I’m not a great mom. I am, on average, a decent mom. I have moments of greatness and moments of horror. Which was irritatingly predicted years ago by a Meyer-Briggs personality test. It told me what kind of parent I’d be – namely, a rather manic and topsy turvy type – and I was all, psssh, whatever. But it was right. I’m real good and real bad, but not quite in 50/50 parts. On the whole, my kids will have enough traumas to give them some good stories and reasonably thick skin. But will also love to laugh, have gotten ten million hugs and kisses, and know what it feels like to be unconditionally loved by a very imperfect person.
So perhaps my skills are lacking, but it is more and more apparent that I was born with a healthy amount of mom dorkiness and that has been fun to cultivate. Seeing my kids together has really let me let my freak flag fly, too. With one, I held on to some shred of former me, I think. But now, I see former me as a nonentity. In a good way. I mean, she ain’t here any more, so may as well be real about it. And I also see more clearly how blazingly fast this is all going, and it makes me in less of a hurry to get “back” to the other stuff – the looking good, the being well read, the earning a living. I still want that stuff. And I work at them. But in a forgiving, mostly light-hearted way. I don’t love my muffin top, but I’m not losing any sleep over it either (AS IF I HAD ANY SLEEP TO LOSE!!! AH HAHAHA *sob*).
And it’s not just that with two now I am that much deeper into motherhood, and that much busier and frantic. It’s also that my house is so full. The addition of Eli was greater than he himself. When he laughs at his sister, when she whispers in his ear or strokes his head when he cries, when he shrieks in glee at his dad’s return home while his sister simultaneously attempts jumping jacks in anticipation of that same guy, it’s almost too much to bear. My capacity for love and tolerance has grown more than I could’ve anticipated through it all, too.
It feels just great to unironically make terrible puns on homemade valentines. To find my hand on my heart when I see my children love on each other. To shut off NPR and belt out Wheels on the Bus, complete with at least eighteen invented verses including “The daddy on the bus says DRINK A GLASS OF BEER!”, while driving down the road, making Edie dance in her carseat as she sings along and Eli giggle incessantly at big sister. Doing this doesn’t feel more or less like “me” – but “me” doesn’t seem like that important or real of a thing to define right now. When you’ve got very little choice but to take things hour to hour, it wears you down but now and again gives you the gift of presence. Something that I found a lot harder to grasp onto when I had more time to ponder and plan. I’m surely grateful for my crazy little teachers, and I hope they don’t get too frustrated as I keep having to learn the same lessons over and over again.
Soon I am going to be a great-aunt again. And my niece and I were corresponding about the addition of the second. I don’t try to be a Debbie Downer, but I have a total inability to sugar coat. I am always reaching for authenticity, and when it comes to offering thoughts on the experience of parenting, even though there is all this amazing and happy stuff to talk about, I immediately feel like a liar if I don’t try to get down deeper to the life changing challenges. (Which is why I have no idea why anyone asks me anything. All they ever get are meandering, borderline depressing responses. But I am so glad that anyone does. Xoxo.) On this topic, I did manage to tell her how profound it has been to watch the love between these siblings grow. Something outside of me and my husband, that we may guide and hopefully set a good tone for, but something that is ultimately between the two of these amazing people that they will carry for their lives.
Not that it is all rosy, I have to point out because I am terrible like that and also because whenever I get sappy I have to pull back and make bad jokes so – poof – I’m not vulnerable! C’mon! For example. The boy is crawling now. And he bites feet and ankles. Incessantly. Edie is like “YEEOUCH! He’s biting me!” I look down to see a gleeful eight month old, who not only got a tasty chunk of flesh but also truly enjoyed the sounds of pain that it produced. And though I honestly feel bad for her, I also just want to finish whatever menial task I have been toiling at for five times as long as it should take, so I say “Can you just climb up somewhere he can’t get you?” “Yeeaa-uuh.” she complies with a pout, never taking her eyes off baby Hannibal Lector. And besides the blood, there’s the exhaustion, and the guilt (which flips and flops between either child), and the milliseconds of regret (“I was so good at just one kid.” “Maybe we should’ve waited longer.”) that are in themselves not all that powerful but that make you feel so very ashamed.
So life with the two of them has been harder than I imagined. And more important than I could’ve imagined. I don’t know that I believe I was destined for any of this. Life in any other of the infinite directions it could’ve taken would’ve had its own unique meaning. But I’m glad to be living in this plane of existence, that’s for sure. I am a little sorry for my husband, who sees me fall to the floor in defeat over my day to day struggles, and then has to listen to me cry when he mentions not wanting any more kids (a position I ostensibly agree with, but just don’t have the heart to assent to any, erm, permanent solutions just yet). I don’t feel that bad for him, though, because even on my worst days, I am pretty integral in him coming home to these little people. And sometimes I make brownies or tell him to just go to the gym and I’ll deal with naptime alone.
Today, I was home with both of them, and it’s lousy outside, and we were all super tired. But sometimes that means an outing is even more necessary so we don’t just get on each other’s nerves. We went to a nearby megachurch that has a giant indoor playground so the kids could blow off steam. But about fifteen minutes after arriving, another child there dropped a load up on the structure and they had to shut it down for biohazard cleanup. And I felt … nothing. Not annoyance. Not grossed out. Not even anymore tired than when I arrived. Just like, well, okay. Let’s eat a snack and head on home. I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but that, for me, is what having two kids has done. I’m good with that.