Theo Rex, at four months old, is strong and smart. He’s hungry and happy. He is a shameless flirt.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been sitting in a waiting room or at the train station or anywhere, and I see a woman across the way smiling and making faces at me, wide-eyed and delighted. And I always spend a couple seconds wondering why the crazy lady has singled me out for attention before I realize – Theo is in my lap and he is sharing his irresistible grin with a stranger.
I’m at the Bromley Beer Festival, in line for the port-a-potty, when a pack of cigarettes bounces out of the back pocket of the woman in line ahead of me and falls to the ground.
She doesn’t notice, so I tap her on the shoulder.
Me: “Excuse me, you dropped your–”
And this is the moment my brain remembers that cigarettes aren’t always called “cigarettes,” in the UK, only I can’t quite come up with the right word, and then I remember that they’re called “fags” but now I cannot bring myself to say “fags,” so I’m just standing there, frozen, while the woman stares at me in confusion and possibly with a bit of concern for my mental health.
Me: “your… (I gesture vaguely at the ground) …things.”
My last day at Watermark was July 6, 2016. My first day at my new job will be July 3, 2017.
This means two things.
1. I will have taken almost a year’s sabbatical from my career and
2. I have one last week left as a full time mom.
When I had Dexter, I spent three months at home, and then for two more months I switched between working from home with Dexter, taking Dex into the office and leaving the baby at home with a nanny while I went into the office. At five months, we put him into daycare full-time.
Like most parents, I was incredibly nervous about putting him in daycare. I thoughtfully packed his bag with gear Dexter would need and items that would remind him of home, and carefully composed the essay they asked me to write so they could get to know Dex’s personality and his daily routine. And the big morning, as we were leaving, Matt accidentally tipped the bag, dumping its contents. We tossed it all back in and ran out the door.
It wasn’t until we were getting ready to say good-bye Dexter at the daycare, as I was fighting back tears, that I realized that my meticulously-crafted essay didn’t make it back into the bag.
Dexter, Theo and I had kind of a wacky morning on Friday. On a normal day, we’re eating lunch around 11:30 and Dex is down for nap by 12:30, or else we are in the danger zone for tantrums.
Friday, we were running errands but kept hitting setbacks, so we were late late late. We stopped by Matt’s office for a visit and then we grabbed lunch out, the first time I’ve braved a restaurant with just me + two kids, and we weren’t eating until after 1, so we were deep in the high-risk zone.
In the U.S., when you have an American baby, all the necessary paperwork is generally filled out before leaving the hospital, and then a passport is a separate process, usually done later, since most new babies don’t have immediate international travel needs.
For an American baby born on the U.K., it’s different.
When I was becoming very very pregnant with Theo, Matt and I realized we had an issue: We didn’t yet know anyone well enough to call them and ask them to watch Dexter when I went into labor. Especially if I went into labor in the middle of the night.
Matt’s mom is wonderful and caring and so was rightfully very concerned about this conundrum. She ended up booking their first visit to us in London strategically, to try to solve the problem: two-week visit, one week before and one week after my due date, hedging bets to try to be here for the birth.
Theo was born the day before they arrived. And of course, I went into labor at 1 a.m. Fortunately, by then we’d made a friend who said we could call, and I sure hope she meant it, because that’s what we did.
Right now, Theo is lying on his back on our ottoman, giggling madly at Matt while Matt tickles him and makes faces.
He is three months old. Dexter is 26 months old, and deep into toddler-hood – equal parts infuriating and charming, with the uncanny ability to flip, casually, between hopelessly frustrating to melting his parents’ hearts.
So it’s a testament to what a fantastic personality Theo has, that he is able to cut through the madness and shine.
I let Dexter out of my sight exactly twice. First time, I ducked into the kitchen to make some toast, and when I reentered the living room I found he’d broken our ottoman. Second time, I was prepping dinner and Dex was eating lunch and I thought we were safe, with him locked in his high chair, but no.
The UK observes Mother’s Day on a different day than the US, so this is my second this year. UK Mother’s Day fell on Matt’s birthday, so this is the real one (USA! USA! USA!). The weather is beautiful, sunny and breezy. We’ve opened the windows. I’m on my third mimosa.
We had planned brunch, but rather than spending the $, I decided I’d just eat brunch food all day, instead. I’ve had avocado toast and eggs and smoked salmon. Strawberry waffles are in the works.
Matt is on top of making everything special. Dexter colored the living hell out of a card for me. We have been to the park and both kids are napping.
Mother’s Day used to be about grieving, for me. That crappy feeling that only those who have lost their moms can understand, where I’m so, so happy for people celebrating the love of their mothers, but every photo and tribute feels like a punch to the gut because my mom is gone.
And then I became a mom, and the meaning of the day shifted, but my path to being a mom was not what you would call smooth, so that hangs out in the corners of my psyche, as well, because the story of my family is bound to the story of my children and how and why they exist.
I have told Dexter approximately 5,034,552 times not to run back and forth across the sofa. If I can, I just grab him and move him to the floor, but Dex is an evil genius and will wait until I’m trapped under Theo before climbing up and sprinting back and forth like a madman. Yesterday, it caught up to him.
I saw Dex faceplant into the arm of the sofa and heard the sickening THUMP. Honestly, I want to think he tripped and fell but I suspect he actually dove face-first into the arm, because toddlers do dumb stuff like that ALL THE TIME.
And then, there was this horrible, silent moment when he was face-down, not wailing yet, and I imagined him emerging with a smashed nose gushing blood.