Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Better with (R)Age

A few words of advice: If you wake one day to discover that you are a published author, that your finely wrought prose is being heralded throughout cyberspace, just gloat about it on Facebook and leave it at that. You waxed poetic about mucus plugs and someone out there actually liked it enough to foist it on the rest of humanity. Super. You're the William Faulkner of gyno lit.

Just don't read the comments.

A few weeks ago, one of my posts (a slightly altered version of "Pumps, Dumps, and Baby Bumps") was picked up by a news outlet and shared on their website dedicated to family topics (check it out here). Hot damn! I felt like a million bucks -- minus any actual bucks because no one paid me.

In the introduction to my post, I explain that I was an older first-time mom; Pork Chop was born just shy of my 37th birthday. From there, I went on to do what I do best: complain about stuff while also describing the output of our various body holes. It was a pretty light-hearted piece, peppered with equally light-hearted vagina references. Typical stuff.

In the post, I grumbled about alcohol-adulterated breast milk and "push presents," but steered clear of the big no-no topics: politics, religion, and TV spoilers. "Everyone's gonna love me! I'll finally be cool and popular," I thought to myself. So I gobbled up the comments on the post, soaking in every effusive "LOL!"

Yeah, there was that one dude who referred to me as a "typical American broad" bent on divorcing my husband and taking his "house, boat, train, [and] plane" for myself, but he was, obviously, way off base. I have no interest in the train; it takes up too many parking spaces.

Then, way down at the bottom of the comment thread, I spotted it. A comment that actually made my breath catch in my throat. To paraphrase: "We had all 3 of our kids by the time I was 32. How dare you endanger the life of your baby by waiting until you were middle aged to become a mom?"

I don't remember the hour or so after I read that comment, but when I came to, an empty bag of Tostitos lay on the bed, my face was slimy with wrinkle cream, and I'd composed a lengthy list of synonyms for both "heartless" and "super twat" in my dream journal.

Every middle-aged, baby-endangering fiber of my being wanted to respond to this woman, this mom, to explain to her that I hadn't married until I was 35; to tell her that my son was and is healthy; to point out that, by her logic, my child would have been better off never having been born than to have been born to a 37-year-old biddy like me. But that emotionally constipated crab bag didn't want to have a conversation about my choices. She just wanted to land the Internet equivalent of a sucker punch and then slink away. Furthermore, I don't owe some anonymous crotch snot an explanation for my procreational choices. I thought about responding. I really, violently thought about it. But the words, like my breath, seemed caught in my throat. And by the time I began processing how deeply hurt I felt, the comment was gone -- either deleted by the commenter or removed by the admin.

But, like it or not, Mrs. Mommier Than Thou got me thinking about what it means to have a child later in life. When my son reaches school age, I could end up in the PTA along with parents I used to babysit. Just when Pork Chop is hitting his teens, I'll be hitting the bottle, I mean my 50s. If my kid decides to marry one day, I might be enjoying our mother-son dance from the comfort of my Hoveround mobility scooter. And what if I have another kid? I'll need a daily Geritol infusion just to survive the sleepless nights, the demands of breastfeeding, and the toxically stupid judgment of self-righteous Internet thunder dumps.

Haha! Where did this baby come from and where did my walker go?

Yet, given the chance to go back 10 years, to have my son while I was still in my 20s, I wouldn't. Simply put, I am more equipped to be a parent now than I was back then. And here, for the benefit of that anonymous oozy wound of a human, is why:

  1. I'm healthier now than I was 10 years ago. In 2004, I was smack dab in the middle of graduate school and, as luck would have it, also smack dab in the middle of a health crisis. The migraines I'd suffered off and on since early childhood had finally decided to make a full-time commitment. What had been an every-few-months inconvenience became an almost daily descent into excruciating pain. Doctors took my blood, shot me full of Botox, scanned my brain, sent me to physical therapy, suggested I have heart surgery, put me on a chicken and rice diet, prescribed a junkie's worth of medication, and then sent me the $10,000 bill. And yet the pain persisted. I didn't so much have a "come to Jesus" moment as I had a "bring it on, Jesus" moment -- I begged God either to heal me or to just give me a stroke and get it over with. Long story short: While I am not healed, per se, I am in a significantly better place, but getting to that place has taken years. I can't imagine trying to mother a houseplant, let alone a newborn, while I was in my old, sickly state. My breast milk would have been equal parts nutrient and narcotic. I would have had to slur my way through "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." By comparison, nowadays, I feel like a damn Amazon. Put some coffee in me and I can change a loaded diaper while doing the Hokey Pokey (true story). 
  2. I'm more financially secure than I was 10 years ago. Quaint though it sounds to pop out a baby while one is in graduate school and/or employed at a soon-to-be dot-com bust company, I prefer my present circumstances. In my 20s, I paid my dues -- taking classes, working at low-paying jobs, sometimes putting in 50- or 60-hour work weeks. Had my son arrived back then, I would have been forced to choose between finding daycare on my measly budget or quitting my job outright. But because Pork Chop didn't explode onto the scene (a birth metaphor I promise never to use again) until I was in my 30s, I had more money and more experience under my belt. Not that I keep money under my belt. I'm an editor, not a stripper. But some of the experience may be under my belt. Wink wink. My point being, of course, that I had the means to choose a really fabulous daycare for my son when I decided to go back to work full time. And when our family moved from Maryland to Virginia, my employer valued me enough to agree to a new, more family- and distance-friendly work arrangement: I telecommute part time. For my family, this is the best of all worlds: I have enough money to pay for part-time daycare, I can continue to work and keep my skills and resumé up to date, and I get to spend more time watching my son just be my son (i.e., throw metal kitchen utensils on our new hardwood floor and then cry when he trips over the garlic press).
  3. I like myself more than I did 10 years ago. In my mid and late 20s, my bod was a rock. A ROCK, I tell you. Washboard abs, sweet guns, a butt so fine my friends dubbed it "the glory." Now I have a frowny face where my belly button used to be, and "the glory" is looking pretty faded. But it's all good. No matter how many hours I spent on the treadmill, I always felt miles away from perfect. At some point in the last decade, I gave up on my dream of becoming the world's first short, pale, pear-shaped Victoria's Secret model and instead focused on what I love: my family, my writing, my career. And wouldn't ya know it? My ass got a lot squishier but my self-esteem grew some impressive muscles. In my 20s, I wouldn't have been prepared for the horrors that pregnancy and motherhood visit upon the body. And in the long, hard newborn nights, self-loathing is a miserable bedfellow. Yes, I'm softer. Yes, I wish my boobs would reanimate. But what I want more than a nice rack is to show my son that there is worth in pursuing what you love and in loving yourself for having the courage to pursue it.
  4. I still had a lot of dumb in me 10 years ago. Nowadays, I relish a date night with my husband or a night out with some friends. Give me a babysitter and a designated driver, and I'll show you a woman who knows how to throw down at a moderately fancy neighborhood restaurant. "Another glass of sangria with your tapas, ma'am?" Hell-to-the-yes (on the third Wednesday of every month)! But a decade ago, I'd be more apt to wile away an evening or seven in a bar called The Community Inn, where Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup was proudly featured on the menu and where I could sidle up to a drunken moonshiner named Dead Eye who carefully explained, while poking a finger into my boobs, that I  was a "squirrel with a small brain" who should "run far, far away!" Hypothetically speaking. What I'm saying is that I didn't always make sound choices in my 20s. I sometimes (often) put adventure before personal safety. And though I occasionally pine for the days of, hypothetically speaking, chatting up colorful would-be murderers, I know that I need to be there for my son. This means skipping a lot of late-night booze-a-thons, putting money into a college savings plan rather than into a pair of knee-high sexy frontier girl boots, and not eating cookies for breakfast (within view of my kid).
  5. I hadn't met my husband 10 years ago. I couldn't have given birth to my son without Shelby. Literally. I'm pretty boss, but I haven't quite mastered the art of spontaneously generating another human. When Shelby and I finally locked eyes across a crowded online dating site, I just knew. If it weren't for a dearth of available flights, we would have eloped to Vegas on our second date. But because the airlines conspired against us, we went a more traditional rout: engaged within 9 months, married 9 months after that, and pregnant 9 months into our newlywed bliss. It's not just that Shelby is an amazing dad -- the kind of dad who hogged time wearing Pork Chop in the Bjorn, who made pint after pint of baby food from scratch, who was more distraught than our son during vaccinations -- it's also that Pork Chop just wouldn't be Pork Chop without that 50% dose of Shelby genes. Our son loves to take things apart, to carefully inspect the pieces, and to make surprisingly good attempts at putting it all back together. That's pure engineer DNA. The boy is wildly independent, a bit easily frustrated, but always ready to tackle a new adventure, be it scaling a baby gate or fitting a golf ball into his mouth. That, albeit terrifying, spirit of adventure is pure Shelby. And, just like his dad, my kid makes me laugh every single day. Was waiting a decade for this family, the one I have right now, worth it? You bet your big, stupid ass-face it was, lady.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Regifting for Dummies and Jerks

On Wednesday, I shared the harrowing story of a husband and wife faced with a shocking betrayal that endangered their happiness and health and that, ultimately, took the life of their cocktail.

I'm talking about rotten wine, people. Rotten wine-kit wine. Rotten regifted wine-kit wine. If you have a strong stomach, get off on schadenfreude, and enjoy the word "bunghole," then check out Wednesday's post.

If you don't want to check out the post (because you have a sensitive tummy, are lazy, etc.), then let me cut right to the shocking conclusion: I don't think regifting is so bad.

There are times when money is tight, when your schedule is packed. We live in a nation filled to its rafters with things. Why go out and buy one more thing to add to the ever-growing pile, especially when you have a perfectly good, unused thing back at home?

My 16-month-old has no less than 30 stuffed animals. It looks like Pork Chop is running a farm where the livestock are harvested for pillow stuffing. Just like in a PETA exposé, all of the animals are covered in spit and snot and lying in toxic, dejected heaps around the house. If you feel the need to add to those heaps, why go out and buy a brand-new animal, who maybe has a shot at becoming some nice, grown woman's shitty Valentine's Day gift? No. Just grab that clean, unused teddy bear at the back of your kid's closet and foist it on us.

Another powder blue stuffed bunny? It's just what we needed!

But if my experience with the moldy bottle of wine has taught me anything, it's that taste buds don't always grow back and that regifting is a subtle art. Here are my tips on mastering that art through trickery and a lax attitude toward acceptable social customs.

  • Gift cards: Nothing says "I shopped at CVS" like a gift card. They're basically cold, hard cash with very specific instructions, like, "Enjoy a Bloomin' Onion and one serving of Shrimp on the Barbie," or, "Use this 30 bucks to finally nab that 100 dollar maxi dress you've been eyeing." Gift cards are the beige paint of the gift-giving world; they're kind of sad but they go with everything. Just remember to scratch your name off of the back before you stick the card in an envelope and smugly hand it over to someone else who probably hates Outback Steakhouse.
  • Booze: Everyone loves booze! Except for babies and people who don't. Booze is a great gift for almost any occasion: birthdays, holidays, barbecues, morning. Just make sure that any wine or beer that you're passing on isn't skunked. Hard liquor, however, never goes bad. (Don't worry. I looked that up on Yahoo.) I'm pretty sure they found a bottle of Jagermeister in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, and it tasted exactly as horrible as modern Jagermeister. Put a bow on that bottle and regift the hell out of it!
  • Toys: As I already mentioned, you do not need to buy a new toy if you have a new, functioning, and abandoned toy sitting forlornly in some corner of your home. Slap some fresh Sponge Bob wrapping paper on that reject and call yourself Martha Stewart. But take note: If your child receives an extra Dr. Blinkerton McScreamy's Song Repeater 5000, don't even consider regifting it to my kid. If that or any other hell-spawn electronic toy crosses the threshold of my home, I will give your kid pink eye. I. Will. Give. Your. Kid. Pink Eye.
  • Handmade items: Don't be an asshole. You don't regift a lovingly crafted handmade item; you give that shit to Goodwill, where your MeeMaw's knitted toilet paper cozy will make some hipster's big, dumb, ironic day.
  • Food: Regifting food is kinda shady, in my opinion. What are the chances that you got that tin of weird Scandinavian butter cookies a few days before you opted to regift them? Slim. What are the chances that you had to wipe dust off of the tin. High. Look, nothing takes the wind out of a girl's sails like ripping open a box of birthday chocolates only to find that the truffles have gone a bit grey. When you regift food, what you're really giving is the gift of diarrhea. 
  • Books: You know damn well that no one likes to read. Ugh. Nerds.
And there you have it -- the Tao of Regifting. For the record, though, if you show up at my house with anything on this list, I'll know what you've done, ya cheapskate. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Welcome to the Bunghole

Bunghole (noun): /bəNGˌhōl/ An aperture through which a cask can be filled or emptied. (But everyone knows you really mean "anus.")

Because we live in a swamp that masquerades as a suburb, even at dusk it hit 90 degrees with one-billionty percent humidity. Just a typical summer evening in Northern Virginia. On the plus side, it was a Friday night and perfect weather for a tinto de verano -- made with one part red table wine and one part cold lemon soda. It's a lot like sangria, but without any uppity fruit trying to add health to your drinking equation.

I usually keep a few cans of San Pellegrino's Limonata soda on hand because it's delicious and because buying cans of Sprite doesn't give me the same self-important thrill. However, thanks to my migraines, red wine is less frequently stocked. But on the Friday night in question, my husband and I gamely dug through our cupboard and liquor cabinet and voila (or "wah-lah," as they seem to say on the Internet), we unearthed a bottle of meritage. It was a housewarming gift we'd received a few months earlier that had gotten wedged behind the Wild Turkey and Captain Morgan's Rum because . . . priorities.

We'd never had a meritage before, and for all we knew, it was a hundred-dollar bottle of wine, but expensive or not, we forged ahead with our plan to adulterate that wine and drink it from giant plastic tumblers on our deck. Pork Chop, at only 16 months old, had been previewing the terrible twos for us all day. No expense would be spared to treat our PTSD (psychotic toddler stress disorder).

Shelby plunked ice cubes into our tumblers and popped the tabs on the soda cans. I fetched the corkscrew and hoisted the wine from our counter. That's when I finally looked at the bottle, when I actually registered something other than, "I love you. I want you inside of me."

The bottle's label was suspiciously amateur -- flimsy, somehow water stained, and secured to the bottle only at the top two corners. Then I noticed a name, in faded peach-colored font, above two clip art apples on the righthand side of the label: The Sulliivans.

"Could that be right?" I asked myself, "'Sullivan' with two i's?"

But the sun was getting ready to set and the chilled tumblers were waiting. Despite my apprehensions, I uncorked the bottle.

There are a few things I look forward to when opening a bottle of wine: the charming pop of the cork, the tang of acidity mingled with the softer floral notes, and other stuff I read about in The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert. A slimy black cork is not one of those things.

"Shelby," I yelled, "come look at this. Does this look a little off to you?"

"Ew. Is that black stuff on the cork?"

"Yeah, man, it's black. That's weird, right? You think it's still good?"

"Well, let's just Google it to be safe."

And that's how two grown adults with advanced degrees decided to handle an obviously moldy bottle of wine -- by turning to the all-knowing, all-seeing Internet. We weren't quite ready to let go of our tinto de verano dream.

A quick search of the label's "Washington Meritage" immediately brought up "wine kit." And the mystery began to unravel.

"We got regifted!" I announced with a dramatic arch of my brow.

"Oh my god. The Sullivans were their neighbors." Shelby said, referring to the regift-givers. "They gave us a bottle of their neighbors' stank homemade wine!"

"Neighbors who can't even spell their own name correctly," I added.

The story should really end there. But as a future Darwin Award winner, curiosity won out.

"Wanna try some?" I asked Shelby.

He looked at me. For a long time.

"Yeah, that's gonna be a hard no."

I was undeterred by the rotten cork, so it should come as no surprise that I was also undeterred by the smell, which somehow hurt my eyes. I grabbed the bottle by its neck, brought it to my lips, hesitated, and then took a dainty sip.

"NOPE. Nope." I choked, "Pour it out. Get it out. Get it away from me."

It tasted like aspirational Robitussin, if Robitussin aspired to be vinegar.

Tinto de verano was officially off of the menu. But fearing for my health, Shelby whipped up a vodka martini for me in order to neutralize any wine kit amoeba.

And all of this brings me to an admittedly strange point: I don't think regifting is really so bad. If you're lucky enough to have a big family or a large group of friends, the birthdays, weddings, and baby showers can bleed you dry. And even if you don't have a particularly large flock to which you must regularly dole out heartfelt Starbucks gift cards, money is money. Why buy your dinner hostess a brand-spanking new bottle of wine when there's a perfectly good bottle at the back of your pantry, waiting to find its forever home?

But that's the trick. It has to be a good bottle of wine. Not something your neighbor fermented in his old pair of Docksiders.

So, although that dubious meritage was poured down the drain (where it is, doubtless, eating through our pipes), I think the regifting issue deserves additional attention. Check back here on Friday, when I will provide you with some helpful regifting do's and don'ts. (Spoiler alert: No one wants the TP cover knitted by your MeeMaw.) So I'll see you back here on Friday. Or else.

Folks, if you enjoy this blog, consider using the Follow by Email doodad on the right side of your screen so that you never miss a post. We're talking about 1 or 2 emails per week of free and unadulterated fun times! The same can't be said for relying on Facebook, which often shares updates only with a small group of fans. Don't get left out! Bend to peer pressure! Do it! Do it now! Just do it! (Thanks.) Now do it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Superstar: The Story of a Woman Who Did Not Pee Her Pants in Front of a Live Audience

Do you know what every pasty, introverted, physically awkward blogger mom dreams of?

No, besides cookies for breakfast. (Good guess, but I don't really need to dream about that.)

No, no, besides Internet fame in exchange for my family's dignity and privacy. (I mean, obviously. But still not what I'm looking for.)

No! Damn it. No. Besides singing a duet to "Bad Girls" with a reanimated Donna Summer while wearing a Bob Mackie sequined jumpsuit. (But if someone out there can do a Frankenstein monster on the Queen of Disco, then you find me.)

C'mon. You know this. 

Every pasty, introverted, physically awkward blogger mom dreams of . . . not being on YouTube.

Somehow I managed to inherit the Italian propensity for dramatic hand gestures without inheriting delicious, olive-toned Italian skin or effortless Italian style or smoldering Italian sex appeal. Basically, watching me speak is like witnessing a beluga whale with overactive flippers; it's entertaining for a minute, but eventually you just feel confused, maybe even uncomfortable.

I'm smaller. I'm hairier. But the mournful eyes and giant mouth are just the same.

Well, for those of you that enjoy feeling confused and uncomfortable, I have an exciting announcement! 

I'm on YouTube. 

My worst nightmare is your, well, I don't know, maybe your worst nightmare. Maybe your pleasant sense of schadenfreude. Maybe your 5 minutes of procrastination before scrubbing the toilet or filing paperwork. 

Whatever the case may be, I give to you -- without further ado and whether I like it or not -- actual footage of me reading "Ground Control to Major Mom" as part of the 2014 cast of Listen to Your Mother DC.

And although I can poke fun at my general lack of star power (ironic, considering my skin's ability to emit light), I cannot speak highly enough of the women with whom I shared the LTYM experience. Their stories are laugh-out-loud funny. Their stories will bring you to your knees. Their stories are vulnerable and exceptional and moving. Please take a moment to check out the rest of the videos. And, next year, when the show comes to a town near you, be there.

Thank you for taking a moment to watch this video and to leave a helpful comment like, "Who is this asshole?" or "I like boobs," or maybe, just maybe, "Not bad, Ms. Sea World 2014. Not bad at all!"

Thursday, July 3, 2014

FBW: Baby Weight

I know damn well that it's Thursday and that Flogger Blogger Wednesday should be on a Wednesday, but I was busy being marginally Internet famous this week. Did you see me on Mamapedia or on Scary Mommy? No? Well, who feels guilty now, huh? Oh, not you? Okay, well, never mind. I'm sorry. Here's a new post. 

My husband and I hosted a cookout in honor of his upcoming birthday. Ribs on the grill, cold beer, and a few close friends -- that kind of thing. My husband is a true extrovert. He loves a crowd; he has a big, charismatic personality; and he holds court with ease. By comparison, I skirt the edges of a party, making drinks for the latecomers, herding the kids, chatting up a fellow closeted introvert.

When two friends, a young couple with their 5-week-old baby girl in tow, arrived at the peak of festivities, I swooped in. These two have warm smiles and a gracious, easy manner, somehow managing to be both polished and approachable. I hadn't seen them since before their daughter was born. They are old friends of Shelby's, but I feel a bit of a fan girl thrill to call them my friends now too. Although, at heart, I know they must make friends wherever they go. And they've gone everywhere. Inveterate travelers. Adventurers even. And it's good to have an adventurous spirit when it comes to kids, because parenthood is the kind of trip that defies preparation.

They looked lovely as usual, and their little girl was sweetly decked out in a white and pink cotton dress. I remember my first social outing after Pork Chop was born -- the colorful cardigan I bought to hide my soft belly, the makeup I applied for the first time in weeks, the tiny sweater I wrestled my newborn into. And I remember the exhaustion.

"How are you guys doing?" I asked.

"Good. Good!" said mom. "Good, just, well, tired."

"She's in this day-night reversal phase," explained dad, "ya know?"

I did know. When he was a couple of months old, Pork Chop began whiling away the hours from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. by crying inconsolably. He could not be rocked or nursed to sleep. He righted himself after about 4 weeks, finally settling into a pattern of 2 hour snoozes throughout the night. But for those 4 weeks, Shelby and I wondered what would compel someone to ever have a second child. We felt guilty for saying it, for even thinking it, but as we paced the darkened rooms of our home with a crying baby in our aching arms, we started to doubt that we were cut out for even one.

"Do you mind if I hold her?" I said, leaning down, already scooping their little girl from her car seat.

"Sure," they chimed. And I didn't stop to ask whether they meant, "Sure, hold her," or "Sure, we mind."

Her small, tender body fit into the crook of my arm. I swayed gently. I patted her rump, and her eyes rolled in drowsy infant oblivion. It was so easy. She let out a cry, and I swayed, I patted, and the equation was solved. She closed her eyes. She quieted. So easy.

Where was that version of me when my son was 5 weeks old? The confident, competent version?

I hope you know what you're doing, lady.

Her mom and dad watched us with that very particular blend of new-parent pride and fear: Was their daughter comfortable? Was she afraid to be held by a stranger? Was she going to cry again? What if she cried at the party? What if she needed something? Would they know if she needed something? Would they be able to give her that something?

The little girl was perfect. Warm and soft and serene. I felt the party-day tension ease off of my shoulders.

"She's so heavy!" said mom. "I know she's so heavy. Just let me know if you get tired of holding her."

And without giving it a moment's thought, I glanced at my tank of a toddler, throwing blocks at the floor in the dining room, and blurted, "Heavy? She's nothin'! Try carrying a toddler and three bags of groceries."

Mom and dad lowered their eyes a bit and laughed.

"Yeah, I guess she must feel pretty light by comparison," said dad.

I am so sorry, friends.

Because, by comparison, your 5-week-old is heavier than my toddler. She is, in fact, heavier than anything else you will ever hold. She is 9 lbs of all of your love and all of your doubt and everything you ever hoped for yourself and the people you used to be and the people you are becoming.

When Pork Chop was about 2 weeks old, when my initial burst of adrenaline had given way to a terrifying exhaustion, I swaddled my son and slipped him into the bassinet beside our bed. I prayed, literally prayed, that he would sleep and that my anxiety would quiet itself just long enough to let me sleep too. And, wonder of wonders, he did sleep. I was stunned. So stunned that, instead of collapsing in a grateful heap on my mattress, I hovered over my son, making sure his belly rose and fell. I held a finger below his nose, feeling for breath. Did his lips look a bit blue? His lips looked a bit blue. I stroked his pink cheek, and he didn't move. I plucked him from the bassinet and he didn't move. His belly rose and fell, his eyes were closed, his lips looked a bit blue. I rocked him, and he didn't wake. I rocked vigorously. Slowly, his mouth opened in a yawn, his eyes fluttered, and he let out a cry.

We rushed our son to the emergency room, certain there was something wrong with his heart. Certain that his lips were a bit blue and that he had taken too long to wake.

It's easy for me to make jokes, easier anyway than for me to own up to my struggles. And it feels better somehow to laugh at the silliness of my own new-mom anxiety, the insanity of the overzealous and the under-rested. But in that moment, it did not feel like a joke. It did not feel like anything. It was me, in a milk-stained shirt and a ratty brown parka, sobbing as the nurses prodded my child, trying to run an IV. It was my child, wailing in fear and pain. It was the merciless hospital lights, the beeping machines, and our son in a tiny, pink heap on the cold, white hospital bed. Hunched in a plastic chair, wadding up a clean diaper in my hands, I thought, "My child is dying." And it didn't feel like anything, least of all like a joke.

Reflux -- that's what the doctor told us. Perhaps a bad bout of reflux had turned his lips a bit blue, she said. It sounded far-fetched to us, but I clung to the murky diagnosis just the same, because I was too ashamed to admit that maybe, just maybe, I had panicked when my child had, at long last, fallen into a deep sleep.

Today, as I type, Pork Chop is shouting from the living room, "Book, book!" commanding his dad to read Mr. Brown Can Moo for the fourth or fifth time this afternoon. The kid eats anything in his path, including half of everything I'm trying to eat. Our little bruiser scales the stairs and the kitchen table and occasionally our dog. He is healthy, happy, and huge. He wears us out, but even in the throes of his worst toddler tantrum, he can't upend us. Not like he could when he still fit in the crook of my arm.

So when I held your tiny daughter, friends, it only seemed easy, because I have the luxury of knowing that, as new parents, we become a little more confident, a little more competent with each passing month. And that, even as our kids get bigger, somehow the load lightens.

I remember the heft of my son when they placed him on my chest for the very first time. It terrified me. And to think he is already so grown, that one day he'll be a boy, a teenager, a man. Someone who will have his own lessons to learn, who will strike out on his own. But it's hard for me to dwell on that. Because the weight of letting him go? I can't even imagine.