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This is not about the novel
But also it kind of is, and it's about parenting, postpartum healing, balancing (or not) writing with having a kid...
This week, I did a lot of momming and not a ton of writing. Each night I go to bed hoping that the kid will sleep until six so that I can have an hour to write in the morning, in silence, in the dark. Most days this week he was up before 5, not content to sit quietly with his iPad and headphones. (Yes, this is my backup plan if he wakes up early. No, it doesn’t usually work.) He wanted me to sit next to him on the couch and hold his hand while he watched all of Dumbo. He wanted to play UNO. He wanted me to stop looking at my computer and pay attention to him, and so I did. We watched Dumbo. We played UNO. The days he will want to begin like this, with me, are limited.
On Friday, his school was closed for Rosh Hashanah even though New York City schools were open and the holiday doesn’t begin until sundown and, to be honest, I was very annoyed by this. At first I planned to put him in front of the TV and try to work through it, but those days are always THE WORST. He feels ignored and gets upset, I can’t focus, and I end up feeling horrible at both of my jobs. These days almost always end in tears, for both of us. So I decided to take the day off.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen photos of our very fun day. Here’s what I wrote about it there:
Today this kid and I walked 7 miles.
We spent over 2 hours on the subway. 4 trips + 2 transfers.
We hit 2 neighborhoods in Brooklyn and 2 in Manhattan.
The kid developed a fascination with the city’s many lockboxes.
We took our time in a way that’s not possible most days.
At one point a woman said to me, “Now that is one slow, sightseeing walk.”
We eventually got where we were going.
We had a lot of fun.
(We spent 20 minutes sitting next to a pool of urine on the subway before the kid dropped one of my AirPods into it, but that’s a story for another day.)
At the end of the day, a man getting off the train said to me, “You’re a great mom.” I am used to feeling like a not-fun mom, like a stressed mom, like an anxious mom, like an impatient mom. This stranger observing us and taking the time to say something will stick with me. I love this kid. And though I was initially annoyed that his school was closed today, now I’m so glad it was.
I received a ton of replies to this story. There’s also more to it.
Friday felt like the culmination of a major shift for me in this early parenthood phase of my life. Exactly nine months ago, I took the kid on the subway to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. We rode straight there, looked at the tree from a block away because I wasn’t sure I could handle walking all the way to it — what if he refused to walk and I had to carry him back to the train? — and went home. At the time this felt like a major accomplishment, but afterward, I was a mess for days. I was still dealing with chronic pain and discomfort from my 2019 birth injury, and this seemingly easy trip exacerbated it.
There have been a lot of ups and downs with this injury, and most of 2022 was a major valley. My doctor referred me to a surgeon, and the surgeon, while ruling out surgery for me, told me I shouldn’t run, jump, squat, ride a bike, or lift anything.
“Ever?” I said.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she said. “It’s not like I told you you could never do anything fun again.”
In February of this year, I started seeing a new pelvic floor therapist and I am so incredibly grateful that I did. She finally got to the root of my issue and — it’s been long enough now with zero pain that I feel confident I can say it — healed me.
Today I ran for twenty minutes, my longest run since I got pregnant in 2018. All summer, I have been lifting weights, doing squats, and working my way up to that run. I finished with thirty seconds at an 8-minute pace and I finally felt like myself again.
Back to Friday. Getting on the subway with my kid, saying yes to traveling from our neighborhood in Brooklyn to the Upper West Side because he wanted to go to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, picking him up and carrying him the last few blocks home because he was tired and had a blister — none of it would have been possible nine months ago.
When that stranger on the train told me I was a great mom, it meant so much because, yes, a lot of being a parent is about managing intense feelings and doing the right thing even though it’s the harder thing and it can all be exhausting, so being seen every once in a while is really, really nice. But it was also meaningful to me because it made me realize that the gift of physical healing — and not a day has gone by that I haven’t felt gratitude for it — extends beyond me to my relationship with this kid who is so important to me.
Lately I have been wondering what it would like if I quit jealously guarding these early morning hours, if I let my kid into my writing life more. What would it look like to help him understand it, be a part of it, even? How can creativity be something we share, not just the thing Mama does when she gets time alone? I don’t know the answers to these questions yet, but what I’m looking for is a more easeful way of integrating these parts of my life. I think I’ve decided that balance maybe isn’t possible, maybe doesn’t need to be the goal.
This week in writing
So, yeah, I didn’t get much writing done this week. But Anna and I met on Wednesday night and talked about the book over pizza and beers and made some important decisions, and I did write one new scene that came out of those talks. We’ve decided to meet every Wednesday until the draft is done. I think this weekly accountability will help me power through to the end. 🤞
This week in reading
I’m still reading Trust and it’s been slow going for me, but I just moved into the second book within the book, so I think it’s about to pick up.
Thanks for being here, friend.