“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” – Woody Allen
One would expect the neurotic, muttering, Woody Allen to say this. It fits with all of his fretful, eternally pessimistic movie-personas (or rather his one persona, reincarnate in every film he makes).
But what surprised me the other day was that this quote, more than any Scripture, had come to describe how I believe God relates to me.
We’re constantly being admonished to be careful what we pray for, to never say never, etc. Looking around, I think that we, the ironic generation, have come to believe that this is how God relates to us- ironically.
God is a controlling boss, who makes you work the weekend, just because he heard you had plans to go out of town.
God is an older sibling who takes the last cookie that you’ve been saving and saving.
God is like….”rain on your wedding day. A free ride, when you’ve already paid. The good advice that you just didn’t take. And who would have thought, it fig’rs.” (That’s the hymn for this theology).
In which Florence experiences her first bout of puppy love.
(read in the voice of Florence, which sounds uncannily like a 14-year-old Claire Danes)
Sigh…so this is love.
I guess I just…didn’t get it. I mean, it’s like, for your whole life there’s really just one human male that you trust and want to spend time with. Your Lewis.
I love my Lewis. He plays with me, gives me treats, even takes me out running. I thought that this was the only human male I’d ever really need in my life. Like human girls think they are going to marry their dads. …
So I’m supposed to be frantically nesting, apparently. So far this has meant ordering things on Amazon and scheduling lunch dates with all the people I’m afraid I won’t see again for years once I have my constant companion.
Lewis, on the other hand, has taken to nesting quite earnestly. Or maybe he’s taking advantage of my lack of energy and slower speed to buzz around and get all of my crap organized before I can stop him. Either way, things are getting done around here.
In case you hadn’t gotten the idea yet from this blog, I think my husband is a total rockstar. And I’m pretty sure our daughter is going to share that opinion. …
So I’ve said my good-byes to my 20’s. Tomorrow I turn 30.
I will begin this decade as a mother and wife. As a homeowner. With a stable job, and a side gig I really love. I have two dogs.
In one sense, none of that “external stuff” changes you or grows you up. You can still be a raving lunatic with all those boxes checked. Because who you are determines what kind of mother, wife, employee, neighbor you will be. The uptight kind? The scatter-brained kind? The generous kind? The faithful kind? That has a lot less to do with the hats you are wearing than the head underneath them.
However, in another sense. I do think that those things changed me. Getting married, strange as it sounds, made me more independent. Not independent of Lewis, but independent of all the people I’d looked to for approval. Someone trusts me with his life and his heart, and this has given me more confidence and determination than anything else I’ve ever done. Someone loves me for who I am, and the condemning world can kiss my well-loved ass.
I’m turning 30 at the end of this month. Officially out of my 20’s.
No longer can I assertively talk about fashion, music, or technology with absolute certainty that what I am saying is current and hip. No longer can I wear whatever I want to and assume I will come off as “young and carefree.” No longer can I decide willy nilly when to wear sunblock, concealer, and whether or not to take off my makeup at night.
I’m entering a decade that will likely include the advent of wrinkles, dress codes, and age-appropriateness.
Before I greet my 30’s, I’d like to look back at my 20’s and give them a proper reflection.
It was a great decade. Lewis entered the scene. I lived in London. It was actually in 2004 that I got my first passport, at 20 years old. I’ve been to 26 countries since then, many of them multiple times. And I enjoyed them greatly. I learned a lot. I grew a lot. God was faithful.
I need to apologize to my mother. For the last 30 years I have been so assured of my own immortality that I’ve probably terrified her within an inch of her own. Over Skype, “Surprise, Mom! I’m in the middle east! Hear that? It’s the call to prayer!” Late one night while home from college, “I really want to move to Uganda.” As a 16-year-old backing down the driveway with a breakfast taco in one hand and less than all my attention on the rearview mirror. As a 9 year old, squeezing myself into the washing machine.
We have a lemon tree. It’s right outside our bedroom window, and it’s really a charming, sturdy feature of the backyard. I’ve watched our meyer lemons come back after a freeze in 2011 when we thought they were gone forever. But here they are, slowing growing ripe and orange (which is weird).
What is it about reproduction that turns perfectly lovely and polite people into giant oafish wrecking balls. I’ve been genuinely shocked by how often certain things are said and done. Things I’d heard about and thought, “Surly no one really says that sort of thing!” They do.
And it’s funny, because no one feels like sex, the starting point of babies, is fair game for random questions at church, in line at the supermarket, or in the aisles of retail stores. No one asks you about your bowel movements or the color of your mucus in these situations. No one asks your IQ, weight, income, political affiliation. So many things we don’t talk about outside of an entirely appropriate context. But reproduction is somehow public domain.
So…some thoughts on discussing all things child related. Hopefully to contribute to a more decent society.
Things to Keep in Mind on the Topic of Reproduction/Child-Rearing …
Recently Lewis and I inherited a record collection from the most fascinating woman on earth. The story is amazing, but only Lewis can really tell it, because he was the one who spent the afternoon looking through nude sketches and still life paintings with a 91 year old German lady, and walking away with half her classical record collection.
Which led him to purchase a turn table. This worked out well, because our house came with a piece of furniture whose sole purpose is record and turntable storage. We’d already refinished it, in fact. The house also came with an impressive collection of 45’s.
So we began listening through the vintage treasures.
We have all of Beethoven’s symphonies. Peter and the Wolf. Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.
It also gave me an excuse to visit the purple record store near my old apartment, which I’d always been too intimidated to patronize, though I’d always admired the little sign on the corner that told how many miles to the North Pole.
Over Christmas we raided Lewis’s parents collection, which included some records he had bought in college. It also included spoils from his first ever dating relationship. Note: when our daughter gets her first boyfriend, we will not be giving him a bunch of great records. They are going to break up two weeks later, and he is going to keep the records.
Christmas yielded not only some classic Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, and Beatles, but also a collection of Sesame Street and Disney favorites. We now have both “Moonshadow” and “I Love Trash” on vinyl.
We also have some other amazing finds, and we discovered a fun game that we of the “make it smaller!” generation have been missing.
I’ve never been accused of being a homebody. Travel and adventure are probably my favorite hobbies. Jumping off of things, eating weird things, finding new modes of transportation. I love it.
And I still do, in theory. But as my belly grows, I’m finding this weird compulsion to stay in my house where everything is pasteurized and level. My fondness is growing for quiet evenings on the couch, familiar restaurants, and low-stress activities like raking leaves, watching documentaries on Netflix, and eating yogurt.
What’s going on?
They tell me it’s hormones, that I am turning into the Mama Bear, protecting my little cub from bacteria and collision and neurosis. I have excesses of dopamine pumping, so I’m more prone to sit around more and thing about how happy I am. Someone asked Lewis if he enjoyed my being pregnant, and he commented on how much more docile and cuddly I am.
It’s true. I just want to snuggle. All. the. time.
But there’s something else as well, and it’s the crazy fear mongering of our culture when it comes to children. Now that I have one growing in me, I have been coaxed into the deep end of the “Everything-is-bad-for-your-child” pool. I’m not sure what came first, nervous mommies or excesses of safety information/products/forums. It’s probably one of those chicken and the egg things.
If you search for ANYTHING followed by “while pregnant” you will find some forum devoted to people who worry about it. You can probably also find a product being sold to protect your little one against whatever it is.
There are a few things going on here. 1) Pregnancy is weird and full of symptoms that are oddly similar to terminal illnesses, 2) suddenly being a “good parent” is suddenly just as important as being “good in bed” used to be, as far as identity is concerned, and 3) the market is all over this, with a hormone-addled, socially beleaguered, physically uncomfortable consumer base.
So suddenly the fresh squeezed orange juice looks like a bottle of neurotoxins. Riding a bike is an extreme sport and requires a spotter. I am running out of yoga positions that are “safe.” (Meanwhile running out of sleeping positions that are comfortable.) And I feel terrible when other pregnant women see me eat deli meat…which I got permission from the midwife to consume, by the way.
And there are so many websites and apps to help you make sure that everything is on track with your pregnancy. They even found a way to turn my previously enjoyable evenings watching the baby move like a little alien under my skin into an anxious nightly test, making sure she gets in at least 10 kicks over a two hour tracking period. There’s an app to track it. That is two hours, every night of wondering which movements counted as “kicks” and worrying that she won’t get 5 more movements in before the buzzer in 20 minutes. (For the record, I don’t need to use the kick tracker, because from the hours of 7pm to 11pm every night, the kid never stops moving. Never. Her kick count is somewhere in the millions. However, if I took the reading between 11am-3pm, I’d be at the doctor’s office all the time. She refuses to be disturbed during that time.)
Of course everything comes with the caveat to “talk to your doctor” and that “every pregnancy is different.” And so so many people tell you just not to worry about it, to relax, to follow your instincts. As though that’s going to keep the Mama Bear at bay when she’s convinced that she just accidentally consumed 3 grams over the recommended weekly allowance of tuna. Mercury poisoning for sure.
Because for every person who tells you that “women in Japan eat sushi the whole time they are pregnant,” or that they drank raw milk during all 8 of their pregnancies or whatever…there’s someone else to tell you how nitrates are going to make your kid have low SAT scores, and you feel like an ass if you say, “Eh, I don’t really listen to that stuff.”
Again…none of this is “me.” That’s what’s so strange and new. I’m a homebody, bacteriaphobe, who will order any $30 bottle of snakeoil if it promises to keep my circulation healthy? When did that happen?
Further evidence that I am, in fact, becoming a hobbit. A safety-loving, creature of comfort who keeps an orderly and predictable day full of pleasantries and low risk activities.
But…like Frodo and Bilbo, I’m also going to have to go on an adventure, because kids are certainly germy, fragile, messy creatures. And if I’m going to go on this adventure with joy and bravery I’m going to have to do as the hobbits do. Trust my instincts and resist any temptation to Google my symptoms.