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IMG_0105_2Ten days in, and hanging out at the beach with Peaches and her parents has turned out to be really sweet and easy. I do hold my tongue occasionally or make myself deliberately scarce — like the previous two days, when Nutmeg’s best friend came to visit with HER brand-new baby, and I thought the two new mothers might have lots they wanted to talk about without me horning in — but generally it’s been really easy to not get on Nutmeg’s nerves at all, and she hands me Peaches to hold and cuddle at least a few times a day.

It’s amazing how slowly things move when there’s a one-month-old around, and when there’s not anything you really must do but get her and her parents enough food and enough sleep. I’m trying to get into that nothing-important-to-do rhythm, which Nutmeg and Southpaw have adopted quite successfully — though I did write a couple of short articles this past week for a little bit of money, mostly to remind myself that while Nutmeg might be on maternity leave, I’m not.

I went to free yoga on the beach a couple of times, but I ended up thinking it might have made my ailing knee (a torn meniscus compilcated by arthritis, or maybe arthritis complicated by a torn meniscus) worse instead of better. Same for bike riding, which I did a few times when we first got here and haven’t done since. I walk some, and swim the equivalent of a couple of laps when we go to the beach at the bay, but by and large exercise has not been high on the activities list. The truth is, I don’t know what HAS been high on the activities list — there are so many things I keep meaning to do, various antique-shopping excursions, going to a picture framer, that kind of thing, but the slow pace of everything here at the house makes me sort of dozey, too. Instead I just do a lot of laundry, a lot of straightening up, and a lot of collecting groceries for and then preparing dinner — for the four of us, usually, but also sometimes (like tonight) also for friends of Nutmeg’s and Southpaw’s. I don’t mind the continual flow of their friends, and their friends’ kids, because one thing I really miss about the old days when Nutmeg and Meta were teenagers is the continual flow of young people into the house. And I do want Nutmeg and Southpaw, even as adults, to keep inviting their friends to stay over, because I want them to think of this house as their home, too.

Most of all I want to keep reminding myself that these are lovely, lazy, summery days, and that I should treasure them.

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mother and her baby silhouette, isolated vector symbol

mother and her baby silhouette, isolated vector symbol

We brought Peaches and her parents home from the hospital a week ago last Friday — a kind of difficult undertaking, actually, since waiting in a car in front of a big-city medical center is a dicey proposition, and it took forever to get Nutmeg the “escort” she apparently neded. And then iDaddy and I stayed for a while, holding Peaches, sitting around the apartment, talking a bit, running out to the local grocery store to buy stuff for lunch and help lay in some supplies for the next couple of days.

When Nutmeg mentioned that my brother Avuncular and his wife were going to come over for a viewing on Sunday afternoon, which was Father’s Day, I promptly invited us over, too. “Sure,” said Nutmeg, with no apparent hesitation. But I spent the next day worrying that I had overstepped, inviting myself over to hang around with this new little family at just the moment when they really would rather not be receiving a lot of company. A bagel brunch for four had become, through my unfiltered “Can we come, too?” a bigger deal, brunch for six. If nothing else, I had moved the venue, with my outburst, from the coffee table to the dining table, with all the extra work that entailed.

As I fussed over how to check in with Nutmeg on Saturday to make sure I hadn’t overstepped, and to give her a chance to un-invite us if she felt that I had, an email pinged into my inbox. “Co-working with Peaches” was the subject line, and the email was addressed to both Meta and me. It read:

If you guys want to come some day this week, either together or separately, to work from here and hang out with Peaches,, you are welcome to! (You might be asked to run an errand or hold her while we run an errand or something. But in exchange you can hang out with her on your chest while she sleeps, which is the best!)

The generosity of that invitation, the willingness it reflected to have me actually be there and be a part of their lives, made me weep. I couldn’t even read it aloud to iDaddy without breaking down.  Naturally, I said yes.

So in addition to a quick Father’s Day visit with iDaddy along with Avuncular and his wife (Nutmeg assured me it was fine; she said she expected we’d bring more food than we ate and clean up more than we dirtied, which is how it unfolded), I got to go back on Wednesday for my “co-working with Peaches” experience. I didn’t get much actual work done that day, but who cares. I helped a little with a couple of chores — grocery run again, mostly — and I did get to hold Peaches on my chest while she slept. Nutmeg is right: it IS “the best.”

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bassinetThere’s something of a sense of unreality to Nutmeg’s preganancy, which I guess is part of what it means to be an expectant grandmother rather than an expectant mother. Even when we saw her this weekend for a baby shower; even when we went up to her apartment and saw the little bassinet they’d set up in the living room with its bunch of teeny tiny gifts lined up in an adorable tableau; even when we went to dinner and I sat next to Nutmeg and was able to feel the baby moving, with an intense sense memory of how it felt to be the one carrying the child rather than the one with her hand on the belly; even with all that, I can’t quite picture what it will mean to have a baby in our lives, a baby crying all night long in our house at the beach, a baby AT the beach with us, wearing the delicious little bathing suit I couldn’t resist buying for the present iDaddy and I brought to the shower. (It was a co-ed shower, very low-key.) Maybe this is what it takes to make it super-clear to me that this is not really MY life that’s changing, it’s THEIRS, Nutmeg’s and Southpaw’s — another pivotal “aha” moment in the ongoing adventures of parenting grown-ups.

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images-1The Word of the Day today on the Word Spy web site is niephlings, a new portmanteau that means one’s collective nieces and nephews. It seems like a good idea for there to be one word to mean all those kids, no matter what their gender — though an earlier version of that word, niblings, is a lot more appealing to me. (Word Spy explains that niblings comes from niece/nephew plus sibling, which is something you probably know without having it explained to you.)

This all puts me in mind of how lovely Meta has been about Nutmeg’s baby, Meta’s own little nibling. It’s been wonderful to watch her excitement at her impending aunt-hood — something made possible partly, I think, because Meta so sincerely likes Southpaw (and has always loved Nutmeg). And it’s made possible, too, by something I suspect is true about Meta but have never felt it was my place to ask: that she doesn’t really want kids of her own. This little niece/nibling/niephling/sofralia — or, as we like to refer to her in our mostly-journalist family, TK — will be Meta’s chance for a baby to love and nurture at close range. I’m delighted to see how much pleasure she’s getting from it in prospect.

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c26-B00009YEGL-5-lI had coffee with Nutmeg before work yesterday, and she walked into the cafe wearing a beautiful new maternity dress in an animal print. It was tight and sexy and showed off her fast-growing belly. She looked gorgeous.

“Wow, the world’s largest giraffe,” I said.

Luckily, Nutmeg heard the admiration and love in my voice, and not only didn’t take offense at my comment, but repeated it to Southpaw when she got home that night. And Southpaw, who’s a world-class son-in-law, promptly sent me an email thanking me for giving him the best laugh of the day.

Nutmeg laughed, too, he wrote; “she fortunately has an excellent sense of humor about growing bigger at a strikingly rapid pace.” And then he added a sentence that melted my heart, and made me know that Nutmeg had made exactly the right decision when she waited for a man like Southpaw to come along (ignoring all the “case for settling” messages she was getting from the media – and even, I’m ashamed to admit, from her own mother): “Also that giraffe is the most beautiful pregnant woman, ever, as I’m sure you would agree!”

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ImageIt’s a delicate dance, this parenting of grownups. From the point of view of the adult daughter, I’ve always strived for some distance; I moved out of the house at 16 to go to college, moved out state at 19 to start a new life with my new husband, moved a comfortable 250 miles from home when we decided to start a family. iDaddy and I raised our girls with only an occasional visit from my parents, either at our house (my preference, because then they were less likely to treat me like a child) or theirs.

I knew the connection wasn’t strong enough for Ur-Momma. I knew that, from her point of view, the visits weren’t frequent enough. I knew she didn’t like talking to us only once a week, seeing us only once every few months. But it was pretty much exactly right for me.

Now that I’m on the receiving end of the not-frequent-enough visits and chats, I see how much it must have pained her when I kept her at arms length — at arms length from my life and, especially, from my daughters. Now we see our girls once a month, maybe twice, even though they live nearby. It’s not enough for me, and there’s nothing I can do about it but ratchet down my expectations.

For a while when Nutmeg was single, we saw her often, maybe every week and a half. Sometimes iDaddy and I would take her to a play or out for dinner; sometimes I’d meet her after work for a drink; sometimes iDaddy and she would go together to a football game. During this time, when Nutmeg was about 24 to 28, Meta was married to Wilcoand living a four-hour train ride away. So I didn’t see Meta often, but I was in constant g-chat contact with her — electronic chats that were sometimes even better than chats in real life, in much the same that hard conversations with her during her childhood were often better when we were in the car and she was in the back seat, confessing to the back of my head.

But now Nutmeg has a boyfriend, and she’d understandably rather spend time with him than with us, or even than with him plus us. And Meta has left Wilco and moved to an apartment not far from Nutmeg, where she’s busily — you might almost say frantically — building an incredibly active social life. So even though they’re now both living about an hour away from us by subway, they’re usually too busy to see us when we suggest it.

In fact, the last time I suggested a family get-together Nutmeg let me know, gently, that I had kind of pissed off Meta with the invitation. “Did she ask to get together this much when I didn’t live here?” she asked Nutmeg, clearly feeling hemmed in by our proximity. It’s the kind of question I would have asked Avuncular about our parents (he always lived in the same metro area, so he never knew the luxury of distance that I knew). That’s why it stung. When I used to think, “Why does Ur-Momma need to see me AGAIN?” it was because I felt no need to see her; our connection was fraught, and our contact was, from my end, mostly merely dutiful. So knowing now that Meta bristles at my contact in exactly the same way is terribly painful.

It’s a balancing act, though. Do I not invite her, and make her feel left out? Is that better or worse than inviting her too much, and making her feel burdened? And how much should I really communicate with and visit Nutmeg? We’re both journalists working for the same publication, which makes the balancing act especially hard. I try not to dump my career concerns on her too much — yet a few weeks ago, when I had a couple of assignments I had failed to mention that she had to hear about from an acquaintance, she felt miffed that there was something about my professional life that she didn’t know. Yet obviously there’s plenty about her life that I don’t know — not the professional stuff, which she eventually tells me all about, but the intimate questions I can’t ask, about marriage, babies, houses, plans . . .

As I said, a delicate dance.

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BeRdbx9IcAALhTFMore than three years have passed since my last Momma Loshen post. I can tell how long ago that was by looking at the posts themselves from pre-2010; in those days, I was still typing two spaces after every period, the way I’d been taught to back in junior high. That was before I read the article by Farhad Manjoo in Slate (who since has moved from Slate, first to WSJ and then to the New York Times, another indication of how long three years can be) that told me that double spacing between sentences was totally last-century.

A lot else has happened in those three years, not just to Farhad Manjoo but to me. Most of it has been good. iDaddy and I celebrated our 40th anniversary with a lovely party at our apartment, attended by some of our dearest friends from out of town (two friends from college and their spouses, one wonderful couple from the earliest years of our marriage) and a handful of new friends from around here (a bunch of people from various book clubs,  a few of our favorites from our building), as well as my brother and our girls. Nutmeg, who’s 29 now, has a terrific job in journalism and started dating a lovely guy. Meta, now 33, got tired of being married to Wilco, so about a year ago she took the dog and moved to Brooklyn — where, as far as I can tell, she’s been very very happy living alone, working from home and doing some amazing writing of her own. I turned 60.

Professionally, things have been a mixed bag. I did end up co-authoring a book with Nutmeg, which was a really rewarding experience for me. It led to a very cool book party, mention of the book in a couple of national magazines, and the chance to do a storytelling event with Nutmeg at a bar on the Lower East Side — and then, zip. The book was  a bust in terms of notice or sales, so I’m glad all that really mattered to me was the chance to work with Nutmeg. In the year-plus since the book came out I’ve written a couple of long magazine articles, one of which was killed for no apparent reason by an idiosyncratic editor (who’s since been fired), another of which was published and got its share of accolades, most of them on Twitter. And while I once said, only half-joking, that I’d know I was a professional success if I never had to write another article for a women’s magazine as long as I lived, something must have changed, because recently I’ve been accepting assignments from women’s magazines. At the moment, they’re the only outlets that have come calling.

So for now I reside in the Valley of the Stupid, where I can’t find a good story or book idea to save my life. It’s snowing today, and my drinks date for later this evening has already cancelled, so I’ll stay indoors to read and write and think. Among my tasks will be trying to find things to write about  on this blog — this anonymous, slightly quirky, virtually invisible blog. That  seems like one way to write myself out of this “what-do-I-do-now” quandary. We shall see.

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