You really need to start blogging regularly.
You need to explain to your daughter that sleeping more than two hours at a time is more than acceptable at this age. It’s just what people do, so grow up already.
You need to start drinking heavily.
You need to stop leaving the toilet paper on the holder, because every time you turn away, Sophie has unrolled it, a tattered white streamer billowing across the expanse of the living room.
You need to pay bills, return emails, and make more money.
You need to shave your legs and go to the dentist and get a haircut.
You need new workout gear, new summer clothes, new shoes, and new makeup.
You need to laugh more, have sex, and buy a lawn mower.
You need to read poetry and novels and take a real vacation.
You need to teach Sophie the alphabet and find her some fucking playmates so she will stop whining at you.
You need to stop saying, “I need to,” “I will,” “I’m going to,” “I must.”
You need to get your damn dog from Chicago and befriend every vegan so your book can become a best seller.
You need to stop eating peanut butter. Really, this time. And stop eating so many fucking vegan desserts.
You need to find a good gym, stretch, and stop saying fuck so much.
You need to take out the fucking trash and stop looking forward to The Bachelorette as though it’s the most important thing you can possibly do on a Monday night.
You need to go to the farmer’s market, plan a real book release party, and get some vitamin D.
You need to get up, sit down, rip that spoon from your daughter’s mouth while she’s walking, clip those talons she has for fingernails, comb her hair, and figure out what that rash is on her leg.
You need to meet more moms and use your damn backyard.
You need to stop taking pictures of Sophie and start taking pictures of the entire family, because one day, you will regret not seeing this haggard, happy version of yourself.
Every time I look at my daughter’s face, as she blows kisses, as she smiles and rests her head on my lap, I am pigeonholed by love.
Seeing Sophie at the ocean for the first time, her pale, pebbled toes sinking beneath the pearly sand, her alabaster legs being swallowed by sea foam, her bright eyes squinting from the harsh sun – it was magic. She took to the water without fear, dipping her body in, being lifted and nursed and fed fresh, sweating plums beneath a yellow umbrella.
On vacation, I read only one book (a paltry number, considering I brought seven). I did not sleep in once. I worked out daily, I cooked and bought groceries and did laundry and cleaned. I spent time with five other members of my family and watched as they all bonded with Sophie.
I paddle boarded with my brother and then with Alex, both of us rising early to take to the ocean, a glinty fin darting by my board upon first entering the ocean.
I stalled and turned to Alex. “Um, there’s something in the water,” I said.
“No shit,” he replied.
We made our way out into the surf anyway, suddenly too far out, as I struggled to turn and look back at the distant horizon of the shore. A gaggle of onlookers was gathered in a tight knot, all of them motioning frantically for us to come in. All hands were shielding their eyes, shaky salutes of morbid curiosity and Floridian concern.
Apparently, we were surrounded by sharks, as they traversed across the sea, right in our path. I felt my body tremble and struggled to stay on my board as I dipped my paddle into the water.
Behind me, I heard a splash. Alex had fallen in! With sharks!
I kept moving forward.
We flew in toward the shore, every man for himself, and rode the small waves in as people ran to us, informing of us of the obvious: We were out there with sharks!
I felt exhilarated in a way I hadn’t in years. No thoughts of diapers or to-dos or nursing or what we’d eat for lunch. I just had to figure out how to get from point A to point B without dying: my simplest task in over a year!!!
“I fell off!” Alex exclaimed, as he caught up to me. “And you just left me!”
I blinked. “I didn’t want to startle you. Or get eaten.”
“But you left me! You didn’t even turn around to see if I was okay!”
“You’re here, aren’t you? Would you rather your daughter didn’t have one parent or two? I was just saving myself.”
I placed my hand over my mouth, tasting the salt there.
It’s been so long since I’ve thought about saving myself or doing anything for myself… couldn’t he give me this? Wanting to escape the shark-infested waters without losing my balance while I strained to see him flailing in the water? I resisted the urge to tell him to work on his balance as we returned to our spot on the sand, Sophie tucked tightly in my father’s arms.
“We made it!” I said.
I stared out at the empty expanse of ocean, not a soul in its greenish blue claws.
We waited ten minutes.
“Want to go again?” I asked.
Alex looked at me, a grin lighting his tan face. My heart flipped.
“Yes,” Alex said.
Together, with our boards and a bit of bravery, we stepped back in.