We just talk and take in the view.
This morning, outside The Kid’s classroom, a couple of other mums and I were left behind once the two single-file lines had chaotically climbed the steps and retreated from outdoor play to begin indoor learning. “I just hate when our mornings begin like this,” one of them said, recounting the day thus far, which included a slowpoke child who wouldn’t listen to instructions and some responsive voice-raising and regret. We commiserated together over these guilt-laden moments, and pronounced gratitude for children’s short memories.
I’m having these conversations daily, it seems.
All the mothers I know are doing a bang-up job with what they’re given, which is to say imperfect kids and imperfect selves in an imperfect world, but we are, without exception, beating ourselves up at points along the way. If not the entire way, managing doubt and regret along with grocery lists and dinner prep, carrying guilt while folding the laundry, our children on our minds whether they’re with us or not. It’s a weight that’s as impossible to fully share (thanks, biology) as it is to elucidate for others, namely, the men in our lives who often try to understand but–and we love you, but it’s true–never fully will. Not without lying on the bed or operating table themselves, being cut open or squeezing out, and enduring the mind-blowing and never-ending explosion of hormones and body changes that accompany the miraculous act of giving birth. It’s an incredible gift and an isolating endeavour, and we’re trying to find unifying moments with others even as we often feel we’re doing the bulk of it alone.
So how’s everyone else’s day going?
I realised yesterday morning how much of my life operates under the thumb of fear, and how it turns me into a creature that can’t sit still but is always one moment, or hour, or day ahead, and how hard this makes parenting, and life, for me. How an afternoon stretching before us with just me and the kids (hell, an hour) looms like a spectre and that this is something I do to myself because underneath it all is the fear, the anxiety, of having to fill that time and make it matter; how NOT to populate it with my mistakes. I am afraid of myself, of hurting them by raising my voice or misinterpreting some outburst or just not being enough, and I’m so tired of the way this fear follows me around without my even seeing it. How I’ve somehow come to accept it as just the way things work. Motherhood, these moments, they should be a gift, right? So a friend asked the other day, and I counted yet another layer of guilt we’re putting on ourselves: the guilt of not enjoying every. damn. minute.
It should be a gift, and it should be magical, and also? Some of it really sucks. And I am of the firm belief that we need the space to recognise those moments, the sucky ones, just as much as the sepia-toned ones, not only because this is honest, but because it makes the magic more magical. I’ve found myself saying it lately, (hopefully) inside my head in those moments when I look at what is happening and think to myself that if this were any other job, everyone would quit: “God, this sucks right now. I mean, REALLY SUCKS.” Most of these moments involve poo, FYI. But not all.
TK won’t shut the fuck up. Isn’t it cute? Weren’t you right, whoever you were who told me for those four silent years that one day I’d long for a moment of quiet? And yes, there is value in recalling those days, those moments when I would have given my left nut for the word “Mommy,” and now he says it constantly. And I hear it now, and it both soothes my heart as it makes me want to hide in the closet with a bottle of wine, because it is a reminder of need. And I’m not so good with others’ need. WELCOME TO PARENTING, ASSHOLE! you may say, as you whisper, “I told her so” under your breath about the talking thing, and if so, sorry, I’m all out of wine but you can have a tall glass of shut the hell up because I’m WORKING ON THINGS here. Motherhood, like health care coverage, ain’t that simple and you don’t get past the hard part. So on the way to and from school, my formerly wordless boy asks a million questions as I wonder which one will turn me from Patient, Responsive Mommy, Fount of Knowledge and Wisdom and into Cruella Bitchface Mommy, on the local news at 7 tonight. Some of these questions are so brilliant and yet without answers, as while I can tell him what makes up a Happy Meal, I’m not sure I can explain an Angry Meal or a Sad one (some help, McDonald’s?). I grit my teeth as he sounds off again while lying in bed, and I’m imagining my hot bath and my own bed, both so close yet so far away, and then I realise these are the moments that are scaffolding his young childhood and AREN’T I AN ASS.
With some friends last week, I asked for encouragement. For prayers that I would just enjoy my children. Just enjoy them.
Later that day, TK and Little Brother were gabbing away in the backseat. An actual conversation, not exactly regarding nuclear physics, but interaction nonetheless, and I gave myself a moment to stop ruing the podcast I couldn’t listen to because this was a moment I had, once upon a time, dreamed for. We got to the parking lot and TK whined because we were going to the beach first instead of the playground, and I wanted to scrap the whole thing and retreat to the closet. A few minutes later we were finally on his playground and I ran between the boys, helping LB up the slide and swinging TK, and I saw a path in the distance. “Want to go on an adventure walk?” I asked them, and they giddily assented as though it was the best idea they’d ever heard. “What will be there?” asked LB, and within a second had answered himself: “We get to find out!” As the sun set, we climbed the hill that overlooked the water. “WowEEE!” TK exclaimed. “This is the view!”
This is the view. This expanse ahead of us, with the climb always there too, the falling down and skinned knees and expletives and regrets, and the view. They ask about the sunset every day, remark on its beauty, and they notice it because I showed it to them, and I am doing so many things wrong but there is this: somehow there is teaching that has occurred outside the grandiose plans I once had that now litter the wayside along with the too-small, too-easy dreams of the past, and within their death is the seed that is growing into this. The reality of what is. The view before us. They are recognising the narrative within which our lives operate, the story of a grace that walks uphill with us, that stops alongside us when we’re hurt and acknowledges the pain, that provides sunrises and sunsets and rainbows to remind us it never leaves. That teaches us, is teaching them, to see.
What’s next? We get to find out…together.