it while you’re in it. About my kids, I have to have faith in my general weight towards balance. Maybe this is similar to the promise of the sun before you actually see it, when the sky lightens up from charcoal to gray, and you know she’ll come into view soon. You just have to make the effort to stare up long enough to see the gradient balance in the sky.