You Were Mine

I’m always in awe of my husband, at the kind of father he is to all of you. 

His patience with you children seems endless. His exuberance when he’s with you all is contagious. He makes me want to be a better parent. He makes me wonder why I’m not a better parent already.

I rather envy him. 

To say I’m mentally exhausted at the end of the day would be an understatement. I feel a giant wave of relief wash over me whenever I see your father’s car backing down the driveway. Freedom and bedtime hangs in the air as the remaining hours of the day tip over like a carefully lined row of dominos. 

By bedtime…well, I don’t even want to begin to describe to you what’s going through my mind. Something about just throwing my hands in the air, or maybe a flash grenade into the living room to be done with all of it instead of cleaning anything even one.more.time.

Every request for a cup of water makes bedtime feel like a hurdle I just can’t make it over.

I wonder where the sparkly-eyed, first-time mother has gone, sometimes. I’ve settled into a comfortable routine, a robotic way of doing things. Nothing seems nearly as illustrious as it once was. 

Oh my children, how sorry that makes me feel. That the magic you create and emanate every day would even remotely seem like old news to me. How all of you, just being you, now feels like the most common of things. Even though it is surely the simplest of miracles.

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There was once a time when you were new to this world, each one of you. You came out sputtering into the cold hospital air, all of you pink and soft, crying tiny cries. You hardly even opened your eyes to take the world in. You were a spot of color and joy against a sterile, white tiled background. You were content to be touched, to be held. Being held meant that all of your cries and needs were answered. In someone’s arms, you mattered. But for a time, this world was terrifying. The thought that you might be forgotten was your greatest fear. 

And you were mine. 

I wondered when it would happen that I would feel like I was sure of my abilities, sure of my instincts. Those first few months I was waiting on standby for some transcendent experience where all of the celestial pieces would lock into place, where I would know with all certainty that I was doing what I was called to do. It wasn’t until one day, while slow dancing in the living room with you when no one was looking that I realized I was actually okay at this. Because I had a heart full of love, and that’s a mother’s greatest weapon.

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There was once a time, when each of you first began to toddle around and explore this new world. How every time your feet caught the edge of the rug, and you stumbled for even a second, I felt a new gray hair root its way out of the top of my scalp. Even though you almost always regained your footing, there were the inevitable crashes. With each misstep and fall to the floor, you would quickly turn and scan my face. Should you cry? Should you be afraid? Other times, when the purple goose egg had begun to rise before I could even reach out to comfort you, there was no pause. Only a cry of pain and frustration. You world seemed doomed to falling apart. I was the only comfort you could feel. 

And you were mine. 

When the economy collapsed and friends and family began to lose their livelihoods, piece by piece, it was awful. Cable news would bemoan the tragedies of the world, every hour on the hour in a rhythmic schedule. Natural disasters that wiped away the lives of many. Political catastrophes you would think we’d never recover from. Children, murdered or missing, lost to their parents and the families who loved them. Even in my my own life uncertainty barked at the door, and pain welled up in my chest some days and I couldn’t even verbalize what hurt the worst. There was a new reason to be disenchanted and terrified almost every day. You were my comfort. The smell of you, the feel of you. The tiny heart beating in your chest reminded me that sometimes, for better or for worse, in your case better, life marches inevitably forward. There is always hope. 

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There once was a time when I was all that you loathed. You marched inexorably towards the terrible two’s and three’s, and each reproach from mommy was deemed a challenge. You were feral. You were no longer my angelic little cherub. Mommy was hardly as amusing or fun as she used to be. Mommy was an unapologetic force meant to be destroyed. And we clashed. I was your greatest enemy. 

And you were mine. 

How I loathed my days with you at times. If you weren’t grazing your tiny hands along the edge of the countertops or table, just looking for something (anything) to swipe on to the floor, you were whining at my feet for something you could not articulate, for something I’m pretty sure you didn’t actually want, you were just looking for another reason to cry and growl. If we weren’t battling our way through the grocery store, we were throwing down the gauntlet over nap time or some other toddler-oppresive institution, like meal time. Sometimes, you broke my heart. Those first few times when you realized I wasn’t perfect; when I yelled because I was angry or tired or frustrated, I saw the look in your eyes. I knew I had failed you. But loving you raised the stakes higher than ever before, and taught me to say I was sorry, and to mean it more deeply than ever before. 

There was once a time when I was your best ally. We’d spend our afternoons together, sometimes just talking and laughing about one thing or another. To you, momma (just momma by this point) was the funniest. Momma made the best pancakes, the best chicken alfredo. Momma gets a lot of things right. But not always. You were never afraid to tell me how you felt. In fact, I usually knew before you even told me. I was your greatest friend.

And you were mine.

I remember sitting on the edge of the bed, and being surprised at the words I spoke as I told my husband that I felt like our children were my best friends. You couldn’t say the word “envelope” correctly, and you would only eat popsicles if given the choice. But we were one. And your love, your joy knew no bounds. And for a time, I wanted to be like all of you. Even if only a little. 

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There will be a time when you will want to keep the door to your bedroom closed. You will be more concerned with what’s going on with your friends than with being home for dinner on a Friday night. There will be a time when our interests will diverge. Where you will want to dress yourself, choose your own meal at restaurants. There will be a time when you will dream and you will plan and you will scheme for your future. There will be a day when it’s time to leave, to go and pursue whatever wild fantasy you have played out in your head. There will come a time when it will all be the last time. The last time you walk out of the door as my child who needs me unconditionally. And you will go your own way. The promises of life are abundant and in the palm of your hand and all that you wish to touch. It will be your greatest dream. 

And you were mine. 

 

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