I used to be known as a nice, kind person--generous in spirit, sunny and optimistic.
Lately, some days I can still pull off “kind but firm”. Other days, I really understand why some species of animals eat their young.
Picture it: 8:30 am on a Sunday morning. Children sitting companionably together on sofa. Mother smiling as she clears breakfast table, suffused with dreamy images of familial harmony, enjoying moment of quiet joy. Father outside, good-naturedly shovelling snow in uber-macho manner.
Seconds later, older child starts teasing younger child mercilessly, taking a favourite toy and holding it just out of reach. Screaming ensues. Frustrated younger child belts living daylights out of older child and tries to sit on her head. Screaming ensues. Younger child given harsh scolding and sent to naughty corner. Screaming ensues. Older child loudly chastised for teasing little sister. Sulking ensues. Older child grumps off to bedroom only to discover that younger child has, at some point, sneakily unearthed box of Secret Treasures from its hiding place and Touched Everything. Screaming ensues. Mother screams at everyone to stop screaming. Younger child, liberated from naughty corner, stomp-runs away at high speed and catches side of forehead with full force on corner of bookshelf. High-decibel shrieking ensues. Mother makes multiple, futile attempts at holding squirming and distraught child still enough to administer bag of frozen peas to massive purple egg-shaped contusion. Phone rings loudly and insistently. Smaller child is still shrieking uncontrollably; panicked mother pictures a hospital visit, head injuries, concussion. Older child finishes sulking and coolly re-enters room, inexplicably having removed all clothes except underpants. She observes the situation; judging from her neutral reaction, apparently everything is perfectly normal. She suddenly demands to know (in tones loud enough to be heard over little sister’s shrieking) what vitamins are in milk, how do tv shows get to our tv, and when are you going to wrap the present I am taking to Best Friend’s birthday party today? Older child commanded to wait 5 minutes until crisis at hand is under control. Older child bitterly accuses parent of dividing attention unevenly between siblings. Younger child stops crying and imperiously tells big sister to shush. Big sister has spectacular meltdown. Little sister starts crying again.
Less than TEN MINUTES of concentrated life with children, and already I am wondering how I’m going to make it through the day.
I love my girls so much. I wanted them desperately, and I still do.
Some days, though, I am completely overcome by the frenetic, frustrating minutiae of daily life with children. I know difficult moments are fleeting and will pass, I know I just need to remain calm and deal with it and allow the ebb and flow of life to take its course, but sometimes, secretly, I just want to give up. I just want it all to go away. In those black moments, I don’t want to be anyone’s mother any more. I don’t want to be responsible for anyone but myself and my own selfish needs. I find myself wishing to go back in time to when I was a carefree twenty-something who washed and blow-dried my hair and carefully applied makeup every morning, had long, chatty brunches with girlfriends on Sunday mornings, and prided myself on being able to handle multiple responsibilities with consummate ease and a smile on my face. I mean, my twenty-something self would even buy special lingerie to wear for her husband on his birthday.
I love my girls so much, but dammit, parenting is hard work. It’s hard to get right, and it’s even harder to know whether or not you’ve actually managed to get it right. It saps my energy and my patience and my confidence like nothing else. It challenges my inner resources beyond what I thought were reasonable boundaries. At the worst times, forging ahead with the day is quite literally a minute-to-minute challenge.
* * * * *
I wrote all this in a surge of emotion this morning (after my husband returned to the scene, took a look around, and - God bless him - told me to hide in our bedroom for an hour and have some time to myself). Of course, right now, as I read back over the rush of truth that poured out of me just hours ago, already my girls are making a liar out of me. One has set up her doll house furniture all over the coffee table and is endearingly letting Sylvanian Families rabbits take turns on the toilet (“Here you go, little one! Pisssssss!”) The other has just fired up some Maroon 5, and is shouting “I got the moves like dragon!”
No way could I ever do without them, and no way do I really want to go back to the days when I only dreamed about having them. They are hard work, but the very best things in life are those that are worked for the hardest. I am also pretty sure that, for all my whining, if I had to I would do my DARNDEST to find further, even endless resources within myself to help and protect and fight for my children through the most serious or challenging circumstances. We all know that we could and would, and my heart goes out to parents have already done just that - parents who really know what it is to give their absolute all to save their child from illness, hunger, danger, or evil.
My secret, dark thoughts of throwing in the towel are, after all, only thoughts. They are fleeting. They too will pass.