Last weekend, Aidan and I went to San Francisco for my cousin Stefan’s wedding.
My college friend Christy picked us up from the airport—with Whole Foods sandwiches and two-bite brownies in tow—and drove us to our hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf.
On the way I bitched and moaned about feeling trapped. Something about being with an old friend who really knows me for the first time in many months gave me permission to rant. I told her how even though we’ve adjusted well to life in Boston, I feel stuck in a life that I didn’t sign up for. How did I wind up a mom and a housewife? I cook, clean, shop for groceries, play with Aidan, take him to the park, nap when he naps, stagger into his room to calm him in the night, get no sleep. What about me? What about my writing? What about having an identity that’s mine, that has nothing to do with anyone else but me? That matters to me!
Christy said (and I paraphrase), “You are so amazing and so vital! You will never be stuck or a kept, housekeeping woman. You are not that person! These are just those years that are fucking hard, when you have to be with a baby and figure out how to find time for yourself. Everyone goes through it and you are figuring it out!”
That felt good.
But, I told her, everything I do feels compromised. Like I’m taking a screenwriting class, okay, all about me. It’s been wonderful and challenging—I told her about my casting session with actors who are going to act out a scene from my script, very cool, and the trials of adapting my own book—but even that, my one indulgence, feels compromised.
“I’m working on this screenplay, all my babysitting time goes to that, so I don’t have time to work on my blog!” I wailed. “My time is so limited, it’s all sacrifice and compromise!”
And this is where Christy said something ingenious. She goes, “Oh my God, Andrea, you have to lower your expectations!”
She is so right. Lower my expectations and I’m doing just fine.
True, if I didn’t have a baby, I’d like to think I would have written another book by now. I would have finished Audrey Rose in mere months and it might have been produced. I would have adapted my book for film. I would have written and submitted for publication two essays that have been percolating for years. And who knows what other assignments would have come my way. (This is what I think about when I can’t sleep at night.)
But I do have a baby! I have the most beautiful, vibrant child. He demands my attention, and in return enriches my life in ways I never could have imagined just two years ago. These days I say to him, “You make me so happy!” And he grins and says, “Appy! Appy!” Yesterday, for Halloween, he dressed as a tiger (pictures to come). We went to a party, where he became obsessed with this little red wagon and pulled it along trick or treating. (Harlan and I had forgotten to bring a treat bag for him, and Aidan came up with this idea all on his own, and he had no idea what trick or treating was!) People were so amused with this adorable tiger hauling a wagon full of loot, they kept saying he won the prize. Just now, I went to check on him. Earlier he’d been organizing said loot and I wondered what he was up to. The whole load of candy, which had been on the coffee table in the den, was missing, along with boo. I found him in the dining room, a paper bag full of the candy at his feet and one empty blue wrapper: Almond Joy. I looked up and there he was, grinning boo eating a candy bar, his first. Chocolate smeared across his face, he said, “mmmmmm” and laughed at me, fully aware that this new pleasure was a naughty one.
Certainly worth taking a few extra years to write my next book, working on one slow project at a time, not publishing my birth story till he’s two and a half. I suppose in the long run, these are things I can live with. Aidan I cannot live without. While these moments might not equal the rush I felt when I learned I’d sold my book or the satisfaction I felt with myself when I finished writing it, these small pleasures make up every day of my life and they add up to the life of my child, which is a miracle. There’s no equal to watching his ability to communicate develop—or his sense of humor. And no professional triumph has ever equaled the moment I held Aidan in my hands for the first time.
Aidan at the wedding: