There are times, not terribly infrequently, where I feel like I’m looking up at an enormous tidal wave that’s about to rush over me. There’s nothing I can do about, no time to move, no place to seek cover, so I just stand there, anxious and horrified. For the most part, this feeling comes in the context of parenting. It’s not necessarily because of the boys but it is related to them and how much they need. The needing, asking, talking, touching feels so, so constant sometimes, like an uncomfortable skin I cannot slip. On top of what I must provide them is a marriage to maintain, a dog who would be my conjoined twin if that was an available option, friends to see and talk to, volunteering to do, cleaning that never seems to end. Nowhere in much of that is me- the sleep I need to get, the books I want to read, the silence I crave, the cooking I would prefer to do in a patient and quiet manner, the no one needing a damn thing from me.
As you’ve probably surmised, my kids wake up early and hit the ground running. By 9am, I feel like I’ve worked an overtime shift herding cattle (children) while also serving as a voice-activated reference book. I know I’m supposed to enjoy these years when they think I know everything rather than poo-pooing my insights as will come as the teen years near, but I really don’t, and I sure don’t know everything, not least about some of the things they MUST KNOW NOW. Without much childcare, I have found that when I expect I’ll get some quiet time (naps, school hours, etc), I depend on it more than I know. When it’s snatched from me (O won’t nap, someone gets sick, there’s a school vacation I forgot about, etc), I realize how little reserve I’m always running on, the proverbial fumes to the nth degree.
Yesterday, I was to deliver two cakes downtown during Ol’s nap. A friend was going to come over and stay here while he slept so that I could scoot out. He didn’t nap, I had to finish frosting the last cake with him underfoot, and then load up the car and him and head downtown. It was all totally fine, but I realized just how much I wish I could count on the little things, like the damn nap. And when last night finally arrived, there was still all the laundry, the Valentine’s treats to wrap and ready, the dog had never been walked and so on. When Tom told me he needed to work late, I was like, hallelujah, take-out and the couch, here I come. I was asleep by 9, and the whole thing began anew today.
I haven’t even begun to put together our dinner, and I know T wouldn’t even care if I didn’t. But it’s Valentine’s Day, and he’s leaving first thing in the morning and won’t be home until Sunday. Remember, there’s that marriage that needs to be maintained- not to mention that making dinner is actually something I want to do. I haven’t walked the dog, haven’t exercised, haven’t seen the paper, haven’t even had a glass of water since our playdate this morning. It’s just overwhelming, you know?
-originally published on 14 February 2012
Adrenaline is really a fascinating thing- the way it can rev you up and keep you amped, completely obscure the awareness of fatigue, literally make you feel like an Energizer bunny. But when it subsides, the sensation of hitting the tired wall is really intense. I’ve been drawing on my energy and adrenaline reserves too frequently lately and am definitely feeling depleted.
Since the boys started school, I have been repeatedly struck by how insanely busy May and early June always are: end-of-the-year parties/meetings/gifts/presentations/etc; the rush to complete everything before the proverbial bell rings and the summer winds blow everyone around like scattershot seeds. Looking over my calendar for the next couple weeks is nearly terrifying, so while I try to stay on top of things, I also try not to peek at it too often. Oliver appears to have come down with a cold which means the things I thought were on tap this weekend will very likely need to be rescheduled or changed, and the sleep I hoped to get delayed yet again.
I sometimes wonder if the light at the end of the parenting tunnel – when they are out of diapers; when they’re both in school; when they’re X or Y years old;…- is nothing more than a mirage we all persist in believing is there. It has to get easier, right? But if the oft-repeated adage that “the bigger the kids, the bigger the challenges” is true in even a small way, “getting easier” is really just relative. The issue from last month is simply supplanted by a new one.
Around Mother’s Day I wrote (or meant to write) that I felt like a stasis had settled happily in our home. Why do I put those sentiments into the ether? I should keep them deep inside where no jinx or hex can mar them. I swear to you that said stasis went whoosh, whoosh and away not real long afterwards. Oliver, always such an amazingly easy child, has since turning 3, finally reached his “terrible 2s”, a typically standard delay in boy years. I know this too will pass, but jesus, I miss my little honey pie sometimes. He can be so damn bad, so unlikeable in his worst moments. As can we all, but being the one who most often witnesses the ugly AND is tasked with teaching him and Jack to handle themselves in ways that consider and respect others so that they aren’t repellant young adults and grown-ups, well, it sure feels like a shitty deal at times.
Just another thing about parenthood that no one ever really says: that more than you might want to know or admit, you will not like your own children sometimes. Often, you can’t even come close to fathoming loving any human more than you do each of your children; at other moments, you really want to time-share them a bit. And so you reach back in to the reservoir, hoping there’s enough energy or adrenaline for another day, another week, until some stasis settles back over you all like a veil of amnesiac happy dust.
Parenting is such a gamble in some ways. You hope that your good decisions and best moments will outweigh your mistakes; that the kids ultimately realize that you were trying your very hardest even though you stumbled; that when they’re older and in relationships, they’ll understand and respect why you refused to give them absolutely everything because then you’d have nothing left for your own partnership and self; that not making it all about them really was in their best interest; and that when they’re big and grown and gone, they’re never really gone too much or too far because you know you’ll miss them terribly.
-originally published on 1 June 2012