A Planet With Two Suns

Tatooine is a planet with two suns.  It’s always hot there.  And dry.   – LittleMan, on Indian Summer

Our apartment gets freakishly hot this time of year.  It’s a long space, with south-facing windows along one side (no cross-current), and when the sun hangs low in the autumn sky it feels like it’s sitting right on our deck, beaming straight into the livingroom.  I love the light — LOVE it — but with so many outward signs of the changing seasons (longer shadows, shorter days) the warmth feels…stubborn, somehow, like Nature dragging her feet, and it can make me impatient: I’m ready to wear fall clothes, to slow cook rich stew-like meals, to see persimmons at the farmer’s market.  And I’m tired of sweating my way through the school run.

In the early mornings, though, the air is cold and the skies are darker.  More appropriate for anticipating pumpkin carving and turkey eating and, eventually, the holidays.  Throw in a cup of Trader Joe’s Winter Blend and the kids sleeping in past 6:30 and I’m in heaven.

I took a walk on a recent Saturday when the sun had barely risen.  It had been a long week, in our second month (!) of potty training Babygirl, with illness cycling through the family.  It was only a matter of time, of course: new school year means new friends means new germies and new colds.  An annual tradition, right up there with class pictures and the trip to the pumpkin patch.  In any case, to be outside in the chilly air, alone, felt cleansing.  I walked south-east along the Embarcadero, against the traffic heading towards the Ferry Building farmer’s market until it all thinned out around AT and T Park.

It’s hard when the kids are sick.  Hard because I love them and I hate to see them suffer.  Hard because they are cranky and don’t always have words for what ails them.  Hard because it’s messy, because they are caked in snot and sometimes throw up (or worse).  Hard because we can’t make them comfortable, can’t feed them, can’t help them sleep through the coughing.  Hard because we have to take days off work, and that stresses us out, and we squabble and feel powerless and resentful.  Hard because the kid staying home is miserably sick and the kid sent to school is miserably jealous.  In the grand scheme of things I’m fortunate that a dehydrating case of diarrhea is about the worst we’ve had to get them through, but still…it’s hard.  Decompressing from the week, I muttered to myself as I walked, the sun on the horizon ever-present in my peripheral vision.  Even at dawn, I wore a pair of absurdly oversized Costume National sunglasses.  I have a look to maintain after all.  And obviously, parenthood has turned me into a crazy lady.

In the beginning, there was LittleMan: the first son (sun), the first grandchild, the first nephew, the first godson.  The sole heir to the collective love and attention of our family and our village.

And then there was Babygirl.  Strapped to my chest, smiling and agreeable, but with every passing day becoming more and more (and more and more) aware that this is her world too, dammit, and she who screams the loudest is going to get heard.  (And she who sneaks up under the dining room table to snatch a Lego is going to get shared with because Mommy will make it so.  And she who is smaller will get to ride in the stroller while the bigger kid walks.  And she who flutters those eyelids and flirts her way into extra crackers is going to have more success than he who demands them without saying please.)

I have often joked that the experience of having a second child is like entering into a life-long tournament of “Which Child Am I Neglecting Today?”  In any given hour I am ping-ponging between them, meeting demands, soothing hurts, pre-empting catastrophe.  I am the Arbiter of Fairness, the Provider of Snacks and Water, the Final Word on Television.  I am the Time-Keeper During Time-Out, the Finder of the Buzz Lightyear Band-Aid (“NO!  Jesse!”), the Tattoo Artist-in-Residence.

I will confess to relying increasingly on chocolate to get through the afternoon.  And to bowing down deeper and deeper to single mothers who don’t have husbands coming home at exactly the right moment.

This is why I spend remarkably little time at home these days.  Don’t get me wrong: the peaceful evenings are my favorite.  The radio on, LittleMan doing a Lego and Babygirl coloring in the kitchen while I cook dinner…sigh.  But the peace is so tenuous, so closely tied to boredom and hunger and the crayon breaking and the Lego brick not being the right shade of gray, that I generally find myself bundling everyone off to the park, or to the grocery store, or to the laundry room with its benches and tall tables, or really anywhere that is equally engaging for all parties involved.  (Or equally boring — fair trumps fun.  Sad but true.)

The most painful insult hurled at me lately is LittleMan’s rarely, but effectively, employed: “You love Babygirl more than you love me.  Because she’s little and cute, and I’m not anymore.”

OH my God, no no no no no no no no!


“That’s not true,” I reply as calmly as possible.  (Sometimes I want to add, “You BOTH make me NUTS!”  But I don’t.  And for this I give myself some small credit.)

The truth is, of course, that I love them equally, but differently, and for different reasons.  They are not the same; they are profoundly independent creatures, actually: ying versus yang, introvert versus extrovert, reserve versus charm (though both clever, too clever).  All that matters to me is that they both bring something fascinating to the table (to me, at least, being their mother), and parenting them is equally challenging and fun, requiring equal amounts of creativity and patience and fortitude.  And wine.

The truth is that I am a planet with two suns, suspended between two opposite gravitational pulls.  These orbs flood my life with light and warmth, but I cannot orbit around one too long before the force of the other disrupts my path, draws me back to the middle for a while and then, with a strong tug, into a new course.  I live lately in this giant figure-eight of a trajectory, spinning between delight and tears, satisfaction and frustration, waiting for the calm in the middle space.

Of course, today it is raining, and I am happy for the cool shade.

(With special credit to George Lucas for somehow becoming a primary reference in the great thesis of my life as a mother.)



  1. hey nice post mehn. I love your style of blogging here. The way you writes reminds me of an equally interesting post that I read some time ago on Daniel Uyi's blog: It's Important To Appreciate What You Have .
    keep up the good work.


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