Friday, September 9, 2011
My thumb hit the advance arrow button time and time again, searching relentlessly for the quotes that brought me comfort among the pages of Murphy’s book, “the 7 Stages of Motherhood: Loving Your Life Without Losing Your Mind.” Frustration mounting as this was one of the moments I wished for tangible pages due to my lack of reading the Kindle manual, I stumbled upon the passages I’d been hunting and let them sink in, seeking comfort:
“It takes enormous energy, self-control, compassion, creativity, and wisdom to get through a day with a toddler, yet we al hold on to unrealistic expectations of seamless transitions, hours of independent play, moments of crystal-clear communication. But that’s just not possible.”
“During our children’s toddler years we move from holding their hands to holding our breath to occasionally holding our head in our hands.”
“Research shows that rates of depression are twice as high among women with toddlers as they are for other mothers, hypothesized that it’s’ related to the cost of self-sacrifice, of constantly giving, giving, giving – time, attention, empathy, understanding – with very little payback.”
“Take the long view should become your mantra during the toddler years. Challenges that throw you off balance or keep y you up at night may, within a couple of months, seem like minor blips on the radar screen. Problems that seem overwhelming and scary often resolve themselves.”
“Working-mom guilt percolates on high during the toddler years not only because you imagine you’re missing all those firsts, but because two-year olds are so much fun to be with.”
Needless to say, it’d been a tough morning.
Tears, ambivalence, defiance, throwing of food, shoes, clothes, hitting the dog, slapping Mom, demands, tripping over toys, bloody lip, no food in the fridge, car out of gas, denim dyed over my crisp new shirt now coupled with blueberry yogurt, negotiations, on and on and on. All before 7:00 a.m. from a child that, even in these moments, was largely angelic, intelligent and not a challenge.
As we scrambled to get out the door, I felt my emotional balance slipping away along with the three heavy bags on my shoulder and the 30-pound dude on my hip, demanding we can’t leave the house and kicking my side as we were crawling away without his hat and sunglasses. Neighbors shot glances our way as I gently laid him down to work things out and began packing the car, tears inching out of the corner of my eyes as the bags split open, items spilling over the dark and dirty garage floor and our indoor cat darted out onto the drive – outdoors. Right behind him, the dog, who promptly makes her business in the neighbors yard, meaning I now had to convince the child to get into the car, find a plastic bag, tackle all the animals and try to just.get.in.the.vehicle. As my heel breaks, a small piece of my bumper falls off, the non-compliance ensues and my garage door opener is no where to be found, I ponder how I’m going to make it through the day, despite there were no natural disasters to be found, starvation, terrorists, etc. Though in the emotional state I was nearing, it might as well have been…
Giving in and giving up, practically willing the animals to run away and for thieves to steal everything in my house through the open garage door so the house would actually be clean for once, we backed down the drive. A block in, I hear the voice of my most beloved, though generally attentive and responsive to his constant stream of words, I was only half-listening as I fought to erase the tears behind my glasses so he wouldn’t see that Mommy was sad. Then I hear it:
“Buckle broken, Momma. Oh oh. Buckle broke.”
Craning my neck as a pile of things tumble to the passenger floor, I see it. He’s not buckled in. I forgot to buckle him in. I, his Mother, needed to do the most important thing this morning and couldn’t even manage that, leaving it the responsibility of my two-year old to verbally warn me this was a problem. Now this seems like way too much accountability to ask of a 24-month old, don’t you think?
Yet there he was, warning me like he does with so many things, helping to keep our family balance and life in perspective.
I pulled into the nearest drive, not caring who was nearby and snatched him out, pausing by the curb and holding him for a good 10 minutes, light tears streaming down my cheeks, trying to shut out the “what if” thoughts screaming through the front of my forehead. He washed them away with a brisk hand, cupping my sides and knowing with his little, warm soul that together, we just needed a minute. To restart. Regroup. Re-asses. Retry. And just – love.
I’d come unbuckled. And with that, so had he.
After the added guilt of dropping him at school, I wept on my commute in and arrived 30 minutes late to work, shutting my door only to be interrupted 10 times within my arrival. Trying to put on a front of professionalism, I saw his little face all day in the front of my glazed eyes as I went through webcast after teleconference, meeting after email, faking it until I made it.
Finally, still feeling out of body, frazzled and in some other universe where it’s likely sane people do not make their habitat, I return home to find him playing in the driveway, his first baseball glove covering his left hand.
And I come unbuckled again.
With overwhelming passion, with joy, with his warm embrace, with the kind of unconditional love only a Mother can know. And suddenly, I know, though some days are like that, we will forever be safe in the breadth of our love…
unbuckled or not.