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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« No more whining in 2006! | Main | Here's something old and dusty. Merry Christmas! »

And here's my last whiny post of 2005.

Oh, but I am feeling low.

I could blame the chocolates my mom bought my husband--my delightfully Jewish husband who is all, “I do not understand you Christians and your strange Christ-birthday; who is this ‘Christ’?” and then insists that my family only give him presents that he can consume. So we get these damn chocolate confections that are incredibly delicious; one of them makes you feel that you require twelve more, and then the second one provides you with the sensation of needing to tear your skin from your face and set your pants on fire. I ate three.

Also, Henry is sick. We put him in preschool and he fought off every virus that came his way, but one weekend with my family was all it took to bring him down. The night before last he had the CROUP, and we immediately rushed him into the steamy bathroom and sat there until the ceiling melted. He continued to whuuup and hurrk far long than he ever had before, but then as we discussed our imminent trip to the ER, he decided hospitals were not his thing, and the episode passed. But now he’s all drippy and crusty and feverish, and when I’m not worried about him I’m worried about how I’m going to keep from killing him.

He is moany and whiny and needy and I can understand why, but he’s not needy in a way I understand. Lying on the couch requesting blankets and tea—this I can understand. Running around and throwing toys while wearing nothing but socks and screaming at me to take off his socks—this is his version of being sick, and it makes no sense to me. No he does NOT want soup, take that blanket OFF him, he LIKES shivering, and don’t THINK about giving him Motrin, on second thought the Motrin tastes like candy so give him EXTRA, what do you MEAN extra is bad for him? THE NAKED BOY WANTS EXTRA MOTRIN.

When he isn’t demanding that I overdose him, he wants me to play, except what he really wants is not for me to play—he wants me to sit next to him and watch him as he plays. This way lies madness, as we know, but I am not given much of a choice in the matter. If I try to pick up an action figure and join him in playtime, I am berated. If I attempt to rise and get a glass of water, or maybe use the bathroom, there is much screaming and pleading for my company. If I sit right next to him and read a book, the book is torn from my hands. My attention is demanded constantly, but it’s only to acknowledge whatever it is he is doing. “Look, Mommy!” he announces, holding up Batman. “I am holding Batman!” Pause. “Look! Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!” and so on, until I respond, “Yes, that’s Batman, all right.”

Repeat this with every one of his two hundred figures.

I am bored out of my mind. Literally, I have no mind.

So maybe this is not the best day to take stock of my life. But whoops, too late.

Waaaay back, I got an MFA in creative writing and I told myself I would have a novel published before I had a child. Ha, ha! No really, I did! I know! Then when I was pregnant I downscaled my ambitions to, “Hmm, I should really get a short story published before I give birth.” I didn’t make that goal either, but I did eventually get two stories published. And a poem. Which, okay, more than zero! Not so bad! But really if I consider myself a writer, I should have more than two stories published in my lifetime. Two stories (and a poem) would make a crappy collection.

So now I’m working on a book. Which is nice, to have an idea, to be working on something. To finally, after years of struggling with rock-bottom expectations and crippling self-doubt and blar de blar twelve years of therapy blar, be doing what I’ve always want ed to do. Except! I have no time! Ever! Because there’s this child! Whom I think a great deal of, who’s really a great kid, but who demands every second of my time! And I may be just a wee bit resentful about that!

I’ve been getting up at six in the morning to write. I am not a morning person. But Henry isn’t either, and as he gets up at 8 at the earliest, it seemed the perfect time to get some things done. But by the time I get a cup of tea, turn on the lights, find my robe, use the bathroom, stare at my freaky morning hair in the mirror, turn on the computer, and try not to throw up as I see what I wrote the day before—by the time I’m ready to write it’s 6:30. So the most I can do is an hour and a half of writing. And it’s not enough. I need that much time just to remember why I’m sitting there, what brought me to that place and what it was I wanted to say, again.

Today I made the mistake of reading an interview between Paul Auster and Jonathan Lethem, and they were talking about the five or six hours each day they devote to their writing, how satisfying it was to have SO MUCH time to write! Devoting those hours to their Art infuses the rest of the day with a “kind of grace,” they agreed. And I thought, if I see you fuckers on the street—and there’s a good chance I will; they’re both around here somewhere, I’ve seen them before—I am going to kick you in the shins. Six hours! Hey, Jonathan: once we were at the same party and you were dancing and you danced like a moron and I laughed. And then you went home and wrote a masterpiece. Wait, that didn't make me feel better. Asshole.

I don’t know how anyone who is a mother is also a writer. I suppose you have to achieve a certain level of success so that you can hire a nanny without killing yourself from the financial burden or from the guilt or choosing your nonexistent career over your child. But if I don’t have the time, then I can’t write the book, so I can’t get the money, which I need to, um, have the time. I go around and around like this, and then I want to throw up. Or maybe that's the chocolates.

I am sorry to end the year like this, so I will say Happy New Year, and then I will go to bed, and maybe tomorrow, the last day of 2005, will suck a tiny bit less.

Reader Comments (107)

this is why i have a blog instead of a book i'm working on: so i can post brief, humorous (yet somehow self-satisfying) ancedotes and niblets amid the endless and all-consuming Primary Caregiving.

perhaps i am not ambitious enough. yet i value a little thing called, umm, SANITY.

the thing (or one of the things) is: you ARE a writer. and a good one. and people read your shit, and enjoy it. it is worth something out there in the world, you know?

i know its no pulitzer, and probably little consolation, but i just want to tell you in a very loud voice that you ARE doing something, you ARE writing. though not hardbound and available at the local bookshop, THIS is of value to many. to me.

much love to you lady. you are the bestest. xo.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commentersweetney
i don't even really want to tell you this, but chris bohjalian writes from 4am til noon every day.

personally, selfishly, i am not concerned with your finishing your novel. (sorry for the passive....)

i recently found your blog because i am captivated by a child, too. i love reading you; do so every day. when you don't post, i reread something. i think you're brilliant. and i have a feeling that these days with the babes slip by and we'll be much happier people for having lost this time. just a theory.

happy happy and i'll pay retail for whatever you get into print so you get your well deserved 11 cents ;)
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commenternita
I second sweetney. I am reading online way more than I am offline these days because I get so much more out of it. And i'm a snooty English-major poetess. I really believe that we're on the cusp of a major shift in publishing and what is considered literature and all that. This might be my delusions of grandeur talking, but i really believe personal blogs are a significant new form. You are a pioneer, Alice.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLetterB
The new drug for the three year old tyrant in my house ? Puzzles. They buy at least an hour of quiet time. I want to lick that 100 piece Spiderman puzzle I love it so much.

Does Henry's preschool have an extended day program ? I pay through the nose and Mason can stay there in the afternoon too and loves it.

Also I have a 14, 11,8 year old and before you know it they really are in school. I know that doesn't help much now, because you have the idea now and feel the need to write it now. But this phase of mothering won't last forever.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLisa V
You are writing - you're a writer! And I don't think I could get up at 6 a.m. for anything. You get points for effort. One day it'll turn into product.

My mom-in-law assures me that someday I'll look back at this time of small-child-centeredness and think "oh, that wasn't really very long." And she had twins. So she should know.

I work full-time which is hard in a different way, and one reason I do it is sheer self-defense. Another reason I do it is to have $$$ to buy books -- like the one you will, someday, write. If it's not until after Henry starts school? Well, then, you'll have a great plot outline finished, right?
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Sturm
I just want to echo everyone else in saying, I love your writing. I love reading your blog. I will be first in line to buy any book or collection you have published.

If bits and pieces of time are all you have now, it's better than nothing, right? What about a mother's helper? What about trading off play dates with someone on a weekly basis? And definitely jump on extended preschool if yours offers such a thing.

I do freelance editing and I squeeze it in during naptime, night time, school time. It's frustrating and certainly not as productive as it could be if I had bigger chunks of time to work with.

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterCherie
Yup. That's my year in a fucking nutshell.Here's to more time in 2006.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBrooklyn Mama
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterhonestyrain
It's just impossible until they start school. But they do start school. Even then it's not easy. But somehow you'll manage to survive the interim. There's time. You'll get there. It doesn't seem like it now, but you will.

You're a fabulous talent--your day will come and all this obstructionism will add even more fuel to your creative fire.

December 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermarian
Alice! You are one phenomenal woman! Enjoying your blog so much - why don't you just publish the whole darn thing?

I only stumbled across you because of the reference to coming off Effexor - how has that all gone for you?

Wishing you a great 2006 from across the pond,

December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAlison
Being a Mom will give you far more material to write about than you can imagine. My degree is in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution(Take that intelligent design folks) and I could teach a great Yoga class if given half a chance. When I get low about how I am waisting all that education at home, I am reminded by a dear friend that I am a better mom for all those talents, and that my career after babies will be enhanced by Motherhood. Being a Mom has changed me in countless ways. I am try to see this as a GOOD thing. Also, you will be amazed at how your ability to multi-task has been honed during the first 6 years of parenting.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLori
My fellow mothers are correct. My sons are 10 and 12, and I work full-time. It's well-nigh impossible to find time to research, write or design. And before they went to school -- truly impossible.

Just consider it a phase of your life that will pass. Do what you can with the help of your husband, friends, or others in the community. But don't believe that you should be able to be completely fulfilled in all important aspects of your life at once. That way lies madness.

In a few years, Henry will be out of the house for hours at a time, and if you don't have to work full-time outside the home, you'll have lots of time to write. (I did.)

And if you do have to work, just consider it another phase that'll last until Henry gets a job. And do what you can. Instead of reading, drinking, watching TV, whatever you usually do for fun.

Nowadays, I mostly record, research and collate my ideas as thoroughly as possible. I figure that I've only got about six or seven more years before my youngest is mowing lawns or working fast food, and then I'll have some time. And when they finally leave home -- whoo boy!

December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly
OK, I know you're thinking "writer" means creative-writing-leading-to-book-contract-with-Knopf-and-nan-talese-as-your-editor, but you are a writer. so there. i'm a freelance journalist (trans: hack, not writer) with a three-year-old, and i'm in the middle of getting a divorce, and i have to say that daycare (we call it preschool here in Denial House, to assuage the guilt) is a saving grace. but this week i've noticed an urge to put the progeny outside to play in the street, because i have a million deadlines and she's all needy and EXACTLY like henry with the play-rules -- look, be here, but please don't even try to touch one of my toys.

hang in there.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterkristin
This reminds me, in part, of a Roz Chast cartoon that I will scan and send to you. This also reminds me of a thing Raymond Carver said about why he started writing short stories, because he had two little kids and only small chunks of time to think coherently.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Kennedy
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Kennedy
Are there any friends or relatives who are willing to pull off a two-hour stint of caretaking while you write, provided you do it for them, too? No charge through the swap, and if you're going to oooh and ahhh over Batman with one person, why not two?

I didn't need that for kids, but I did need it when I dealt with the illnesses of parents (who are now 79 and 80s this year) and was still trying to have the rest of my life - kinda.

If this were a pay site, I would certainly pay.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJen
The saying I keep holding onto: You can have it all. You just can't have it all at once.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Heard
Oh, i sympathize! If I do have a couple of hours free, all I want to do is veg, read or knit. I admire you for trying to think coherently, I know I couldn't do it. I love it too when people say: oh just wait a few years. Uhm, yeah, but ... YEARS!!!
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterdinka
What you do be a writer and mom is get your book idea sold (not the actual book) then hire a sitter for a few hours a day 4 times a week while you write. Of course, everyday you'll obsess on your deadline which will leave less and less time for your shortie which will make you more and more anxious which will lead to a full-on drug dependancy but if you really want it...success can be yours!
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterStefanie
I'm a lurker of several months who's been propelled out of the shadows by your post. I'm also a writer, a playwright mostly, who has found that the last few years of my life have been increasingly taken over by my obsession with my infertility. I started blogging in 2005 about this, and I am now pregnant. With twins. As I chew my dry crackers I realise I have a small small window to write my 2006 masterpiece/book/play/successful grant application...somewhere between the first and third trimester I suspect.At this stage I am willing to sacrifice my writing time and brain for my babies but I'm also scared and sad about losing the rest and you express that fear and grief so well.Your blog and your writing is an inspiration. Your posts are such beautiful portraits of your life with your child, every one is a love letter.You ARE a writer and that book will happen but maybe not in the way it would have without Henry.Good luck.

December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterOvaGirl
Gosh, does anyone have Michael's phone number? After I'm done with my book (which I'm writing in large chunks of time while the children set things on fire) I think I'd like to buy him a beer.


Equilibrium--perhaps different than what we would've pictures, childless--does come. And once we find it, it shifts again. And in the meantime, we do what we can.

I used to be a morning person, and now I routinely stay up writing until 2 or 3 in the morning. Not what I pictured, that's for sure. But then, none of it is. ;)
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMir
Probably none of you will come back and read to the end of the comments, but just in case... Did you all get this kind of nonstop attention from your parents?

As one of three children, I know it's impossible that I got this kind of doting care. And my mother still managed to find time to do other things even with the three of us in tow.

I think there are even studies that show that parenting is resposible for only a small variation (something like 10%) in things like the IQ of children. Perhaps all this attention doesn't make the difference you think it does?

December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMichael
You are an amazing writer, and I think you could get a book of essays published from the material on your blog alone. You often have me rolling with laughter. I wish you had the blocks of time to write, but in the meantime, I have two ideas. Put the feverish kiddo in front of Sesame Street or America's Funniest Home videos (you can get a DVD), and read Confessions of a Slacker Mom (it's the best "parenting" book I've read in almost six years).
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterChristyD
I once heard Barbara Kingsolver say that she works when her children are in school- the bus comes to pick them up, she writes. It drops them off, she stops. She said she has heard about writers who have many rituals and processes for writing, but she's a working mother and just does what she can.Also, that the Poisenwood Bible sat in her desk for almost 20 years, unfinished.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterPhC
P.S. I'm not saying you need a parenting book, but it made me feel much less guilty as a mom, and I am looking to it for parenting advice these days. It's also a quick and fun read. Here's to a great 2006.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterChristyD

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