I have found that one of the most challenging aspects of motherhood, especially as my boys get older, is how often, deeply and concurrently I feel both sides of any given issue: a desire to run away for time to myself/wanting to squeeze them and hold them close; feeling immense frustration with how long they can take to get something done/wanting to respect their personalities and appreciate that unlike adults, they don’t go through their days in a frenzy; feeling bored to tears with another round of X, Y, Z/recognizing that time is flying and they are growing up; etc.
I often feel both lucky beyond belief that I have these two darling, bright, healthy boys and bound in difficult and frustrating ways.
I feel unbelievable exhaustion in some parts of the child-rearing process but also enormous pride in the individuals they are becoming.
I daydream of hours in which no one pesters me about whether or not Canada has its own space program or why the Bob the Builder doll isn’t holding a hammer, but I also know how often they make me laugh like crazy or tear up because of something dear.
If you look hard enough into Oliver’s insistence that “I only want Mommy to change my poopie diaper,” you see that there’s certainly some manipulation but mostly just love for and comfort with this lady who’s always there, willing to sing a goofy song about how stinky the poop is so little buster doesn’t squirm off the changing pad.
If you witness Jack’s burgeoning independence and assertions of self, you see some unattractive attitude and behavior spout from a little boy -who just moments before was really cute- struggling to become his own self and handle the messiness of that maturation process. But if you saw him snuggled next to me in bed just an hour later, you’d realize how young he really still is and how tiring it must be to grow up and out.
To hold these experiences in the light of appreciation is at times much easier said than done. When I fail to do so, I sometimes feel both guilt and disappointment. I question why I’m not better able to take things in stride, why I don’t always have enough patience, whether or not my pushback against their demands is fair. We all hear about mothers who seem to have endless interest in every nugget of their child’s life, endless patience for all aspects of parenting. They want to practice attachment parenting to the extreme! Even though I don’t, and am quite confident in that, I do sometimes struggle with the why behind it.
I love watching my kids happily scamper into school, go nuts on a just-arrived beloved babysitter, eagerly stay the night (or nights) at their grandparents’ with hardly a wave goodbye to me. I feel that these responses demonstrate that they are independent, confident and know that love comes from a multitude of sources. But it can be hard not to compare ourselves to those gals who never put their kids down, to question how we’re doing when we praise or discipline, to worry if the kids will make some bizarre connection in 20 years that you didn’t love them enough because you sent them to Camp Grandma for a weekend.
The spiral of emotions that can result from these whiplash-inducing queries adds another layer of difficulty to parenting. As your kids get older, you find that the emotional aspects of parenting are every bit as demanding -perhaps more so- as the physical stamina it requires. If you have more than one child, add to your ‘bag of challenge’ the toughness of parenting kids who are (probably) wildly different in some, or many, big ways. And let’s not forget that we‘re still individuals too, with lives that are dynamic, evolving and, in some ways, independent of the kids we’re raising.
I think all this is why I’m finding it increasingly important to have time away from the boys on occasion. That space enables me to reclaim the feelings of luck and love that get easily tamped down by fatigue, noise and struggling to juggle what often feels like an impossible number of balls. I’m still growing up and out myself and want to honor and engage in that process as much as possible. I want the boys to see that “parents are people” -Jack is currently obsessed with Free To Be, You and Me; I highly recommend you all pick up a copy of that CD and let your child go to sleep with it on as J does; great messages, Marlo and friends!- and that at all stages of life you should invest in others but in yourself too.
-originally published on 23 April 2012