Tuesday, July 10, 2007

No Move is Good Move: A Primer on What My Problem Is, Part III

If you're new to the No Move is Good Move saga, you'll find part one here, part two here, and part three here.

To add to my mounting panic over our nest-less existence, those were the months that marked the beginning of the end of Sophie’s career as a baby who slept like, well, a baby.

From her second month of life, Sophie sleep in her crib, every night, from 6 PM to 6 AM, and that was the problem: We had it too good. “This is it,” Alex and I said, congratulating ourselves during quiet, unhurried dinners, “we’ve got it made. She’s a sleeper, thanks to our stellar parenting and undeniable good looks.”

We moved to Boulder. Two weeks later, we went to Mexico. Two months after that, Sophie broke her collarbone on the babysitter’s watch, an episode that disturbed us much more than the bout of pneumonia she caught about as soon as her tiny bones mended. I would put her in her crib and stroke her head, either for an hour or until I’d rubbed off a good portion of her hair—whichever came first—and try and make dinner before she was able to figure out that she had accidentally fallen asleep. There would be night terrors sometime between midnight and one, and at least three other teary awakenings on a bad night. She would ask for—demand—milk each time she woke, and by morning, had drunk enough to add up to a volume that justified keeping a cow on the premises. And as if there was something a mere doctor could do about it, Alex and every relative I have implored me ask our pediatrician for ideas.

“You moved?” asked the pediatrician, as if he’d never heard such nonsense, “Oh, well.” He wrote the word “moved” in Sophie’s chart, and said,“That’ll do it.” He told me that a move can mess up a baby’s sleep schedule for as long as six months, and so can an illness, an injury, and a big change in routine, like starting day care, which she did in between bouts of the Bird Flu. Accepting that we’d sent our daughter’s schedule straight to hell in a basket bearing a nice pink bow, I told Alex to buck up. “We’re never sleeping again.”

Of course, I was wrong. We would sleep, but with a child in between us who apparently was dreaming that she was executing a triple axel toe-loop combo. In exasperation one morning, Alex looked down at the two of us in bed, Sophie occupying ¾ of the king-sized bed by lying diagonally, her feet in my face, and said, “This must end.”

We all deal with challenges differently. I usually hide under the covers of whatever bed is available with a box of strawberry Pop Tarts (frosted). Alex threatens to help, usually in the most condescending way possible, which is what he did the night he suggested, “Do you want me to read a book on this stuff or something?”

“Sure, go nuts,” I said. I went to my office and retrieved a half-dozen books with so many bookmarks and wrinkled Post-It Notes thrust between the pages that they resembled little paper porcupines. “Which philosophy do you want to subscribe to?” I asked him. “There’s Ferberizing, there’s the almighty American Academy of Pediatrics.” I tossed them onto the coffee table as I summarized. “On one end of the spectrum, there’s Dr. Weisbluth and his all-cry-all-the-time approach and the Sears clan at the other, who openly come right out and ask you, ‘What’s up your ass? Jesus. Just take the kid to bed with you.’” I shrugged and said, “I’m paraphrasing, of course.”

It was out of the kind of hand-wringing, hair-pulling, crazy-making, all-encompassing desperation that only severe and extended sleep deprivation can cause that I’d turned to the experts in the first place. Knowing that they’re just trying to help while they make a good living, I know that there’s a problem with relying too much on them. The problem with experts is that you can’t really call them up at 3:24 AM to say, “The best thing about not sleeping is that Bosom Buddies is on now.“ The problem with experts is that they may or may not have changed their minds about something they’ve written between having written it and having decided that maybe it would be better just to give the kid a big slug of whiskey.

The problem with experts is that, while I’m listening to the second half of an hour’s worth of screaming and crying that will no doubt escalate to the kind of wailing that eventually culminates in a vomiting jag, the good doctor is probably in his study, deciding what to bring to the next Rotary Club potluck. Just as he’s asking the shadowy figure of his wife in the doorway, “Do you think Swedish meatballs are too salty?” I’m wondering if it would be wrong to just put my head in the oven, next to the dinner that’s four hours late.

And then, of course, the problem with experts is that sometimes I just want to do things my own way. Because sometimes, unlike a certain ’80 sit-com, I like to think I know exactly who the boss is. (Of course, I’m almost always wrong.) Bossing aside, I do believe that ninety percent of the time, we know what to do with the crises in our lives, no matter how big or how small they are. We can trust our instincts, we can trust ourselves. Although she would win any day of the week in a cage match against Major Houlihan from MASH, and although I often wonder if astronauts can see the stick up her ass from space, the pediatrician’s nurse took me aside on Sophie’s fifth day of life, and told me that she had some advice about advice. She poked me square in the chest and said, “Now that the baby’s born, everyone wants to give you advice, but the best advice is already built-in. It’s in you.” She was telling me what I had already concluded after years of near-disastrous dates and relationships and experiences. Those experiments in substituting my judgment with someone else’s have served me well in the form of painful lessons that hold up over time. Nurse Ratchet with the Rave home perm reminded me that there’s hard-won wisdom in me, and damned if I was going to forsake it because I’d spend $24.95 on some yahoo’s thesis.

To be continued, unless you beg me to stop.

Monday, July 2, 2007

No Move is Good Move: A Primer on What My Problem Is, Part II

If you're new to the No Move is Good Move saga, you'll find part one here, part two here, and part three here.

With just a few days between closing on our house in Ned and not having any place to live at all, I found what seemed like the last house in town with a yard and a short-term lease option. We moved into a pea green shack, the last one that hadn’t been razed or remodeled right in the center of Boulder County’s most expensive zip code.

We liked pretending that we were, like the bumper sticker says, keeping Boulder weird. We liked pretending that we were the bad element on the street that was keeping property values down. We liked pretending that we were representin’, that we were keepin’ it real and sticking it to the man, forgetting that it’s all relative. To some people, we are the man. But it was an easy act, considering that the historical mansions and monolithic homes occupying every square foot of third-acre lots hovered over us in every direction. Across one street sat a ten thousand square foot building that had been converted from an old schoolhouse into a single-family home. It was stunning, yes, but it had no driveway, much less a garage, which meant that after driving your Bentley home, you were parking your rich ass on the street, dahling. On the other corner, a palace that looked like a resort hotel—a dark one, as the family who owned it was rarely there. Not only does money not buy love, it looks like it doesn't buy good sense, either.

We laughed when we realized that were not used to getting fully dressed before going outside to flip the burgers on the grill, but according to our new neighbors, Rick and Kitty, neither were the last people who lived there. “We didn’t care they were naked, and neither did they,” said Rick in the thick Long Island accent that refused to resign even after fifteen years away from the coast. A few months later, Rick was bitten by a raccoon during his evening dog walk, thus ending the lesson that Boulder was already plenty weird without us.

The truth is, that million-dollar Boulder cracker box that we rented was where we reconnected with the old friends who dreaded the winding canyon drive to Ned. It was where we walked to dinner dates on the Pearl Street Mall, and found a preschool for our little girl—a place where she felt loved and appreciated and safe, and where her teachers called her Soaf without us telling them that's what we called her. It’s where we made new friends walking down the street; I guess even multimillionaires take their kids out for some fresh air now and then—on the days when they’re not having it imported on the backs of chinchillas, that is.

And when I wasn't marveling over the neighbor who went to jail for installing the wrong kind of garage door (at least she had a garage), I was looking feverishly for a permanent home for us in Boulder. The sticker shock was unbearable, and eventually, so was our REALTOR. A whole spring season of house hunting later, she was pulling all the stops, using all her powers, to sell us…something, anything to rid herself of clients so demanding that they wanted a house that was actually standing for their three-quarters of a million dollars.

“Well, it’s nice and all,” we practically said on our last outing with her, “but this house is on fire.” And she just about said, “Oh, ALL the houses in this neighborhood are on fire. I live here, and two of my bedrooms are on fire right now. You have to give up something if you want to live in this neighborhood.”

And she was right. We did have to give up something: Her.

Stay tuned for the conclusion, part three of No Move is Good Move: A Primer on What My Problem Is, coming next week. Probably.