First Solo Day

Shall I regale you with my theory that when one’s dear spouse (and pointedly, in absentia perhaps even dearer co-parent) goes on a trip (book fair, in this case) the first day can either go deceptively smoothly—thereby lulling you into false security that you can manage x number of days with x number of children on your own justfine—or the first day simply sucks—thereby conjuring the mantra things can only go uphill.

Actually (yes, I’ve lived with a real-live toddler recently so actually is very much part of the vocabulary) things were going relatively okay for quite a while. By 9:30 that first night, the little gal was sleeping in her crib and her two middle brothers were ensconced with me in a good old game of late night Yahtzee. Both Lucien and I were being creamed by rack-up-not-one-but-two-Yahtzees-Remy. We were all laughing and having fun. Soon enough, Remy was asleep and Lucien was downstairs with his just-returned-from-rehearsal elder brother.

Add, freaked out, pumped up on adrenaline teen (they don’t call the week of performance hell week for nothing). Never been through hell week? Just substitute a little teen-dom here. Finally, fall asleep oh solo mama. Just don’t get comfortable. Forty-five minutes later, have the girl toddle to your overcrowded bed and say, “I want a bottle. I want a snack.” Say is an overly generous term. What I mean is wheedle, whine, insist, kvetch. What I mean is regardless of what she’s asking for my answer was no to my getting up to get bottles or snacks. I handed her a sip of water. “You want a snack or a bottle,” I threatened—threatened, I’m not gonna lie—“you go to your own bed.” She took a sip of water and stayed.

A few hours, a few wakeups, plenty more pleading for bottle and snacks; three kids plus one parent on a queen sized bed (not babies, a tween, an eight year-old, that whiny three year-old and an adult) equals too many people on said bed. Put another way: a memorably, remarkably terrible—ahem, *cough*—sleep. Or more accurately, it was a memorably, remarkably terrible quote-unquote “sleep.”


Although I have no idea how I pulled it off, the kids made it to school on time and without meltdowns and I got some work done and managed not to lose my cool entirely (barely held on) when Saskia just couldn’t or wouldn’t calm down enough even to rest. Everyone got to the places they needed to go. Thanks to kind and generous pal Julie, even Lucien’s backpack—left at her house during karate—made its way back home.

During karate and capoeira, Saskia and I stopped at Addy’s house to meet her brand-new baby brother. Yes, I’ve become one of those women whose baby days are done and will show up and simply hold the baby (as I did with A’s younger sis when she was tiny). As one friend said to me on a new baby visit to hold tiny little Saskia, “Babies are so grounding.”

They so are.

So much so that I barely took note of the fact that newly minted middle sister was chasing after her big sis and pal and being thwarted each and every time. Birth order, it’s a real thing (she writes, channeling Annie Hall: la-dee-dah).

Although she willfully helped Addy ignore her sister and hit Addy besides, the truth of the matter is Saskia knows a thing or two or three (three, because she’s three!) about chasing after the bigger small people. She did so just this week, with Remily (that’s Rem and Em).

Just because she’s trying to keep up and to be a big girl in underwear (doing better and better on that front), she’s also really into being a baby, either Addy’s sister or her newborn brother. She’s discovered the tiny toy pacifier attached to a doll’s outfit. She’s also named the plastic pull-toy dog we’ve had since Ezekiel was a tiny tot—Sparky, after Emily’s family’s dog.

Here’s to her sleeping like a baby (not like a newborn, please, a baby that sleeps is what I mean). Here’s to the things going uphill part. And here’s to new babies mesmerizing us all (and grounding us, indeed, grounding us).

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

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