It’s Monday morning and yet again I have found myself sitting behind the bathroom door barricading myself from my two boys. Two minutes is all I need to sift through the chaos of mornings with kids and choke down just enough coffee to make me look like I’m not suffering from terminal illness.
As I sit here savoring every second of my grope-free escape, I hear our dog howling as my boys get louder. They’re yelling (as boys often are) not because they’re in distress but because they’ve learned that volume garners reactions, and it’s apparently hilarious to see steam come out of my ears once they reach their peak decibel range. They don’t understand that I am only human and am only built to withstand giving so much of myself to them before there’s nothing left of myself to give.
They don’t understand that we can’t have cookies every morning for breakfast and chicken nuggets every meal thereafter; they don’t get that diabetes pretty much sucks and that chicken nuggets don’t really have a place on the food pyramid. They don’t understand that I’m not trying to feed them green beans because I think it’s hilarious to see them gag, but because it’s kind of necessary for them to grow and thrive and do the ninja moves they so love.
They don’t quite grasp the concept of helmets or broken necks or gaping wounds, so when I yell at them for doing cannonballs off of the couch onto the hardwood floors they suffer from broken hearts instead. They don’t get that at this current phase of their life broken hearts are better than broken femurs. They don’t get why we can’t run around in the streets, or why they can’t play with their dad’s table saw. They don’t understand that knives are sharp and stoves are hot, so playing with either of those is completely off the table too. They don’t get that I do what I do because I love them, not because I’m an evil, fun-hating, sugar-stealing dictator.
They don’t know what it’s like to feel like everything they have to give is somehow still never quite enough, but I do.
I wake up every day with the best of intentions, but still go to bed every night promising myself that tomorrow will be a better day. I feel every tiny victory, every twinge of defeat, every high and low, so deeply that every day feels like a sink or swim situation. They don’t get that sometimes I do feel like I’m sinking, but for their sake I will always choose to swim.
They don’t understand the weight of any of this right now, but one day they will. One day, they’ll have kids of their own and they’ll realize that convincing them that tomatoes aren’t the spawn of Satan will be one of their life’s greatest battles. They’ll realize that routine bedtimes are boring, sure, but having kids who sleep properly is pretty much a gold mine in the world of parenting.
They’ll understand that wine does indeed have healing powers and that it’s OK to want to dive into a bottomless box of merlot sometimes. They’ll realize that mental stability is occasionally fleeting and that sanity is truly one of life’s greatest virtues.
They’ll know what it’s like to feel everything with every fiber of their being and to wonder how it is that days can be so drudgingly long, yet years are so painfully short.
The other day I was grocery shopping on senior discount day (horrible day to shop, by the way) when the in-store radio started to play “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” by Britney Spears. I got chills. Sure, I was standing in the frozen food section, but to hear a song that I previously thought was so incredibly fucking stupid and for it to suddenly speak volumes to me was kind of terrifying and moving at the same time (also, a little ridiculous—I mean, come on, Britney Spears? Really?). So, there, next to the pizza and the pot pies, amid an aisle full of senior shoppers, I had what some might call an epiphany—a horribly timed and seriously embarrassing epiphany.
I realized I’m pretty much winging motherhood every single day. I laugh and cry and try and fail and win all in the span of 24 hours every single day. What I understand now is that that’s totally OK. My shit may not always be completely together, but I’m gathering it more every day. That’s also OK. It’s OK to question and doubt every single decision I make, and it’s OK to celebrate unapologetically when I get through just one day without combatting any massive meltdowns.
My boys don’t understand any of what I’m feeling right now, but eventually they will. They’ll see that life can be so intensely terrifying and maddeningly beautiful all in the very same moment that it can leave you breathless. They’ll get that life can chew you up and spit you out, and that they won’t always be able to make sense of it and that attempting to make sense out of everything will never result in omnipotence. They’ll understand the act of coming of age is a lifelong process and that they may never actually get to the point where they’ve got things figured out, but just caring enough to try to figure it out is enough. It’s more than enough.
I’m still figuring it out myself. It’s not their time to worry or question or critically overanalyze every single thought that comes into their heads just yet. It’s time for them to make a mess with their Cheerios and dance to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse song, and it’s time for me to come out from hiding in the bathroom.
So here I am just two minutes later—ready to swim again.