Sun and Storm

“One has to be done with the pretence of being just fine, unscarred, perfectly self-sufficient. No one is.” –Anne Lamott

My children are driving me crazy. My children are filling me with joy. My children are squeezing the life out of me. My children are bringing me to life. The king is dead. Long live the king.

It was winter a week ago, and now it’s summer.

My friend the Internet told me last week that this year’s colour (SINCE WHEN DO YEARS HAVE COLOURS?!) is intuitive violet. Isn’t that pretty? I’m confused, though, because I was pretty sure this year’s colour, based on recent life experience (recent meaning for the past six years) was a cross between urine yellow and fecal brown.

Potty Boot Camp 2018 started last week, and Little Brother was the only, and an unwilling, attendee. We were back from America and the kids’ club at the gym was closed so I figured if I were stuck with LB and The Kid, we might as well make it a productive time. And since I don’t do crafts, then toilet training it was. Which meant three days of housebound bliss (read: despair) filled with confusion, tears, standing piss on the floor, and boxes upon boxes of Swiffer wet. Like, seriously, I should get an endorsement deal. Three days of nonstop Netflix and DVDs, of my stationary exercises (read: hundreds of jumping jacks and a return to my kickboxing days of the late aughts), of never-ending laundry. Three days of disappointment and despair and looking at the clock to determine how early was too early to start drinking. Three days of taking breaks to swim and, while outside, saying things like, “Who wants to wee in the garden?!” Three days of LB proving himself capable of holding gallons of urine but unwilling to empty it where it belonged.

God rested on the seventh day. But LB? He finally got toilet training.

I had given up. I was wondering if we should call the preschool he starts next month and ask just how stringent their toilet-trained requirement is or I just send him anyway and let him decorate their floors yellow and brown. Then, yesterday, he turned and told me he had to wee. Later, he told me he had to poo. I’ve never been so happy to accompany someone to the bathroom. There were dances, lollipops, stickers, calls to The Husband. It was glorious.

But first, I remind you (and me), it was awful.

It still is sometimes. Last night, he dropped a turd in his undies and I tagged out on that one to let TH take over while I stared into the depths of my red wine and listened to Ed Sheeran sing about the past. Meanwhile, TK decides it’s time to rebel against his own training and drop trou on the couch for a golden shower. Today, it was LB’s turn to show ass in the barbershop chair.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not just always something, it’s always a bunch of somethings mixed together in a cocktail of alcohol and dirt, glory and pain, joy and disappointment. This is what life looks like, even though when I look back on my years in New York I seem to remember only good times without hangovers, dates without assaults, shopping without near-bankruptcy. I think it’s deeper than a grass-is-greener thing. I think it’s an inability, or unwillingness, to contain nuance: to make space not just for the intuitive violet but for the shit brown. We will polish those turds until we think we see the vague hint of a sheen and then keep polishing if it means a happier report or better Instagram rendering. But we won’t sit in the mess, in the standing wee, and admit that sometimes things just suck, and that this is just as vital a part of the story as what doesn’t.

Shit and love go together. Who knew? And why didn’t they warn us in the life manual?

I would like to now mention that I have spent a solid month with my kids–their summer break so far. That I’m writing this at the dining table while Paw Patrol plays a few feet away. That last week an electrician apparently let a bird in our house and it shit everywhere (because we didn’t have enough of THAT already). That I probably have PMS because this morning at the gym a Sam Smith video came on and I was reminded of how much I want to punch him in the face to make him shut up.

But I would also like to mention that it’s summer here. That I’m staring out at a harbour while my children (for the moment) sit quietly beside each other. That they’re both smashing their swim lessons. That the three of us go into our pool every day. That all of this makes it so different from last summer, when I was sitting on a hot deck feeding them iPads so I could drink rosé by myself and cry over This Is Us because I was on the precipice of a depression flare-up.

This summer we have friends over, and while their kids played outside with mine and we talked over wine, one of them asked me if I was able to relax while all those people were over. I feared for a second that she had spotted my butt sweat. I started to respond with the shiny turd answer: “Sure! It’s wonderful!” Then I ventured closer to the truth. “Oh you know…sort of…” Then a storm interrupted and we all gathered the kids inside and watched it from the window.

The next night, another storm. TK huddled next to me, all “Keep me safe” between ventures toward the window. The clouds were awful and beautiful, violet and yellow, and they made for the most glorious sunset.

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