There are so many books (and schools of thought) on being a parent. Do this, don’t do that, I know you thought that was good (but TURNS OUT IT’S NOT, SO STOP RIGHT NOW.) No timeouts, no saying “no”, and discipline more (but not too much). You must be calm at all times, so you should snort a tablespoon of lavender and stuff your bra with coconut oil and kale. Channel your inner zen, so that even when your kid is screaming like you are a stranger trying to abduct them (but actually they’re just mad you won’t buy a Elsa flashlight), you can smile and say, “wow, I can see you are really upset about this”. Instead of, you know, throwing them in a football hold while they pinch your arms with their razor nails and beeline it for the car, where you wrestle them into their carseat until sweat drains down your saggy boob crevice (formally known as cleavage). You can then listen with empathy as they scream at you (not slam the door while they rage and cry and avoid eye contact with Merle and Eddie who are holding hands and walking into the store like a Norman Rockwell painting) .
When I was in high school, I used to stress every time they asked the question; what are you going to go study in college? I’d heard the same question my whole life; What are you going to be when you grow up?
It had been a long list of maybes since I was little. I wanted to be a garbage truck driver, a singer, an animal rescuer, Tara Lipinski, a zoologist, a counselor, an artist, or a nurse. I wanted to be a writer or own a coffee shop. I wanted to be a rockstar or a comedian or a traveling doctor. Deep down, I really believed the sky was the limit. I could be an astronaut if I wanted, but Apollo 13 made me feel like I probably didn’t. I thought it would be cool to be the first woman president, but I didn’t care much for politics.
Once upon a time, a boy was born. He was chub and giggles and endless screaming in the middle of the night. He was 8lbs, 15oz of squish. He was walking before we were ready. He was sweet hugs and cuddles, and tiny hands scratching my back in the wee hours of the morning when he came into our bed.
Someday that little bundle will be a man.
Some days I’ve been guilty of expecting too much from you too soon. I’ve been guilty of wanting you to mature faster. I’ve been guilty of wishing away some of the hardest seasons. I’ve been guilty of wanting to fast forward through the difficult times like postpartum anxiety, late night feedings, and tantrums that seemed like they would never end.
I wished it to go faster in the moment when I was exhausted and fragile and doubting my own strength, but my love; I don’t ever want you to grow up.
I’ll never be ready for the day you walk out the door to start your own life.
We had three…and then we had four. Everyone said number three was going to be the hardest, but for whatever reason, it felt like smooth sailing. I think I started to think I knew what I was doing.
Then we had four. Everything about number four was different. She was a wild card: our firecracker, our flaming arrow. She let her will be known from the womb; every time the midwife gently flipped her head down, she flipped right back up. At five months, she started standing in her crib. At seven months she started climbing out. The husband lowered the crib to the lowest setting and built extra railings to make the sides higher, but still she conquered every barrier like a tiny ninja. I started googling “safe lids for cribs”, hoping CPS wouldn’t come knocking on my door. One night she climbed out and got in bed with her sister, and it turned out that was all she wanted.
They say you never get this time back, and I wish that wasn’t true. When I look through old pictures, my heart feels almost broken. I wish I could jump into that photo just for a second and hug that little body again.
My son is three inches shy of my height, but once upon a time he was a dream in my heart; once up on a time he was a baby on my hip. Once upon a time he was toddling around our coffee table making us gasp whenever we thought he might trip and fall on a corner.
They say to enjoy every moment, and I didn’t. I couldn’t. I didn’t enjoy every moment, but I loved the season.
As a mom, I fail often. I fail more often than I’d like to admit. I don’t think I make it through one single day without snapping about something I regret, but I love you with my whole heart. I hope you know that.
I hope that my love settles deep into your bones; and even though I don’t always get it right, I hope you know in your core that I would give up everything for you. I hope you know that I would take on the world for you. I hope you know that when I look in your eyes, I see my moon and my stars.
Sometimes I ask you if there are any crushes in your life. You predictably roll your eyes and scoff at me, “MOM, NO!”
I grin at you, “Okay well, let me know.”
You probably won’t let me know anytime soon, but someday I hope you do.
I hope you know I’m a safe place when it comes time to process crushes, awkward dates, and heartbreaks. I promise to listen more than I talk. I promise to be your ally, your confidant, and your friend.
Friendship requires sacrifice.
There, I said it.
I have met and talked to a lot of lonely people lately, and let me tell you it breaks my heart because I remember those days like I remember the smell of burnt popcorn. That memory is never going away, and when I think about it the ache it throbs like it was yesterday.
“Don’t compare.” I say to myself as I make reluctant eye contact with a mom at school drop off with brushed hair and a smile that makes me feel like I need to go back to bed. “Morning,” I say as my kids fall out the door with mismatched socks and a rough case of bedhead. I reach over the seat and snag a rogue candy wrapper that flutters to the ground in the wind of their exit.