Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

February 11, 2002

Don't Be My Valentine

Valentine’s Day is this week. I’m not sure which day, mostly because I’m not really sure what day today is.

And this is not all I do not know. In reflecting on the last 18 months — the time since Adam and I became parents — I’ve realized something Socrates said thousands of years ago: “All I know is that I know nothing.”

If I had paid more attention in college, when I majored in Classics, I might not have had to learn this the hard way. But at the time, it was Greek to me.

I have learned Socrates’ lesson again and again. I learned it when Adam and I bought Lucy her first sippy cup. I wanted to test how it worked, so I filled it with water and turned it upside down. “Nothing comes out!” I observed. “How is she going to drink out of it?”

I took the white plastic stopper out of the lid. Because I was on a stringent crap-reduction program at the time, I threw it away, and forever turned Lucy’s first sippy cup into a drippy cup.

Now, whenever she uses it, I have to follow her around with a rag, because she likes nothing better than swinging it around her head like Huckleberry Finn’s dead cat.

Worse than the sippy cup, though, is the sleep issue. I would say Lucy’s inability to sleep for more than two hours straight has been a bit of a nightmare for us. Only you have to sleep to have nightmares.

We blamed her inability to sleep through the night on her genius. But there’s only so long you can convince yourself that your child — who tries to sniff flour and pretends to cough when she hears the word “coffee” — is an actual genius. Anyone who resorts to puns is clearly a fake genius.

Although it has taken a lot of sole-searching, I am admitting defeet here. Lucy’s not awake because she’s a genius. She’s awake because Adam and I are idiots. I thought I was being a good mother by rocking her to sleep and by holding her every time she cried. I admired Adam for staying by her side until he was certain she was sleeping.

What we did, however, was train her to require our presence to snooze. Now, when she realizes we’re not in her bedroom with her, she climbs out of her little bed and staggers into our room, saying, “Help. Help.”

It’s a sentiment I agree with completely.

We’re trying to reverse the damage. Little by little, we’re trying to train her to stay in her bedroom. Once she does that, we’ll train her to soothe herself back to sleep.

In the meantime, though, Adam and I are doing what we can to get by. Eighteen months is a long time to go without sleep, unless you’re Lucy and the biggest thing you have to worry about is whether to give the dog her chew, or try to eat it yourself before Mama takes it away.

To survive this sort of challenge, though, you let go of things that really don’t matter. Like Valentine’s Day.

Just tonight, I made Adam promise not to screw up the holiday for me.

“Please,” I said. “DO NOT get me anything. I haven’t gotten anything for you, and if you give me a present, I’m going to be really pissed.”

This is in sharp contrast to last year, when I served homemade pasta and salad festooned with strawberries cut into the shape of tiny hearts. I can’t remember how I managed to make that with a six-month-old who wouldn’t sleep, although I think it had something to do with the fact that she was too teeny to crawl off her blanket.

This year, we’re having fondue, because it’s something I can cook and serve in the same pot, and because we have a VCR-sized block of cheese squatting in the fridge.

Come Valentine’s Day, whenever that is, Adam and Lucy and I will all sit down at the table together for our dinner. And when I think about how this will feel, I realize how little I have to complain about.

Once I’ve shucked away everything unimportant, like cards, flowers, gifts — and even uninterrupted sleep — I am left with something simple that really matters: a quiet evening with the two people I love best.

If I know anything, I know that is everything.

And, oh yeah. Valentine’s Day is Thursday.


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