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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

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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.

Lets-Panic.com → 

« No more whining in 2006! | Main | Here's something old and dusty. Merry Christmas! »
Friday
Dec302005

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)

Michael,

I think you're missing a key point. Here's the thing: I have decided what kind of mother I want my children to have. The kind of mother I want to be isn't one who hovers and dotes, but one who is attentive, accessible, involved and interested. I can be that mother playing one-on-one with my child and I can be that mother while keeping house or while engaged in various other activities. It would be very difficult for me, however, to be those four things listed above if I were deeply involved in a creative process that demanded my attention and required inspired, uninterrupted focus.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commentercoolbeans
Wow. It's times like these I'm glad I'm barren.

Also, I don't have any kids, nor any pets, nor any houseplants that have survived my not-quite-green-more-like-death thumb, and I still don't have time to do anything productive. Other than leave blog comments, that is.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterB
Michael, you're adorable! But what are you talking about? It's not how much attention you give your child, it's how much they DEMAND. It's hard to produce when you have a three-year-old gnawing at your arm.



December 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Michael, parenting has a HUGE influence on intellect. The research actually says the opposite of what you postulate. Cause and effect is hard to establish, but the IQs of adopted children increase when they move from institutional to single family environments. The reality is that quality parenting can ameliorate developmental problems in children, and neglectful, shitty parenting can exacerbate what might have been minor personality issues. It's easy to think that us watchful, attentive, involved moms are going to raise a generation of people who demand everyone pay attention to them all the time, but you are wrong. Appropriately involved, attentive parenting creates engaged, empathetic adults.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSuzyn
I'm convinced you'll get this done -- it's just that, the boy seems like he'll be 3 forever, and your time will never be your own again because it hasn't been for 3 years & counting -- but there will come a point where you realize your time is (somewhat) your's again, and you may even feel some FONDNESS & NOSTALGIA for these days of attending to the every need of someone who yells at you even as you're doing so.

This was written by someone who is currently on her fifth 3 year-old. Last week he was lying on our couch, drinking soda while he recovered from a fever/flu thing. At one point, he told me he wanted to sit in a different chair (the better to see the T.V.? I guess?) and even as I was lifting him up to move him he shreiked at me: "No, I don't want that chair!"

I actually thought about dropping my sick kid on the floor.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTerry
Ah, roll on the school years. I didn't get much art made when my son was little but once he went to school, oh boy had I ever built up a real head of steam. In fact, I'm still trading on that pent up creativity some 8 years later.

It does get better and it is possible to combine creativity and motherhood - difficult but possible.

I took a notebook everywhere with me, so that even when I wasn't able to make art, I was could write. It helped.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterKirsty
You deserve a medal for getting up at 6am and TRYING. I have been wanting to post about this very topic, but--ha ha ha! how ironic!--no time. So this is why a lot of my creative energy has shifted over to photography...because it can be done kind of quickly. Even that has been difficult.

People tell me the same thing, all the time; that everything will be better once the twins are in school. (Indeed, the mothers I know whose kids have just entered school DO look a little calmer!). I miss my own time to connect with the adult world so badly I'm constantly having to remind myself to stop thinking about two years from now, and enjoy the cute little girls they are now. But yes, it is agony, just letting everything go...there's no time to even jot down crappy little brainstorms on post-it notes.

I guess the bonus that OvaGirl and I will share is two kids entering school at the same time. YAY!







December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAngela
Boy, do I feel your pain. I got pregnant and gave birth in the middle of finishing my PhD in English. Two and a half years later, I'm still in the middle of finishing my PhD in English. I have two hours usually while my child naps, and maybe another two after her bedtime and before I pass out myself. And no one besides my husband and maybe my mom seem to understand that gee, a dissertation isn't something that can be written in the four hours of free time I have to myself each day. It's so frustrating--just like you said, by the time you get ready to actually write, you are out of time. I know this sounds bitter and snipey, but I have noticed that the men in the PhD program with children don't run into the same problems--they seem to finish licketysplit, wailing newborns/demanding toddlers or no. Keep trying, though, and good luck.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterjenalda
Oh, yes, is that familiar. (And I have two croupy children right now). I also get up in the morning to write. Not as successfully, because the children have started getting up when I do to ambush me before the computer is warmed.

Happy New Year. The book will come. You have so much talent.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commentersharon
Hi, first time commenter, long time reader(think Dr. Laura - and actually I haven't been reading this blog that long, but I enjoy it!). Anyway, it is the same with my knitting. I'm afraid to knit while my son is awake for fear he will fall from the bookcase he's not to be climbing on, onto one of the needles. Pointy end up, of course. So I get very little of it done. I also would love to write, even have something started, but there's that kid thing again. I keep telling myself, when they're older.Have a good new year!
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterRobyn
Happy New Year...it will probably not make you feel any better, but your writing on here is very good and I love reading it and I would buy any book you wrote.
December 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJem
OK I don't have time to read the other 61 comments here (imagine, a mom with no time!) so forgive me if I am being redundant, but this is what I would like you to know from my own experience:

1. Do not give a child with a low fever fever reducing medicine. Sick kids need to lie around the house, which they will do if they have 101 or 102, but not if you lower the fever. The last thing any mom needs a sick kid that doesn't feel sick anymore. If they have 104 feel free to dispense the fever reducing medicine because then they are likely sick enough to lie around regardless. Remember that those fever reducers are hard on their little livers and they don't need the added burden when they are sick, unless they are very very sick.

2. Preschool time is YOUR time, use it to write, and then drag Henry on all the errands that you could have been doing while he was in school when you pick him up. Also, this is a great time to send him off on playdayes alone, you can work something out with a friend.

3. Lighten up on yourself, if you were cranking out the books, we would all suspect that your kid was neglected anyways, so this is really one that you just can't win. He'll get older and you'll reclaim your life. It is inevitable.
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterclickmom
I, for one, will continue to wait patiently for your fabulous book. I will wait patiently until 2010. Then I will start to get a little antsy.

May each day in 2006 suck a tiny bit less than the day before, and may you find Time.

I might have a bit of a hangover! Happy New Year!
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAngela
Yeah, and then some of us dumbasses go and have THREE kids!

Finished and/or Published works: NoneHalf-started works: 1,062,478Amount of time alotted to personal hygiene: 5 secondsNumber of fancy baby blankets I made and sold this year, 'cuz this was going to be "my home business": NoneTime spent breastfeeding: 27 hours/dayNumber of brain cells I have left: 4 and a halfTime spent with baby sleeping on chest while I channel surf, but quietly so he doesn't wake up: at least 7/day

Let's just run away!

P.S. Can we at least know the stories you had published so we can read them? I enjoy your writing so much and would love to read more!
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Alice...you are my hero and just said all the things I'm feeling. I'm going to carry a copy of this blog entry in my wallet, so when I finally have that nervous breakdown and go catatonic, people will find it and understand why.

so thank you.
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteragatha's bitch
Oh, Alice, you ARE a writer, and a very, very good and prominent one at that! I totally second LetterB. Everything is different now. And our lives of juggling work and laundry and children and public venting are simultaneously the oldest thing in the world and very cutting-edge.

Happy New Year!
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterArabella
Alice,

this post brings to mind that scene in The Last of the Mohicans where Daniel Day-Lewis has to jump down the waterfall to escape the Indians who are going to kill him and he implores Madeline Stowe to "Stay ALIVE. I will find you." And then he jumps into the massive, crashing water. (God, such a great scene, I got goosebumps just remembering it).

Anyhoo-- I want to implore you to Stay SANE--the book will find you! It will come. You will make it through this challenge. And there will be a book-- many books, as many as you want to write and you will have time! Hang in there-- you are a fabulous writer and it is your destiny.
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
I heard Jane Smiley interviewed at the San Francisco City club a few years ago, and they asked her about writing while being the mother of 4 (I think it was 4). She writes 2 hours a day. And she is very prolific. Perhaps not looking in teh mirror in the am?Sarah
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
i am costantly swallowing ambition and re-commiting to the choices i've made as a parent it's hard

i am always amazed at how much better everything seems when a cold or child's illness has lifted

i'll stand in the kitchen and suddenly realize that i feel good - where did this energy come from - and i figure it out - yes, we are all finally healthy again

those brief energetic moments are what i imagine it will be like when i sit down to an uniterupted period of time with children at school - except i'm sure that i will miss the days like this one where a sleepy nursing baby causes me to type one-handed messages void of grammer all e.e. cummings-like

some things just take time

and ditto on the low-fever no motrin thing
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commenternathalie
Alice, I'm the single mom of 13 year old twins, both with special needs. I'm also a professional writer. I've written over 20 books (none of then even remotely readable unless you're interested in the workings of software, but nevertheless) since my kids were born, many of them in the house with the kids at the same time. I learned a long time ago to carve out time for myself. My kids had a livein aupair for the first 2 years, and then went off to preschool during the day, which gave me plenty of time to work. I also work odd hours, mostly very very late at night after my kids have gone to sleep. As they have gotten older, I've had much more time to send them packing to their own comforts and leave me time to write. I know of MANY other writing moms in the same position.

Henry is a demanding child, and you tend to give into him because (and I would too) it's easier than finding another way. But there are other ways, including finding the RIGHT daycare situation for him, even if it means a sitter in your house for a few hours per day while you're locked into your office. Honest, it can be done, even with a high needs kid.

The effexor helps, of course. I'm never going off it.
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermargalit
You need to have another baby so Henry has a playmate.

[pregnant pause]

Ha ha ha.

Only kidding, the third child, she has made me ever so slightly maniacal.
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVery Mom
i am absolutely CONVINCED that anyone who can make me laugh regularly as you do will no doubt publish a fabulous book very soon! i hope you feel much less sucky today. ;)
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSarcomical
They do grow up. And if you're like me, you'll never wish him a single day younger. Just don't let Henry have any "enrichment" or he may be good at it or love it, or both and then you'll have to take him here and there. Oh, and ask your husband for a vasectomy for your next birthday present. That right there is at least another poem. Seriously, adding up all your blog entries is a book. Well-written and witty, too.
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHurly
Wasn't that interview in "Believer" magazine? If so...I read that interview and had the same reaction. Doubt I'll see Lethem or Auster slumming around here in Texas, but if I do I'll kick them both for you.

And staying home with a sick kid (even though you love him dearly) sucks the big pudding! I HEAR your pain!
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterwordgirl
Oh, great, this is what I have to look forward to. My son is 17 months and already goes ballistic when I leave the room, yet also refuses to let me get involved in his toy playing. "Do you want help with that?" "NO!" He was also sick over Christmas and boy, talk about needy...I was about ready to just give up and staple him to my hip.

I agree with the other comments about writing. I blog because I don't have the time or discipline to do something like a novel. Talent I have in spades, but time? forget it. But someday I will enter NaNoWriMo again and actually get something substantial written, dammit!
January 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

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