I see you there in your yoga pants with the hole in the knee and the baggy milk-stained t-shirt. I see your unwashed hair pulled back in a pony tail. I see the bags under your eyes.
I see you shoving Cheerios at the baby strapped into the stroller to keep her quiet while you try to read your book.
I saw you barely glance up when your little boy cried, “Look at me, Mommy!” from the top of the slide. I heard the exasperation in your voice as you told him, “Not right now.” in response to his request to be pushed on the swings.
You stayed right there glued to your book.
I see you.
Other people see you, too. The older grandmotherly woman across the way shook her head in disappointment when you barely acknowledged the dandelions your son offered, clutched in his grimy fist.
And the perfectly groomed Pinterest mom with her perfectly groomed toddler has rolled her eyes at you at least a half dozen times, as she hovers, coddles and shadows her dimpled child all over the playground, thoroughly engrossed and involved with her toddler’s every whim.
I can almost hear her silent judgement, “What is wrong with you, Lady? Put down the book and pay attention to your children. They are growing up right before your very eyes. You should savor Every. Single. Moment.”
But I see you.
Not just the worn down look and the exasperation, either.
I know that you are here for just a few minutes of reprieve.
To lose yourself between the pages of your brain-junk-food-novel instead of being constantly lost in the unfolded laundry and the random piles of Legos and the incessant needs of your wee ones.
I have been where you are now.
Barely maintaining my frail grasp on sanity and sense of self, tired from sleepless nights of teething and nightmares and stomach bugs.
I’ve been pulled to my wits end by temper tantrums over car seats and week-long refusals to eat anything but macaroni and cheese and wild, desperate hunts for that one missing shoe when I’m already running 15 minutes late. I’ve answered the same question what seems like 50 times and longed to not have a child constantly attached to my leg, my hip, my breast.
I see you.
And I see the you that Pinterest Mom and Grandmotherly Woman just can’t seem to see.
I see the you that reads Goodnight Moon five times every night because it’s the only way your son can fall asleep.
I see the you that rocks her teething baby until her arms are so tired she thinks they might fall off.
I see the you that kisses away boo-boos and bandages imaginary bruises with magic Sponge Bob Band-Aids.
I see the you that sings to her babies in the car.
The you that creeps into their bedrooms at night just to watch them breathe—just to marvel at the delicate spiderweb veins that spread like lace over their sleeping eyelids.
The you that strokes their hair and whispers, “I love you to the moon and back” in their ears as they sit on your lap.
I see you.
I understand that you are there for your children and that is why you so desperately need to be lost in that book, for just a few minutes to step back and breathe and recharge your own batteries.
You’ve come to a safe place where your kids can be distracted by monkey bars and Cheerios so you can temporarily pretend you aren’t Mama.
I understand that this time on the bench almost, but not quite, ignoring your kids is what will keep you going for the next few hours, for the next few weeks, for the next 18 years.
So you read that book, Mama. Lose yourself for just a few more minutes before you’re lost again in the monstrous yet beautiful task of raising your little ones. You aren’t alone in this.
I see you.
I understand. You’re doing a wonderful job.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Alice Jones Webb
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock