Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Boxes and Babies Don't Mix

   Perrin and I are big fans of the public library story times around town. We go pretty regularly. There is this one song they sing where they give all the kids little musical shakers to shake along during the chorus. It's annoying and gets stuck in your head for days, but they kids love it. And then when the song is over, all the kids go and put their shakers back in the box. At least, you hope they do. The story time lady always says it's okay if they hang onto it, but all the parents secretly hope that their kid will politely follow directions and put the shaker back in the box. Now, this is technically 18 month- 4 year story time, so Perrin is a little young. The other kids have an advantage when it comes to direction following and general compliance. But he's generally good at imitating, so when all the other kids go up to the front to put their shakers in the box, he will usually follow along. So the other day after the shaker song, Perrin follows the herd of toddlers up to the box and drops his shaker in. I'm clapping and cheering for him from the back of the room because I am totally "that" mom. But as everyone is returning to their spots on the floor, Perrin nonchalantly picks up the entire box of shakers that everyone just spent 10 minutes cheering and clapping and mind-medling their toddlers into giving up and dumps that shit out on the floor.

   And then I realized this is a metaphor. The above did happen, but it symbolized a lot more to me than my 15 month old's love for noisy toys. Babies don't get boxes. They just don't. They don't understand the adult compulsion to contain and compartmentalize. Just spent 3 hours separating the train tracks from the building blocks? Fuck it. Alphabet blocks all up in your Brio set! Alphabetized the story books? Bahahaha.....

   And it's not just the children as individuals- childhood, and therefore parenthood do not respect boxes and boundaries either. So why do we see so many things trying to force us into these narrow contraptions? Articles on how to balance work and home. Being a wife and being a mother. Taking care of the home and taking care of the children. Heck, taking care of the children and taking care of ourselves. Alone time versus family time. None of these things are concrete ideas or categories. You can't just chip off a piece of yourself and put it in a box with a nice neat label. They aren't discrete receptacles of our being that we have to measure and calibrate. A little more here does not necessarily mean a little less there.  It's all part of life, and life is messy. Life is especially messy with children. That's just how it goes. Let's pretend all of your roles and priorities and interests are different colors. From the sound of a lot of the self-help articles floating around out there, your goal is to arrange your life into a beautiful rainbow. Fucking Roy G. Biv. Neat and orderly and sensible. But that's not how it works. Because real life in throwing all of those colors into a blender and accidentally flipping the switch before you put a lid on it. Brown. Life is brown. Beautiful, glorious, unpredictable, brown that everyone else thinks is gross and kind of looks like poop (and let's face it, there's a chance it's poop), but that you love and appreciate just as much as your toddler the first time they figured out they can mash all the Play Dough colors together. But you know what colors you mashed in there. You can appreciate the flecks of purple and red and indigo that are floating around in your brown messy life.

   For a while I felt bad because my week wasn't scheduled. There weren't distinct hours of me time or family time or couples time. My roles in my life weren't distinct and wife Rox bled into Mommy Rox and Daughter Rox and Chicken keeper Rox. I didn't always have a plan and there aren't enough lists and spreadsheets in the world to make me feel like I actually know what the hell I'm doing at any given moment. But that's ok. Forest, people. Look for the forest. And forests would be much more ugly and much less magical if all the trees were arranged by height and species. This is why parenthood is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying- because the messy, blended, scattered kaleidoscope of your life just wouldn't be the same sorted out tucked away into a pretty box on the shelf. And that's hard, especially for people like me who hold on to patterns and order. But that's why the universe gave me Perrin- to dump out all my boxes.