Kids

I have the three most adorable younger cousins I could possibly ask for. Aged 5, 3, and 8 months, they are one of the things I will miss most during my three months away.

Today, the oldest (and most emotional) found out that I was leaving.

“No you’re not,” he said after my dad told him. I was unaware we were telling them, just sitting on the floor with the baby. “I’m gonna ask my dad.”

“I promise you, she is.”

I told him to be excited! I was going to stay in a castle! He told me castles didn’t exist, they were just pretend.

I told him I wouldn’t be gone long, and I’d be back before Christmas. Soon I got him to stop crying. He said it was OK as long as I was going in a plane instead of a car.

I love those kids so much. It hurts me to hurt them.

 

Whenever I see them, I leave either wanting to have kids immediately or never ever wanting a child, ever. I’m twenty. These feelings are probably rather natural.

I certainly don’t want a kid now. I’m too young, I’m too immature. I certainly want to be settled down with a stable job before even thinking about kids. However, a time in which I’m stable is likely not too far off.

I think being an introverted, anxiety-prone parent must be difficult. I would never get time alone, and I’d never get time to work on hobbies (or writing!). I want to travel and eat in nice restaurants and have nice clothes and sleep through the night, and it feels like kids take that away.

On the other hand, I love kids. I love teaching, I love reading to them, I love hearing their stories, I love showing them new things. I love them a lot.

I guess the deal is that I know I would be a good mother to a child. But it may not be good for me. I would give everything I have to it, but would have no energy left for myself, and I think it’s fair to not be ready for that.

Then again, what do I know? Like I said, I’m only twenty. There are probably plenty of parents and non-parents alike reading this and shaking their heads at my innocence, at my ignorance.

Ah, well. This is all a problem for Future Tina to figure out. Right now, Present Tina only has to worry about my job and preparing for Europe.

 

I really hate hurting him though. I know, little buddy, it’s hard to leave someone you love. But it’s not that long. And it will be easier than you think.

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Young intelligence

I am constantly amazed at what children can do. When I was a kid, I always got annoyed when people underestimated me, so I try not to act too surprised at children’s intelligence. Even so, it is certainly easy to assume they don’t know much.

Maybe it’s because sometimes kids do stupid stuff. When a two year old shoves a bean up his nose, it’s hard to remember that he’s pretty smart.

But then again, I do stupid stuff too. Maybe I don’t shove beans up my nose, but I still hit “reply all” or lose the phone that’s in my pocket or accidentally use body wash when I meant to use shampoo. I think that’s why it’s easy to forget that kids are smart: because I’ve lived way longer than they have and I’m still pretty stupid.

Kids are smart, though. I just learned of a boy scout troop consisting of 9 year olds that are building prosthetic hands for kids in Haiti. My five year old cousin is learning to code at preschool, and knows all the ins and outs of Minecraft. I mean, this is stuff that I’d have trouble doing!

Not to mention my two year old cousin who can navigate an iPad and even find his favorite songs, even though he can’t read.

A while ago, I did an article on babies learning sign language. They were hearing babies who were at the age where they wanted to communicate but didn’t yet have the vocal control to do so. They could learn to sign “milk” and “hungry” and “more” to their parents at 5 or 6 months old, far younger than they would be able to say the words aloud. This cut down on frustration and crying for everyone involved.

Kids are so smart. I’d love to have one of my own someday, to help them learn and grow. I have a feeling I’ll be doing far more learning than teaching.

Power, resurrected

Voices collected, ambitions rejected

Children subjected to hate, protected

By parents connected, but they are neglected

By those who correct them with chains.

Unexpected revolting, cities injected

With highline objective, now you’ve been selected,

Infected, directed, suspected, ejected.

They say, “unaffected.” Insane.

This love, misdirected, is being reflected

In friends disconnected, hate uncorrected,

Those disrespected don’t go undetected.

We just want to own our own names.

A to T: Thanksgiving

Sure, it was expensive to fly Michael back and forth, especially so close to winter break, but there was no way James would allow his son to celebrate Thanksgiving alone. He and Betty pulled out all the stops, buying the biggest turkey in the market, inviting the Quentin family to join them, even buying a new American flag to hang from the pole.

James folded their old, faded flag and put it in a trunk in the attic. He knew you weren’t supposed to throw them away, but he wasn’t sure what you were supposed to do with them when they got too old, so he kept nearly twenty years of flags in this one trunk. He liked having a box full of America in the attic. Maybe one day he would make a quilt of them, or something.

As he came downstairs, dusting his hands, Betty was hanging up the phone.

“Dear,” she said, her forehead creasing. “Did you invite the Quentins?”

“Yes, I told you I’d take care of it.”

“Ah.” She nibbled her lip. “Hm. Well, okay.”

“What’s wrong?”

“That was Michael. He’s bringing his new girlfriend to Thanksgiving. Bought a ticket and everything.”

James and Betty exchanged long glances. The kitchen was still, the only sound the kettle hissing on the stove.

“I can uninvite them.”

“It’s Thanksgiving….”

More silence.

“Well, what then? We can’t have Susie Q. and a new girl in the same room,” James said. “Michael would get eaten alive.”

“Yes, well…I’m sure they’ll understand. I’ll call Julie and tell her not to tell Suzie Q.”

Betty dialed the Quentins’ number. James sunk into a seat at the table and picked at a thread on the table cloth. A new girl, then, just three months into college? James wasn’t sure what to think. He liked Suzie Q., a lot. What if the new girl thought his family was strange? What if she was from New York? What if she didn’t like them? He was nervous, he realized. Suzie Q. he could deal with, she’d been around for ages, but a new girl…

“All set,” Betty said and hung up. The kettle whined; she took it off the heat and began making tea. “That’s a relief. She completely understood.”

“Good,” James said, then made an excuse and left. He needed to think about this new girl business. He went out the back door and sauntered to the field, letting the cool air blow through his lengthening, graying beard. The grain was all cut and sold, and the ground was nearly barren in preparation for winter. His son would be home tonight, for the first time in months. With a new girl.

The wind blew. He missed his amber waves of grain. The new flag fluttered prettily. It was a bit larger than the last one and waved with more majesty.

Their old house, dented in the center and covered in dust and leaves. Windows patched with duct tape.  The porch, the rocking chair. James tilted his head up, up, up, imagining the high buildings in the city and trying to remember how high he had to look to see the top. His little house was so small.

Would she laugh at the flag? Would she laugh at the field? Would she laugh at the chicken coop? Would she wear all black, would she have tattoos, would she speak funny and think their voices were ridiculous?

Would Michael laugh with her?

A to R: Riley

Michelle held her baby at arms length as it screamed at her. She wrinkled her nose. The earplugs weren’t doing much to block out the noise. It was so red, so squirming. Why? I’m trying to help you, why do you wriggle so much? Do you want me to drop you?

Riley, they had named him. Riley had spent about ninety percent of his short life crying. Michelle had aged ten years in two weeks. Craig was away for business.

Riley, Riley. She was beginning to hate the name. It was the source of all her headaches, of every stretch mark, of every sore back and every aching shoulder, every bleeding nipple and sleepless night. Riley. She was beginning to hate not only the name but the baby, the baby she swore she would love more than life itself. As soon as this thing is out of me, she used to think when it kicked her ribs and made her sick, it will all be worth it.

No. Cry-ley, she had taken to calling him under her breath. It was not worth it. She was prepared for nine months of torture, not eighteen years. And Craig…so ridiculous. That’s what she gets for marrying an actor. She was prepared to be poor, not well-off but abandoned while Craig travelled the country caked in makeup and drinking whiskey. She was forced to stay in the city for her own job, which was on hiatus. She survived on their shared bank account, guiltiness flooding her veins with every withdrawal.

She wanted a finish line, but the only one in sight was when Riley finally grew up, but he was still so small he couldn’t lift his head. No finish line, unless either she or her husband quit their jobs but stayed married. No finish line, just a slow continuance of this soreness, of constant crying.

Riley, Riley, Riley. She wanted a girl, not a boy. Her arms were getting tired, holding the stupid, heavy baby out so far, so she placed the thing in its crib and sat in the corner of the nursery, sinking to the floor and resting her forehead on her knees, rocking her head back and forth. The crying permeated the air and infected her ears.

“Shut up!” she yelled, and the baby paused for a second, then went on crying. It was so stupid it didn’t know that eating solved hunger, that sleep solved tiredness, that it was supposed to love its mother and let her sleep. Michelle crawled across the carpet and shook the crib bars, all rattling plastic and soft metal. She roared at the child. The streetlight lit up the baby in gray strips. Michelle hit the bars with her forearm, resulting in louder crying from Riley. She rolled her eyes and went to her bedroom, closing the two doors between her and the baby.

She pulled out her earplugs and called Craig. Somehow he answered—he never answered.

“Can’t you come home?” Michelle asked the second he heard his voice.

“Honey,” he started with the boiling impatience of a pep talk. “I’m in California. We talked about this, didn’t we? One more week, then I’m home for the weekend.”

“Just the weekend,” Michelle whined, slowly rolling onto her bed. Crying still seeped through the door and the laughs and chimes of a cocktail party came muffled through the phone; Michelle struggled to tune out both.

“Yes, just the weekend, but I’m on tour,” he said, another word, like “Riley,” which Michelle couldn’t help but hate. “I have to keep on tour, it’s my job. How’s Riley? You doing okay?”

“No.”

“Is he sleeping?”

“Far from it. Honey, I miss you.”

“Well, I miss you too. And Riley, but that doesn’t mean I can just come home whenever I want to.”

“Why not?”

“Michelle, I’m not having this childish conversation with you. I have to go.”

“Fine.” Michelle hung up on him and instantly fell into a fit of hysterical crying, louder than her baby, heaving breaths and coughs and tremors, This was it. Craig would be home, a finish line, but then gone again, another starting line. Why was happiness the only temporary thing? Why was the only thing she seemed to see of her husband was his back as he headed out the door?

She didn’t remember falling asleep, but she woke up at about eight, the latest Riley had let her sleep since before he was born. Her heart froze, she leapt out of bed and ran down the hall, rushing into the nursery. There he was, in the center of his crib, sleeping soundly.

For a moment, Michelle watched her silent baby sleep, his lips twitching. Was he dreaming of her? She shut the door quietly and brewed a cup of coffee. The house was so quiet.

“Riley,” she whispered in the empty kitchen. She then sipped the too-hot coffee and burned her tongue.