This is me: doing the best I can. With my head in my hands. With my voice rising, higher and higher, like I swore I’d never do.
So much gets left out of the parenting books. So much doesn’t get posted on Facebook. The nuances of child-rearing, the flickers and darts, the quirks and crannies.
All the vows I made before children: I will never feed them sugar. They will not watch TV until they’re five. I will only purchase wooden toys. I will never yell.
Sometimes, I think of that when my little ones huddle on the couch, watching Madagascar for the 53rd time. This week. And the couch is a sticky tapestry of spilt milk and Cheerio crumbs. A stray piece of pepperoni peeks out from between the cushions.
There is a vast, vast chasm between the parent I thought I would be and the parent I am.
Right now, it feels like I spend most of my time helping my four-year old son look for the mask and gloves to the ninja suit he insists on wearing constantly. I found him a small, navy plastic bin to put the gloves and mask in, so he wouldn’t constantly lose them. He keeps losing them anyway, and I keep looking for them, over and over like Groundhog Day.
I think: This is my life? Searching for these small, missing pieces?
This isn’t like the reveries I had of life with children. The dreams of round bellies and sweet faces and they will be so loved and sweet and amazing and I will be such a good parent.
And the time spent not ninja-suit hunting is spent hauling my son into time-outs, after he spits at me, growls at me, slaps at me. And I think this is the most abusive relationship I’ve ever had. This is not what I imagined.
There was nothing to prepare me for the intensity, the insanity, the way my buttons would be pushed so many times that they felt worn to nubs, my nerves raw and exposed, dangling like live wires.
This is me: at the end of the day, finally letting my own tears out. Because I think maybe I’ve broken him. I see myself, hunting for his gloves and mask, over and over again. Like how I’m searching for those pieces of my life before children: time, freedom, peace. Or the pieces of the parent I thought I’d be: patient, accepting, fun.
And this is me.
Just when I am ready to sell them to the gypsies. Just when I text my best mama friend to say Hey, do you know any gypsies? How does one find a gypsy these days?
There it is.
With no warning, my son hugs on to me. He presses his face up to mine real close, the way only a handful of people in this crazy life can do. And so close like that, his eyes are a blur, but I feel them, I feel him.
I feel the electric blue cord of love that pulses between us, stronger than anything. So strong I know it will survive death, and I wonder where was it? before he was born. Because that cord is so strong and true that I can’t imagine it having not been here before.
And he feels it too, I can tell from the way he says ‘Mama,’ singsong but sturdy, like the word holds his whole universe, like the word itself is wide enough to carry him. To carry us.
The feel of his shoulders, surprisingly solid, against my forearms. Wasn’t he a tiny baby, just a breath ago? How can time be so fast and slow at the same time?
And I try to take the moment and tuck it into a pocket, or grip it between my fingernails and the fleshy skin of my palm. Because I will need it. Tomorrow, in an hour, in a minute.
This is me: Forgiving myself, over and over again.
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Ed: Sara Crolick