My head is spinning, my entire body aching. Is this what it is to be the mother of a baby on the cusp of toddlerdom? (And just for the record, when exactly does that pivotal shift occur: 12 months? 18 months? 24 months? when you stop quantifying your infant in terms of months?) Exhaustion of a different kind, but exhaustion no less, has plagued the new mom -- ie. moi -- these past couple weeks. No longer content to sit in a quiet lump and play, Little Green One seeks me out constantly and then uses me as a human trellis. Or worse, a human bread stick. I know his gums are hurting, but hey, those existing teeth are little exacto knives and I figure someone's got to tell him so, right? The difficulty is imparting the meaning of 'no' to someone who has as much sense right now as the collective housemates of Big Brother (UK and US editions). It is a double-edged sword, if you'll forgive the pun, in that while I am eager to see him moving, his very movement feels like three rounds with Tyson, but a Tyson who fights dirty. Who fights like... a girl. Pinching. Stomping. Hair pulling. Biting. Don't believe me? I have the bruises and occasionally, the teethmarks, to prove it. Again, there is no maliciousness, no 'I hate you mommy' to accompany the gestures that are more about discovery than aggression. Although aggression by any other name is still aggression, and takes its toll.
This afternoon, in my ongoing, utterly futile attempts to socialize my only child, we invited another boy not much younger than Little Green for a play date at our house. Murphy's Law. Sod's Law. Who ever made the law please explain me this: why when it counts, when there is a lot going on and you're counting on a given day to run smoothly, does your undersized one declare Armageddon? There were fangs on show alright. Oh yeah, there was carnage. He was indifferent to the boy, who seemed overjoyed exploring the new turf. There was no biting, at least, but Little Green made sure the neighbours at the house five doors' down knew of his discontent. He howled so that I could no longer hear my own heart being pummelled inside my chest. I tried to stay calm, I tried to talk over him. I tried to act like a grown up with a toddler. But I might as well have been that referee holding a dinky whistle in between Tyson and his latest victim. Just two hours in, my guests had promptly packed up and shouted their excuses, and the house was suddenly pin-drop quiet. My Tyson triumphant. Does he genuinely despise other babies, I wondered. Doubtful, since he doesn't take enough notice to actively despise them. Is this a symptom of his increasing clinginess to mommy? As in: if I can't have her undivided attention for a tenth of a second, then no one will... God help me.
Little wonder then, while every good parent out there has been obsessing over the H1N1 flu vaccination (to get or not to get, that is THE question), I have been too distracted to weigh in on the debate. I have been too exhausted to read the fine print, the pickets, the pros and condiments. My Tyson seems more robust than most full-grown men. But I know enough to recognize the fallacy in this kind of thinking. If anything should happen to him, I would die. Not physically, of course. I would carry on living, but I would be a cut-out version of my former self. I would be a non-living thing. The wilted lettuce at the bottom of the crisper. No amount of years or shopping sprees and 6-star stays in Dubai would help me recover. And yet why am I not buying into the mass mommy hysteria about the 'flu pandemic. People are dying, indiscriminately it seems. Under 5s are particularly vulnerable. I worry that I have not been worrying enough. That I have continued, against all odds, to take my baby-cum-toddler to the grocery store, to the library, to the park. He has touched various things then chewed on his fingers. I have touched various things then chewed on my fingers. Old habits die hard. My nails are down to the quick and in the middle of the night, half asleep, I fiddle with them. I nibble on them, panicking. Filthy habit. You should know better, and yet... What else can I do if I can't bite my nails, now that smoking nicotine, and pretty much anything else, is off the cards? What halfway respectable bad habit is left for a thirty-something mother of one? The gym? Gasp. Maybe while he's at it, Little Green's pediatrician could inject a seasonal pick-me-up for the moms while they are waiting in line for the H1N1 vaccine. I would so be there.