One morning, when my daughter was about 18 months old and my son was 3, I was standing in line at Starbucks. I was wearing two different socks . . . I hadn’t showered in days . . . I hadn’t slept in years . . . and the details are a bit fuzzy on when I last brushed my teeth. My daughter was screaming at me because I wouldn’t let her lick the bottom of the stroller . . . my son was trying to shoplift three pounds of coffee . . . and I was surrounded by well-groomed adults heading off to their jobs, presumably with people who didn’t lash out at them in rage for making toast with the crust still on it. At this very opportune moment, the 200-year-old woman behind me leaned over my shoulder and whispered, “Enjoy all of it, darling . . . this is the best time of your life!” I looked back at her . . . through sleep-deprived eyes and a caffeine deprived soul . . . I gracefully waved my hand over the chaos that surrounded me and replied, “If this is the best time of my life . . . I. WILL. KILL. MYSELF!”
She wasn’t amused. In fact, she thought I was a monster.
I’m sure that she meant well. Most little old ladies do. Maybe she looked down at my little munchkins, in all of their boundless energy, and marveled at their curiosity. Maybe she reflected back at her own experience and gently glossed over the sticky, screaming, sleepless details that occupy seventy percent of toddlerhood. Or maybe, it was her way of telling me “Hey, those cuties of yours are going to turn into demon-possessed teenagers pretty soon . . . enjoy them while you still outweigh them by a hundred pounds!” Who knows. The point is, I’m sure she had the best of intentions, and my less than enthusiastic response had clearly thrown the earth off its axis somehow.
Because, apparently, mothers just don’t say that kind of thing.
The thing is, when I’m standing in line at Starbucks . . . on my 863rd day in a row as a stay-at-home parent . . . and I’m resisting the temptation to dropkick the two adorable little creatures that I brought into this world . . . I can assure you that the last thing I need to hear is that I’m somehow missing something. I don’t need to hear how – for you – this stage of parenting was nothing but sparkles, unicorns, and matching outfits of the day. I just don’t want to hear your rested, perky voice telling me how lovely it all is. Because, while it may have been the best time in your life . . . I felt like a bipolar lunatic with turrets for three years straight. And it was hard.
But you know what? It was okay for me to feel that way . . . and it still is . . . because raising tiny humans IS effing hard. And the mommy culture can be a battlefield sometimes.
Hands down, the biggest struggle that I have always endured as a parent is the lack of other parents openly sharing in the challenge. While our children will always be the best decision we ever made (twice!] ). . . the actual act of parenting is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve never cried more or laughed more. I’ve never missed anyone more or needed space more. I’ve never been more proud or been more ashamed. I’ve never felt more needed or more rejected. I’ve never felt more blessed or more homicidal. And yet, I’ve never wanted “out.” I’ve wanted a drink . . . I’ve wanted a day off . . . I’ve wanted to eat a meal while it’s still hot. But I’ve never wanted out. Mostly, I’ve wanted someone to look at my exhausted, tear-soaked face and tell me that I wasn’t alone. I’ve wanted someone to tell me that it’s okay to love your children and not necessarily like them at the same time. I’ve wanted someone to tell me that it’s okay to wish the circus would come to town and abduct the three foot tall dictators who started running my life. I’ve wanted someone to tell me that it’s okay to not actually like sitting on the floor, playing with toy trains for eleven hours straight. I’ve wanted someone to tell me it’s okay to have a “back-to-school” advent calendar, mentally counting down the days until I can miss and be missed again (even though I bawl my eyes out at the bus stop). I’ve wanted someone to tell me that it’s okay to not be roaming the streets with pom-poms, telling everyone how magical my life is because I’m a mother.
I just wanted that little old lady to look at me and say “Darling, it’s okay.”
And when I become that little old lady one day . . . and the mom in front of me at Starbucks is being systematically tortured by her children . . . I hope I remember that.
Genevieve: I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a daughter and I am a grand-daughter. I am a sister. I am a niece and I am an aunt. I am a friend. I am a child of God. I am addicted to Facebook. I am the year of the horse and gaelic for white wave. I am a summer baby and the sign of Cancer. I am a reader and I am a writer. I am putting my life on paper. I am the victim of people’s hair fetishes. I am a lover of Gap commercials and strawberry season. I am a Starbucks junkie. I am a hockey fan. I am a lover and not a fighter. I am lost without peanut butter. I am the alter ego of a wolf and a politician in a past life. I am urban and I am in love. I am happiest at home and most comfortable in my flip-flops. I am a fabulous photograph on my drivers license. I am an only child and the baby of the family. I am a work in progress and always in recovery from something. I am trying to let go and still reaching for your hand. I am a believer that naps are always a good idea. I am often wondering what happens next. I am proof that time heals all wounds. I am a hopeless romantic and madly in love. I am a believer that everyone has a story and I am still unwritten. I am a frequent visitor of any bookstore and I am a woman of mystery. I am craving chocolate. I am searching for answers and I am enchanted by my friends. I am tripping on toy cars and I am constantly cleaning up cheerios. I am afraid of thunderstorms and losing the people that I love. I am raising my hands to the heavens and I am thanking my lucky stars. I am beyond your peripheral vision and I am wishing you were here. I am living and I am learning. I am convinced, as the saying goes, not all who wander, are lost. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and at www.gengeorget.com.
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