Parenting, in my experience, is a teeter totter of emotion. I vacillate between the highs of “it’s all going too fast”, “I wish I could be better at this because you deserve someone who’s perfect”, “I wish I could tell you how much I love you because I love you so much I want to eat and digest you into myself..” and the low’s, where I send a text message to my husband who said I should have some time to myself to write, but the boys have decided to camp outside my bedroom door and be the loudest they’ve been in weeks. The text reads, “where are you? these kids are being fucking crazy.”
I don’t know if this type of bipolar behavior is normal in parenting but I am starting to believe parenting takes the “normal” out of you. Just talk to anyone about their mother over a certain age.
I sit in a room with girlfriends who have been raising multiple kids for more than five years. Beneath the sheen of the mothering image, we’re all woke to the reality that raising and living with these becoming humans isn’t easy, and I mean that in every sense. It’s not easy to love a person as much as I love my boys. I love them in a gut-twisting way words can’t begin to describe. I cup my hands around their face, look into those eyes and say, “you’re amazing. I love you so much. I’m so proud of you.” I am convinced I could do this every day for the rest of their life in my house and they would still hurt, still have to talk to a therapist about me, still wonder what their place is in the world, still have to go out and do the grunt work of finding it without my supervision.
I love my boys to the point where I don’t think I can ever do them justice. There’s three of them and one of me. It’s so much loving for one little tenderized heart, and it leaves me feeling like there’s not enough of me to go around, even more lately with unpredictable chronic migraines. I’m convinced it would take at least sixty-eight of me to love the three of them in the way they deserve. As time flies and the older ones become teenagers, I live in a constant state of wishing; wishing for more time, wishing I could do better with the time I have, wishing for something longer and wider and deeper than what we already have, wishing I could somehow parent an only child with each of them, give them their own turn to be the center of my universe.
I was an only child. This has been problematic when it comes to self-inflicted expectations of what parenting a child should look like. In some ways, it’s equipped me to love wild, fierce and free. In some ways, it’s set me up to always feel like a failure, since I can’t give to three what I experienced as one.
Parenting isn’t just hard in the pretty, lament-filled sense. It’s hard in the brutal sense, too.
No one told me I would still be becoming long after I became a parent. I think I assumed parenting would be like when my boobs came in.. you get the kids, you become a mom, then voila! that’s it, your set, you’re the shit-together woman you’re going to be for the rest of your life! Instead, I find it’s more like getting your period. You realize you’re going to be “becoming a woman” for most of the rest of your life. You’re going to bleed and hurt and bitch out every single month for decades to come. I know a fourteen year old girl who got her period a year ago, so it’s all still very fresh and traumatizing, this new reality of womanhood. We were talking the other day and she referred to the infamous day as, “the worst day of my whole life.” I just had to nod in somber solidarity and say, “girl.. I feel ya.”
As a woman who is still in the process of becoming whomever I’ll be as that wise old grey-white haired sage in my seventies, parenting is brutal. In some ways it feels like an interruption to the “becoming” agenda. There’s so little time in the day to be a person after wiping the bottom of a six year old with developmental delays who still has toilet needs, giving seizure meds, telling them to clean up their legos for the seventieth time this hour, talking with the oldest about the text from the girl who just broke up with him (instructing him “thx” isn’t an appropriate response), reminding them to wear their helmets and check for cars when they ride bikes, yelling at them for forgetting to give the chickens water again, and telling them it will be all their fault when they die of dehydration and we have no more eggs to eat, etc. There are only a few hours in the day and most of them get filled with mundane mothering tasks that are untraceable.
I go back and forth between the wishing for more with them, to be more for them and the wishing they would shut the cuss up so I can get a little writing done, every single day. Luckily I’m on this Grace kick, and have decided being a parent falls well within the bounds of Grace’s Northern Territory. My boys are remarkable humans who deserve the world and more. I as one small human give them what I can and never feel like it’s quite enough. My boys are also noisy, messy, needy, selfish, turd-like humans at times, who deserve a timeout and a good “come to Jesus” talk. I give them what I can and never feel like my time to become is quite enough.
For all of the above, there is Grace.
Grace is on the teeter totter with me. In fact, she’s the reason it works at all. There’s love enough for my boys, for who they are and who they will become. There’s love enough for me, who I am and who I’m becoming. I look back on my thirteen+ years as a parent, my fourteen+ years since the first boy took up residence in my womb, and I realize they ARE the biggest reason for my becoming. The contractions and sleepless nights and first days of school and legos and hospital trips and early morning cuddles and butt wipes and circus noises outside my door are weaving a tapestry of the beautiful, tired, loving, resilient woman I’m becoming.
My boys and my crazy love and sacrifice for them are why I will have the hard-earned grey-white hairs. Somehow, in the marvelous interruption of parenting, they are the reason for my becoming, they are the facilitators of my present and future wisdom.
Grace is such a sneaky little magic maker, isn’t she?
It almost makes me love the failure and the mess as much as the moments of love and beauty. It almost makes me love the cluster-cuss of circus noises outside my door right now..
Are you worn out and overwhelmed by the love you give to your kids?
You are not alone.
Write me about it sometime.
I’ll write back.
P.O. Box 11
Liberty, MO 64069-0011