A few months ago I read an article about parents being less happy than their childless peers: http://nymag.com/news/features/67024/
I don’t disagree with the article and I like how it’s written. It validates the feelings I have when I think parenting is really, really hard and it confirms my idea that having children is the best thing in the world. I remember telling Nathan about the article and he said, “Of course we’re less happy; we have so much to worry about now.” It’s hard not to worry as a parent- there is SO MUCH to worry about.
I like how the article captured the way a parent can go from monumental bliss to outrage in less than two minutes and that cycle continues throughout the day almost every day. I love Ava and Evan more than anything. Sometimes I feel like my heart would burst if I loved them any more. And then I am shocked by the anger I feel when they wake me up 4-5 times a night (not every night, thank goodness), when Evan tests the boundaries over and over again, and when Ava acts like a 2 year old instead of a 6 year old.
Someone once said, “Oh, you will be a real mom once you have 2 kids.” I disagree with this because a real mom is a real mom no matter how many kids she has, but I think I know where the statement was coming from. Perhaps Ava was unusual, or perhaps I’ve already forgotten how she was when she was two, but I’m surprised by the nonstop attention (positive and negative) Evan needs and desires. Ava can play for hours on her own, sit quietly next to me and draw pictures, and wait pretty patiently when I say I will be with her in a minute, right after I take the scalding water off the stove. Evan cannot, will not wait for anything. Because he’s such a verbal kid, he wants to talk- as in, have a conversation- all the time. If I’m not paying 100% attention to the conversation, he knows and he is angry. I have to reply with specific details- a simple uh-huh will not suffice. Of course, this is a great problem to have, right? He is so verbal- he can express any idea, he’s speaking in simple sentences, and his pronunciation is nearly perfect. I’m working on appreciating that about him rather than being annoyed by his constant need to chat.
A few weeks ago Nathan and I went to Portland for 3 days and 2 nights and left the kids with our moms who took turns caring for them. The most amazing thing about the trip without kids was that I could have a conversation and I could complete a thought. I barely notice how my complete attention is given to either one of the kids or both at all times, except for when I am away from them. No wonder some moms (like me) seem scattered and spacey all the time. Their thoughts, plans, and ideas are constantly interrupted causing them to forget what they are doing and where they are going.
There’s something else about parenting that I want to try to capture in words, but the words can never reproduce the exact feeling. It is the feeling I get when I snuggle up to Ava or Evan, cheek to cheek, arms wrapped around each other. The first thing I notice is how smooth and flawless their skin is. I love to rub my cheek against theirs, smelling their hair and skin. Then my heart warms and my breathing slows down. I take a deep breath in, close my eyes and savor the moment When I am holding Ava or Evan in my arms, I feel like time stops and whatever is wrong in the world is made right.
Related to this idea is the unique feeling we get when we watch a sleeping child. No matter what the child has done previously that day- dumped out the trash, tortured the pets, poured milk on the carpet- all is forgiven when his or her parents watches the child sleeping. They’re like real little angels, or fairies, with the most innocent expressions on their faces. They lay there so still breathing heavily after a full day of activity and wonder. I kiss their cheeks and foreheads, again noticing the silky skin on my lips and I bask in the warmth of their sweetness.
And finally I find myself thinking (for that minute or two per day that I can actually have a thought) about the sadness parents feel as their children grow up. Why is that? We should be happy for them, proud of everything they have accomplished, right? Are we sad because the older they get, the less time we know they have with us, living in our home? Is it because they lose their innocence as they get older and realize that the world isn’t all about fairies, unicorns, and the Easter bunny? Whatever the reason, I’m finding it particularly difficult to accept that kindergarten is almost over. I feel like that’s it, there is absolutely no way I can consider Ava my baby any more after kindergarten. Sure, I’ll still baby her and she’ll still cuddle with me and come to me when she needs a shoulder to cry on, but like a baby bird, she is leaving the nest more and more often for longer periods of time. Friends are more fun than mom and dad, school will be a full day next year, and she has opinions, lots of them, that aren’t necessarily the same as my opinions. I know this is a recurring feeling and I will feel it again and again until she does finally leave the house at age 25 when I unlock the doors and let her go. . . on second thought, 30 is a nice age to start one’s life- perhaps I’ll let her go when she’s 30 🙂