As you all know, we just moved to a different state. This means a couple of things right off the bat: School starts a couple of weeks later than our last home, my children do not have seasoned playmates, or any playmates for that matter to whose houses they can go or with whom to play in the streets, and lastly, we are currently living in a house less than half the size of the one we just moved out of. Add to these the fact that I am suffering my third day of migraines and you have what my dad would call the recipe for a perfect storm.
I'm not sure if you could call me a pessimist or a realist or what it is that you would call me, in truth I have struggled to understand why it is that some people are cheery all the time and never admit to having a negative thought, or if they do it is always punctuated with some sort of pollyanna-ish lesson and a cherry on top. I'm not that person. Maybe they know something I don't. Maybe they have reached some sort of zen like state where they are unable to express negative thought or admit that they hate life sometimes too, I truly don't know, but more importantly, I just don't understand.
I find that I relate much better to people who can admit they have faults and also that they come unglued and lose it from time to time. These people make sense to me, and they validate my "normalcy."
There are plenty of blogs out there written by women who have children that ooh and ahh and gush about how adorable their kids are and how they always love them and always have perspective of how everything is going to work out despite the little ups and downs that "life with kids" brings. Fundamentally, yeah, I am optimistic and have faith that everything will work out if I do what I know to be my best, but that doesn't always eradicate the sometimes dark and sometimes scary feelings I have as a mother.
I think that I've been able to trace all of these feelings down to one simple yet profoundly intense fact: These children are mine. Yeah, these are my kids. My kids. mine. They must stay with me. They must be with me. I must feed them. I must clothe them. I must not hurt them. I. Me. Mine. When they cry and scream and smell and misbehave and beg for food and brake things and lose things and hit and bite and hate, they must be with me. When I wake up, they are there. When I want to shower, I have to find something for them to do. When I go to the store, I must take them with me, and when we are at the store and they run around and yell and brake things and fight and cry and scream and humiliate me, I must remain with them and then take them home with me so that we can be together in the very same house for the rest of their young lives. I'm afraid this description doesn't do justice to the intensity of this fact. Perhaps if you are a parent, you'll understand a bit, and definitely if you are the mother of young kids you ought to understand (assuming of course you are capable of realistic thought), but despite what you may have heard and for those of you who aren't parents, this is nothing like owning a pet. In fact whenever I hear of the comparison, I am deeply insulted. To put it simply, as my husband so perfectly articulated: "if you have a dog and you want to go out for a bit, all you have to do is put the dog in it's pen."
Sometimes, I don't like being with them at all, and sometimes I don't want to be anywhere near them. In fact, I have actually muttered the phrase "I hate kids." There is no way to adequately portray the demands that each child puts on his parents, you see, they aren't your friends. They don't understand or care when they have crossed a line. The social cues that you and I use to navigate regular relationships do not apply to children and mothers. For instance, I would never in a million years walk into the bedroom of one of my friends uninvited at 6 am and demand to be fed at the top of my lungs and then scream and cry when asked politely to leave, but this kind of behavior is commonplace with my children. And on it goes throughout the day. They verbally and emotionally abuse me all day long every day. They use me and yell at me and enslave me.
One of the things I find darkly humorous is when an outsider gives advice or looks down on you somehow for not being a perfect parent all of the time. My favorite of late came from a woman in church who made a comment years ago. She is a grandmother, and was referencing a time when she was watching her toddler grandson who of course had thrown a tantrum as toddlers are want to do, and she, upon encountering said tantrum, almost got upset but then was able to calm down and do something humorous to diffuse the situation, and then she proceeded to tell us that all young mothers should apply the same tactic to avoid yelling at their kids. I think I laughed out loud. That "solution" is tragically overly simplistic. To think that an intelligent and caring human being would yell at a child with only the slightest provocation is absurd especially when the adult in question loves the child. No, we generally hold it together the first 250,000 times of being provoked. It is only after days and days of tantrums and the like, after we have calmly and quietly dealt with the situation that we start to lose it. And lose it we do sometimes. Or at least I do. Sometimes. Actually, you can count on me losing it at least every 29 days or so thanks to my hormones. This last time I kicked the garbage can over while screaming "I HATE THIS DAMN HOUSE!!!!" attractive, right? PMS must take at least part of the blame for that, I refuse to shoulder all of it. (by the way, PMS and children are a horrible mix, I should really be in solitary confinement during that day or two each month. Just throw in a good book and some chocolate and I'll see you when I'm closer to normal. That way no one gets killed.) I've earned the right to be annoyed with my children, as often as I want for whatever reason I want. Others, though do not have the same right. Don't you dare spend 10 minutes with my kids and act like they are driving you crazy-- you haven't put in the time.
I like to laugh about it and make jokes and sarcastically remark that I'd like to sell them to traveling gypsies, but there are moments occasionally when I really freak out and wonder if I should have had children at all? Sometimes those moments come on days like this when I haven't had a break from them for a long time and the stress compounds and I read comments from my friends on facebook about how much they miss their kids since they have been in school (??). Missing my kids on days like this is an impossible feeling. But that's what makes being a mother so darn complex, because as intense as the desire to push them away is, the desire to keep them close is just as intense and just as present. In fact, it isn't uncommon to feel both ends of the spectrum in a matter of seconds, I want to lock them outside to fend for themselves at the same time I am sad and proud of the fact that my daughter has lost her first tooth and seems so grown up. I want to hug and cuddle and kiss my preschooler at the same time I want to spank him for getting out of bed the millionth time.
One thing is for sure, there is not a single thing on this earth that is harder, more emotionally taxing, or more rewarding than being a mother, and though it is hard to imagine on days like this when their constant screaming pierces my brain over and over again, I know that when they start school next week I will most likely miss them at some point. Maybe. Well, maybe after a week or two of enjoying the peace and quiet I'll miss them...