My motto is “Parenting kicks your ass”.
I don’t like the lies that moms tell each other. About how things are always so wooonderful, and their kids are the perfect mix of “May I please have another helping of broccoli” and creative Crayola genius.
Parenting kicks your ass. My kid has gotten up around 1:30 am every night this week. Why? Because we took the bars off his bed, and now he can climb out. (OK, they weren’t really bars. They were two huge pieces of wood that my husband lovingly sanded/painted/nailed into place so that Max couldn’t
escape fall out of his ‘Big Boy Bed’.) This is not reflux waking him up. This is being 2 years old waking him up. How do I know the difference? Because he quietly climbs out of bed, walks over to the wall and turns the light on, and tries to open his door. And when I come downstairs to save him put him back in bed, he looks up at me and says “Hi Ma! I awake!”.
Yes my love. And now so am I.
But you know what I’ve noticed in the last few weeks? Shhhhhh….I’m going to tell you but you have to promise not to tell anyone.
You know when you had a newborn who wouldn’t stop crying and you couldn’t breastfeed him and you felt like a failure and you got really mad when the other mommies in playgroup were wearing skinny jeans and cooing over their 3 month olds who never vomited? OK, maybe you don’t remember, but I DO. When everyone said “Oh honey, it gets better?” You know how you were terrified to screw up? And remember when everyone you spoke to/sat down next to at the doctor’s office/pushed your grocery cart by said “Chin up Mama. It gets better”! Remember when you realized that you had to figure out how to feed your kid solids, and that meant that you were responsible for THREE SQUARE MEALS a day, and holy crap, what if I forget?? Remember when you said this to your pediatrician, and she said “You’ll figure it out. It will get easier.” And you wanted to punch her in the face? Remember that?
Remember how you secretly wished that your kid would barf blueberries all over her? Just once. Just so your waaaay too calm and collected doctor would see that it was NOT better and NOT easier, thank you very much now go FUCK yourself.
Well, I have a confession to make.
I’ve been riding this train for what feels like a really looong time. And it’s been going very fast. It hasn’t been stopping at all of the usual stops, and sometimes I look around and feel like I’ve known these other passengers for a lifetime. And it just pulled into the station. And the sign outside says that we’ve finally arrived at “Better”.
Don’t tell anyone, please.
But it IS better.
You want to know how I know?
I know because Max put my socks on his feet the other day, and we laughed together because it was hysterically funny. And then I laughed even harder, because it’s delightful that he’s old enough to get the joke.
I know it’s better, because he found a new hiding place right here….
and to get here he has to run down the block screaming “I hide in the PLANTS!” and then he makes a hard left and runs DIRECTLY into the bushes.
I know it’s better because I am able to see the beauty in moments like this…..
and I don’t just see the sand, or the sunlight dancing across the tops of the perfect California waves. I see my gorgeous boy, with his toddler potbelly sticking out proudly. I see how his little pants leg is rolled up to his knee, and his hat is on backwards so he can see when he runs. I see how the stick is actually some kind of lightening rod/sword/power drill, because of course it is, when you’re 2.
And I see that Daddy is the picture of perfection. He is our missing puzzle piece, and when he is with us, our family is complete. And my heart is whole. And everything that I found frustrating or annoying or anger-inducing during the week, suddenly melts when I see this….
I spend a lot of time here talking about the tough things. I do it because I made a pact with myself after everything we went through in Max’s first two years. I promised myself that I would be honest with my mom friends about how hard this is. I want to encourage all of you to talk about what kicks your ass everyday. And I’m still going to do that. Because it’s important, and it’s REAL, and it’s the only way that we can fight back against the lies that only serve to make us feel inadequate, guilty, less than.
But not at the expense of forgetting to have a conversation about everything that is RIGHT.
Max has been asking “Can I help you?” He has started using a “big boy cup” to drink. He loves bathtime. He has trouble prounouncing some sounds, so he says “I be-got!” (I forgot). He is learning some funny phrases, like “Did I do that?!” “How about that?” and “I didn’t mean to!”
Today I kissed his eyes, and his hands, and his toes. We laughed together. He told me “I had fun with preschool. I made my challah.” Except he called it “Pah”. But I understood.
And even though I had to bribe him with a bowl of goldfish crackers and the Cars movie so that I could have 20 minutes to write this blog post, I wanted to make sure to say today that there IS a place called “Better”. It ebbs and flows. Some days they dump the goldfish crackers on the floor and purposely walk on them to hear the crunch of every.fucking.cracker as it gets ground into the carpet. Yep, just happened. But then you’re cleaning it up and you see the tiny little curl that’s growing on that head of toddler hair. The curl that might be the last little spiral of baby-hood. And Max looks at me and says “I soh (sorry) Ma. I help you clean.” And you realize that it gets better. Somehow, when you were least expecting it, you realized that the train you thought you were taking, the one that was going to “Oh my god I’m going to slit my wrists if I have to get up at an ungodly hour one more time/watch Curious George again/change another blow-out diaper/wear the same sweatpants for another day” land, had actually arrived at “Better”. And you look out the window and realize that “Better” is so much more beautiful than you ever expected. The colors of this world are brighter than the ones where you began your journey. You can smell your baby’s sweet “I haven’t been bathed in a few days” smell, and not be overcome by guilt. Because you know he’ll be fine. You spend minutes just looking at the perfect lashes that swoop across his eyes, and the little pouty mouth that you’re proud he got from you, and the rosy cheeks that are flushed and fiery because he was just collecting rocks outside….and then he looks at you and starts laughing….because you’re just staring at him, and that’s funny Ma.
We’ve finally arrived at “Better”, this little family of mine.
We paid for our tickets with sheer exhaustion, fear, adrenaline, and a whole lot of hope and love…..but I think we’re here for the long haul. “Better” is looking better and better, day by day.