Mommy of the Year
Well, it finally happened. I’ve discovered BoJack Horseman. I’m only 3 seasons late to the party.
I’m not sure what part of that show seems okay to watch around a baby, but truthfully, my brain is like, “It’s a non-violent cartoon. You’re good!” I’m doing my best not to binge watch — though I’m not sure it would be the worst thing in the world… just probably not the best use of time.
Whenever I watch TV these days, the kid is either on my lap, being bounced around and talked to, or is sitting on the floor in front of the TV, on his baby-safe 3/4″ thick foam mats, playing with educational toys, completely ignoring everything else. Sometimes, he sits in his rocking chair – but that’s usually when he’s sleepy.
I’ve read a lot of articles recently that say that TV for a kid who is less than 2 years old is harmful, and I have yet to see anything that convinces me that we actually need to turn it off. The only reasons I’ve seen have been that it stops personal interaction… but 9 times out of 10 when the TV is on, I’m taking care of basic life functions. Momma’s gotta eat and use the bathroom…and sometimes, she’s gotta make the baby a bottle. He wouldn’t be getting my attention at those times anyway.
Plus, our TV acts like a big computer monitor. If I want to listen to music on Spotify (which I do, like, all the time), that screen is on. How else is he going to be able to rock out while he’s in his jumparoo?
Anyway, the point of this entry wasn’t to wax philosophical on screen time. I started writing because I had all manner of thoughts and feelings while watching BoJack last night.
Who Am I, Anyway?
For those who are uninitiated to the story of BoJack Horseman: the show is about the adventures of a character actor who is living in Los Angeles years after his popular TV show ended. It’s dark at times. It’s existential as hell. And it makes me think about my life.
When I moved to Los Angeles in 2005, I was pretty clear on who I wanted to be. I had an undergraduate degree in music business from Berklee College of Music under my belt, and I was attending the only law school in America that had an LL.M program in entertainment & media law. The “dream” was to work in Hollywood for the little guy — to discover the best new music out there and help make sure the artists didn’t get screwed by bad contracts. I also thought it might be fun to help people make indie movies. And if that didn’t work out, I wanted to be an agent. Essentially, I was hoping to be Princess Carolyn — the kind of no-nonsense workaholic that makes the entertainment industry run.
Being a mommy has its perks and its annoying bits — but more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself looking at my son (who is inevitably either covered in some bodily fluid or grabbing at whatever wire he can find), thinking, “Is this really my life? Is this who I am now — the girl who wipes up poop, constantly gets screamed at, and spends her whole day focused on the happiness of a person who can’t even verbalize his needs?”
In short, I momentarily feel sorry for myself because my baby is a baby, and being a mommy is a tough gig.
When I was watching BoJack yesterday, though, I had to laugh a little… because I realized that, really, I’m feeling the exact same frustration that I would have had if my life had never veered off course because of MS and seizures… and there’s a sort of poetic justice to that.
I mean, entertainment attorneys are constantly cleaning up someone else’s messes and attempting to care for emotionally fragile artists who can’t adequately communicate their needs. I didn’t mean to, but apparently, I’ve been preparing to be a mother my whole life. This is pretty much what I was made for.
Don’t get me wrong — the show makes me nostalgic as hell. I miss Los Angeles. I miss my friends from there, and all of our wacky shenanigans. I miss the beach and the farmer’s markets and being able to tell myself I’m going to a bar or a party for professional reasons… and I desperately miss the smug feeling of superiority that comes with thinking, “I’m actually part of the entertainment industry.” (Translation: “I am cool, and my taste as an artist/taste-maker matters.”)
And sure, since I’m writing a blog for entertainment purposes, I could try to cling to that feeling… but let’s be real, I have a very small audience, and I’m fine with that. Happy about it even, because it means both that I have no need to be fake or to shill anything, and I know that the folks who are reading genuinely care about me. (Love you, Mom! Love you, Adam!)
Role-Modeling Like Woah.
The only frustrating question that I haven’t been able to shake is this: How do I teach Henry how important it is to follow your dreams if my only aspirations are to see him (and hopefully his future siblings) grow up healthy and happy, and for our family to flourish?
Best as I can figure, the only way I can be the role model for Henry that I want to be is to make personal growth a priority. Regardless of how much time mommying takes up, (and it takes up most of my time) I’ve got to make time to do all the things that make me, as an individual, think I’m cool. I can’t forget who I am.
I’ve got to keep singing and writing songs and listening to new music. I’ve got to keep learning. I’ve got to make myself practice guitar and piano, no matter how much my loss in skill feels like a punch in the gut, and I’ve got to spend the money for fabric and sew, because I want to make curtains and clothes. I’ve got to spend more time in the kitchen cooking healthy recipes that sound delicious, because variety is the spice of life. I’ve got to set aside time to write every day, and I’ve got to keep working out. I’ve got to play more games. I’ve got to cultivate whimsy.
But more than any of that, I’ve gotta show him (and myself) that seizures shouldn’t get more attention than they deserve, and that I’m still me. I’m still awesome and fun. I can still be someone I like.
7 years ago, near constant seizures ripped my life to shreds and stole my identity. I spent years on the couch or in bed, afraid of hurting myself. I stayed out of the kitchen and away from knives. I stayed away from the gym or even working out at home because I was afraid of overheating. I stayed in the house because I was afraid of seizing in public, especially if I was alone. Well, I don’t have the time or emotional energy for that fear anymore. I’m done with it.
The question isn’t whether I’m going to seize or not, anymore. It’s how I’m going to handle it when I seize, randomly. It’s sitting with the knowledge that it’s going to happen almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day. It’s accepting that neither the doctors nor I have any idea what causes them or how to make them stop. It’s become about gracefully enduring them. I’ve started to think of them as long, annoying sneezes or farts.
I’ve done a lot of work to get to the point where I can continue having a good day even when dealing with post-ictal confusion. I’ve got protections in place like an ID bracelet, a playlist of songs that helps bring me back up to date, and I don’t hesitate to sit down whenever I need to. I have alarms on my FitBit to remind me to take my medicine twice a day, every day. I’ve got email reminders to eat breakfast and lunch. I’ve got more than one “in case of confusion” letter written to myself, stashed in more than one location. I’ve taken responsibility for my happiness.
So now, it’s time to stop giving the seizures more attention than they deserve and instead give that attention to myself and my family.