Working in news, you have to be detached, even jaded.
You must be bitter, hardened and borderline soulless.
People cope by making dead baby jokes and cracks about crackheads.
I am just as guilty as the next guy.
But, there are days when the stories we cover feel absolutely unbearable. The weight of cruelty crushes your spirit. The injustices, the death of innocence piles up and blinds you to the good in the world.
Today was one of those days.
An unthinkable crime. A father clutches his 5-year old daughter to his chest, lifts her up, then throws her off a 60-foot high bridge into the frigid water to her death.
I first read the headline when I woke up at 5:30 a.m.
It was easily shoved into the back of my brain as I worked out, showered, got dressed and drove to work.
Then, I arrived at work and had no choice but to listen to the coverage of the story. I could feel the tears begin to well up.
Then, I see the first pictures of the little girl. Her name is Phoebe and she’s a cherubic little blonde.
Then, I hear the owner of the daycare she attended talking about how she was terrified of water.
Now, I can’t STOP crying.
The terror she must have felt. Did she survive the fall? Did she struggle to swim? What went through her mind when she realized her own father had just sealed her fate?
MAKE IT STOP.
I could say this makes me want to rush home and hold my children. It does, but it doesn’t make up for the gnawing sorrow in the pit of my stomach, the grieving for a child I’ve never met.
The worst thing I’ve ever had the urge to do to my own children is drop an F-bomb in front of them.
This is unfathomable.
I did see a wonderful post on Facebook where a man similarly darkened by the cloud of gloom suggested everyone use it as an opportunity to post one thing they love about their child.
Just one? Impossible!
I love that my son randomly pets my arm while we sit together on the couch, then looks at me out of the corner of his eye and smiles so I will know that it’s no accident.
I love that my daughter asks every night if it’s my turn to put her to bed and when it is she shouts “Yesss!” and runs to hug me.
I love that my son really believes that if he wears Batman pajamas that he IS Batman.
I love that my daughter demands we call her “Flash.”
I love that my daughter wants to cook me with every night and when that’s actually a realistic option, she squeezes my legs and says, “I love you, mommy.”
I love that my son comes to his sister’s defense when we say she’s being naughty. “Alma’s not bad. Alma’s good!” (Even when she was in trouble for hitting him.)
I love that my daughter asks me if I’m “okay” when I lose at a game.
I love that my son doesn’t just give you a half-assed hug when you ask for one. They’re long and warm and heartfelt.
I love that my daughter is under the impression she can run incredibly fast when in reality it’s more of an awkward sprint.
I love that my son can’t sit still for more than a few minutes before asking, “Wanna play ball?” or “Want punching time?”
I love that my daughter asks a million annoying questions and when you finally give her a real and complicated answer, her eyes get big like her mind just got BLOWN.
I love that when she asks my son for a turn politely, he hands over whatever is, no matter what it is and without argument.
I could go on forever… and now I feel, only slightly better about the world, but fantastic about MY world.
Holidays are never normal in my family.
I think it’s a safe bet that they’re never normal in ANY family.
My family celebrates holidays days after or sometimes before the actual holiday.
I work in news, my mother works in news, my brother and sister-in-law work for the TSA.
The news never stops and neither do travelers.
This year Thanksgiving was the day after Thanksgiving.
The drive to my brother’s place in Orlando was tolerable, despite the refrain “Are we there, yet?” (I eventually said, ‘yup, we’re there. We’re hugging everyone hello and sitting down on the sofa for a chat. CLEARLY, WE’RE NOT THERE YET.’)
My clan was the first to arrive, so I was unabashed in my dash to the kitchen to make a rum and Coke. My husband went for the moonshine.
This is not a euphemism. He brought a jar of moonshine. (smart man)
It wasn’t long before my mother arrived and launched herself head first into the kitchen, sweating off all her makeup and slaving over the hot stove.
Her boyfriend starts slamming moonshine with my husband, partners in crime.
Before the buzz wears off, I’m belting out Frozen songs to backup my niece when she forgets the lyrics.
I pile my plate high with carbs, a move I will regret when I see the pictures from the event later. (untag, untag, reevaluating ethical stance on lipo, untag)
My daughter gets two outside time outs in the span of an hour. During the latter of which, she inched dangerously close to the gator-infested lake and said, “I don’t want to be anywhere near you!” (I resisted the urge to reply, “The feeling is mutual, but alas, I can’t temporarily dispose of you.”)
Just when my buzz starts to wear off, someone sticks my four-month old niece on my lap and my holiday celebration is OVER.
Let me preface this by saying she is the sweetest, most relaxed infant ever. She’s a far cry from my babies, who were inclined to spontaneously toss their heads back and crash to the floor. She’s so strong she can stand for several minutes while you hold her hands. She holds up her head like a champ. She’s adorable… and the very last thing I want to be holding for over an hour on Thanksgiving.
There is the panicky feeling of being responsible for such a tiny human being that ISN’T mine.
There’s the horror of feeling like for only a moment, I once again have a newborn.
I will reiterate: I adored being pregnant. Childbirth was by no means “a blast”, but an experience I would suffer through again with enthusiasm. I would even consider having more children, if my current ones weren’t complete hellraising, demon seeds.
My niece is a peaceful little pile of cuteness.
My babies were belly-aching, crappy breastfeeding, perpetually crying, never napping monsters.
They had RSV, lactose Intolerance, cradle cap and mystery rashes.
As they grew older, it was MRSA and lice and fifth disease.
My son is about to turn 3 years old and he’s too terrified to poop in the potty.
His butt cheeks are like vice clamps.
If there is ever a day when I don’t have to wipe the crap out of that little muscle bum, I will throw a party.
Not kidding. An entire celebration dedicated to diaperless life. There will be confetti, shot out of a bum-shaped launcher.
After countless minutes bouncing this pleasant little girl on my lap, she starts to get wiggly and obviously hungry.
It’s my big break! I will be able to recapture my buzz with a quick stiff drink!
I report to my brother that his progeny is in need of sustenance, waiting for him to alert his wife that it’s time to secretly whip out a boob.
He hands me a bottle.
The holiday wraps up after my son lays a couple of noxious turds in his diaper, my grandparents massacre the bathroom with their own excrement and everybody is suddenly feeling painfully sober.
I hold my breath to give my (literally) stinking grandparents a hug goodbye, always wondering if it will be the last.
I don’t want my last memory of them to be clenching my teeth and plugging my nose. Instead, it would be my grandmother asking me twice what my daughter’s name is during a 5-minute conversation.
The drive home from Orlando is hell.
We hit bumper-to-bumper traffic because of an accident.
My son is sobbing for no apparent reason, which all but guarantees he has an ear infection.
Then a tree frog lands on my thigh, scaring the bejeesus out of me. (I can’t make this up.) I watch the dang thing wobble across the dashboard, dragging around one of Alma’s hairs, perching, poised to jump on my husband’s face causing the crash that will kill us all.
I was thankful for being back at home.
Oh, and for my husband, who still managed to provide much levity with his drunken shenanigans.
As I held my new niece for the very first time, I marveled at her perfect little face and how fragile and tiny she was. I was impressed by her full head of hair and the tiny lips already poised to smile in her sleep.
Then, I was relieved that she wasn’t mine.
Maybe it’s because the entire drive to Orlando, my children kept throwing their respective Spiderman and Hello Kitty balls on the floor of the car and whining that I needed to pick them back up.
Maybe it’s because my daughter wouldn’t stop yelling and waking her little brother up once he finally fell asleep.
Maybe it’s because my son threw a temper tantrum in the hospital room and started kicking me, then his Nana and then anyone in his general vicinity.
Or, maybe it was watching my daughter cower in front of her own family, melting into nothing because she was uncomfortable about the presence of a baby. She chose to peer out the window as if there was nothing more fascinating than the rooftop of the building next door.
Maybe it’s the dozen times this past weekend that I had to peel soggy undies over my son’s little legs. (along with a couple chunky poops) To say he’s regressed is an understatement. We’re starting from scratch.
Maybe it’s the previous day when we made the mistake AGAIN of going to the beach. We chose a closer one, but that didn’t stop my daughter from complaining about the duration of the trip.
Once we set up our mobile beach home, it wasn’t the sound of waves crashing on the shore or seagulls that filled the air.
It was, “There’s wind in my eye!” “There’s sunscreen in my eye!” “There’s sand on my hands!” “I want my shoes on!” “I want to go in the water!” “I want to go on the sand!” “I want more oranges!” (“We’re out of oranges, honey.” “I want more oranges!!!!”) “Put me deeper in the water!” “Take me closer to the shore!” “My belly hurts!”
All I could think is THANK GOD I have a week off coming up for my birthday. My plan was to have several days of “me time” with stress free trips to the beach, naps and reading for more than ten minutes without passing out from exhaustion. Then, we were going to do our first weekend without the kids since they were born. Stay at a hotel with a pool, drink too much, sleep too much and remember how much we actually enjoy each other’s company.
We drop off the kidlets at my in-laws after the beach so we can grab a couple of adult beverages and drink off the feeling that having kids at all was a giant mistake.
The first thing my mother-in-law says is that they’re heading to Vegas to celebrate their anniversary… the weekend of my birthday when we were going to get away. I die a little inside.
While having drinks, I tell my husband that life will get easier once Huck gets potty trained and that all I need is several days in a row where I can really work with him.
Big mistake. Now, it looks like instead of a staycation, I will be cleaning up piss and shit for a week. Can I just work instead?
So, yeah… that new baby smell does NOTHING for me. I’ll just use baby powder.
The cute itsy bitsy clothes? I’ll buy Alma a doll.
The thrilling feeling of bringing another human being into the world? Been there, done that, twice.
Maybe I would feel differently if one of my kids had been a dud. Maybe we hit the jackpot of batshit crazy and annoying. Maybe we’re not strict enough. Maybe it wouldn’t feel so difficult if I didn’t have to wrap up a shitty weekend and head back to a wretched job.
I love my children, but they are the little sticks of dynamite that have blasted my biological clock.
All that’s left are gears and cogs, tears and daydreams.
Congratulations to my big brother and his wife… and good luck with that.