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Thanksgiving One Year On

I’m having a bit of deja vu this Thanksgiving weekend. Last year at this time, Matt was working way too much, I spent the Friday after Thanksgiving visiting my mom and my Goldstein cousins, and Simon was learning new tricks. This year, Matt is working way too much, I’m spending today visiting my mom and my Goldstein cousins, and Simon is learning new tricks.

And yet, things really could not be more different. On a purely superficial level, Simon’s new tricks include pointing, saying “light” (sort of), and kissing his stuffed bunny instead of smiling and holding his head up. And this year when I visit my Goldstein cousins, my Aunt Marcia won’t be at the house.

But the biggest change—for me—lies below the surface. Last year this time, Simon’s reflux and colic were gearing up, and we were having some very hard days as a family. And since he was still so little and needed to nurse every three hours, we were all quite sleep deprived, which made coping with a screaming baby even more difficult. In fact, it was around this time last year that I hit my parenting rock bottom.

I recall with quite a bit of embarrassment the day that Simon screamed so loudly for so long that I actually got a bit rough with him. I was swaddling him, and he was shrieking and spitting out his pacifier. At my exhausted wit’s end, I rolled him over to his side with more force than I intended, causing him to roll over onto his belly and shriek louder than ever.

For the tiniest moment in time, I felt actual anger that my attempt at a moment’s relief was being rewarded with even less peace. As I stood looking over my face-down, howling baby, I felt oddly removed from him. For a minute, he stopped being my adored baby and became an alien nuisance I wanted to escape from.

I never blogged about that incident because I was profoundly ashamed of it and what it said about my mothering skills. I remember being horrified even at the time, thinking to myself that I wasn’t so different from “those” people who shake their babies or do other awful things. I was humiliated by my own loss of control.

Since then, I have never felt so angry or drained, and I have had infinite more patience with Simon. There are several reasons for our overall improvement. First, by mid-January, Simon himself became happier and therefore demanded much less from me. Secondly, we’re all sleeping better these days. Last night Simon was asleep by 8:30 and awoke at just before 9:00. Last but not least, he’s becoming more and more a little person these days, a little person I know like the back of my hand and love deeply.

The measure of that came last night at Thanksgiving dinner. This year’s celebration was hosted by my dad and Ruth and included the entire Whitworth and Franke families. (My dad may have been the host, but we Goldsteins were outnumbered 14-2.) By 7:30, barely two hours into the celebration, Simon began to rub his eyes and was visibly shot. Last year, under similar circumstances, I waited for Matt to volunteer to put Simon down on his parents’ bed and work with him to get him to sleep. I was desperate for a break and some company, and I didn’t want to leave the crowd. This year, I happily volunteered to take Simon home and put him to bed. At the most basic level, since I still nurse him at night and since Matt was with his entire family, it just made good sense. But at another level, it didn’t feel like much of a sacrifice.

There are worse things you can do on a clear Thanksgiving night than walk a short half mile from your dad’s house to your own, get your baby into pj’s, cozy up together, and then tuck into bed early. In fact, I can think of few better.


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