There are a million-and-one things that are stressful and anxiety-provoking about being a parent. Take, for example, the breathing thing. My daughter, Isla, is 7 months old and I still run into her room in the middle of the night to see if she’s alive.
The other day she was at her grandma’s, napping in her Pack ’n Play when I went to pick her up. Right away, I noticed she was lying on her stomach and rushed over to check if she was breathing. With my hand on her little back, I could feel her taking breaths and knew I shouldn’t disturb her. But then I thought if I let her stay on her tummy something could potentially happen to constrict her breathing and she’d die. So I turned her over, woke her up, pissed her off — but kept her alive.
And let’s not forget car seats. I’m constantly terrified that I forgot to drop Isla off at daycare, left her in her car seat in my car and just carried on with my day. Intellectually, I know I didn’t do that. For fucks sake, I remember physically carrying her into the building, talking with the teachers and kissing her goodbye. But thanks to horrifying news stories, I have left my office and walked out to my car to check if she was locked in my car at least four times in the last couple of months.
Oh and guess what? We have a pool — enclosed in a locked gate (but still …) — which means I don’t have pool parties without Xanax. Our 4-year-old son, Archer, takes swimming lessons and he’s a decent swimmer but I’m smart enough to know he can still drown. When my husband, Greg, takes Isla in the pool, I have to look away or go into the house. I’m frightened he’ll drop her and maybe save her, but water will get lodged in her lungs and she’ll die three days later.
Do you know what I do wish would drown in the pool? All of the dinosaurs in our house. Playing with them freaks me out. Archer wants to “play dinosaurs” nearly every night. How do you do that? Like, what do dinosaurs say? I’ve tried getting down on the floor to be an ankylosaurus and I get anxiety. I don’t know what to do with the spiny, brown plastic toy in my hand, so I make dinner instead.
Playing with your kids might be one of the hardest and most stressful parts of being a parent. I love baking banana bread with Archer and racing him in our backyard. I love singing songs with him and teaching him how to write. I love giving Isla a bath and massaging her with lavender lotion. I love stacking blocks for her so she can knock them down, and I love teaching her how to clap. These things are “doing” — there’s a point, an end, you know? Playing is simply “being.”
Thank god Greg knows how to be a dinosaur. But, then again, it sort of pisses me off. Why does he know how and I don’t? I mean, I used to play — I have the Barbies to prove it. I also used to wrap my pajama bottoms around my head and toss the legs around my shoulders, like it was long hair and I was a princess. And sometimes I’d dress in all green and pretend I was the Incredible Hulk, yelling “RAWR!” as I ran around the house.
See, I had game.
But somewhere along the way, I lost it. Who has time to play when there is dinner to make, baths to give, dishes to wash, lunches to pack, floors to scrub, fingernails to cut, laundry to put away? That’s bullshit, right? I have time to play.
Time is flying by. Archer put on his own shoes this morning and Isla ate her first yogurt melt. They are growing up. I don’t want them to just remember me as someone who fed them and wiped their butts. I want them to remember me as a dinosaur.