I cut up chicken nuggets and squeeze ketchup onto plates and fill sippy cups with juice and politely pry my 3 year old’s hands from my arms and tell him calmly that we don’t pinch people. I pray with my kids, sing to my kids, listen to my kids. I advocate for my kids. I read book after book after blog after article for parenting advice. I actively try to better myself for my kids, to parent gently and intuitively. I pour cheerios onto trays, buckle car seat, fasten shoes, kiss hurt fingers, hug, tuck to bed, brush teeth, shampoo hair, rock to sleep, nurse, snuggle, empathize, sing the most irritating songs on repeat, wait patiently while small, demanding people dress themselves, share my meals, and my lap, hug frightened little bodies during thunder storms. I pick up strewn underpants and stray socks, fold tiny shirts, feel the deep agony of watching your child suffer and the warm, bubbling joy of watching your child succeed. I sacrifice my own desires for the greater good of my family. I know the soft curves of my baby’s face and the dimples in each knuckle as he drifts off to sleep, tapping my chest with his chubby fingers. I sneak into my kid’s rooms at night to whisper affirmations into their ears, check their noses to see if they’re cold, kiss their sweet, sleeping faces.
With the light inevitably comes the dark side of motherhood. Some days, I’m wracked with guilt for not being kind enough, not being gentle enough, not being patient enough. I worry that I’m not enough, that my kids will take on my baggage, that I’m damaging them. I worry about their future, what the world will be like, what kind of heartache is waiting for them. Some days I’m bored with my life, some days I wish they would disappear for a while, wish I could peel their clingy bodies off of my legs and silence their repeated cries of “Mama! Mama! Mama!”. Some days I feel disconnected from my children – and they feel it too – a lonely anguish full of defeat and shame and desperation. Sometimes I find myself in the midst of a reaction that I promised, promised, promised myself I’d never repeat. Sometimes I fear that I’m not cut out for this life. Sometimes I realize I never asked for it.
In the quiet softness of a child who has just drifted off to sleep on my chest, inky darkness creeping into a room lit by dusk, heavy weight of his three year old body pushing into me, long, deep breaths and the twitches of sleep, I feel completely at home in my maternity. Here, I’m fearless. Here, my children are safe. Here, I’m able to give my kids everything that they need. Breathing in and out, attempting to transfer my love and energy to his little unconscious being, thankful for this little person given to me, seeking patience and guidance to raise him without fear and shame – wild and free and happy. Sometimes I remain trapped under their sleeping bodies much past the point that’s necessary, indulging in our connection, indulging in the snuggles and the heat and the love. The mistakes are necessary for the triumphs in parenting. One gives life to the other.