1.02.2015

Thoughts from a Saturday morning

It’s Saturday morning. I’m sitting in a terribly uncomfortable plastic chair, one of the futuristic-looking ones you know will inevitably be one of the worst things you ever sit down on, listening to a little boy cry and watching another color on a table.

Beside me an army of caffeine-addled mothers engrossed in their smartphone, texting and making arrangements for little Rebekah’s ballet class and Jimmy’s soccer game, all while scrambling to order last minute birthday gifts from Amazon.

There are a few fathers dotting the premises, click-clacking on their laptops, stalking their email, looking for tickets to the Monday night football game and occasionally peering up to give the thumbs up to their children behind the glass.

My daughter has been in gymnastics for two-and-a-half months and I still feel like I’m never going to fit in here.

I still feel like I’m living some weird, alternate reality of what I thought my life would be. And the truth is, my reality is far more beautiful and tragic than I ever could have imagined.

That’s the thing about parenthood. You decide you’re ready for this tiny human being and all the sudden, whether you really are or not, they’re here. And I mean they’re REALLY here. Like, you have 10 tiny fingers and 10 tiny toes with equally tiny nails you’ll be clipping for what feels like the rest of time. And did I mention the tiny teeth? Super small mouths with small teeth and even smaller gaps to brush and floss. When you decide to become a parent, you’re going to spend a lot of time grooming a very wiggly, sometimes-volatile, TINY human being.

When I was younger, I was convinced I’d never get married or have children. It wasn’t that I had anything against the concept; it was simply unappealing to me. I wanted to write novels – I wanted to impact people with my words, all while getting fancy drinks with my fabulous friends and then hopping on a plane and getting lost in Europe somewhere for a while.

But then in college I met my husband and my single-girl status changed. And when faced with the idea of leaving my beloved college town and man behind, I made the first decision that derailed my could-be reality. I stayed in Cleveland and fell in love. I still got some of the fancy drinks with my fabulous friends, but eventually, even that wasn’t enough to keep me there.

All the sudden my nephew was born and I was aching to be near my family. Something magical happens when your sibling has their first offspring. You’re drawn together in this weird way over this screaming little overlord. And so we moved – not to somewhere where I would start my successful authorship, but home. To my home.

And then everything kind of fell in line from there. Fall in love, get married, have a baby, take some family vacations, have another baby and buy a home. The life I once envisioned slowly faded behind me and a sort-of pre-destined rhythm fell into place. I was doing what grown-ups were supposed to do. I was starting a family, fostering a career and creating life.

Having children changed me in ways I’ll never fully encompass. Someone once said having children is like allowing your heart to walk completely outside of your body; truer words have never been spoken. You feel every emotion humanly possible at full volume for these little people and slowly, pieces of you start to wash away, things that seemed so important slowly erode.

And almost five years later, you find yourself sitting in a lime-green room, staring through the glass as your daughter spins around the uneven bars. You hold your breath as she tiptoes across the balance beam and you close your eyes as she tumbles headfirst onto the sproingy floor. Becoming a mother has made me beautifully in-tune with the emotions and thoughts of my children, however; it’s also made my own feel completely abstract.

My aunt passed away shortly before Christmas and suddenly I was flooded with a gush of unfamiliar emotions and thoughts – my own. I wasn’t focused on whether Braeburn was receiving the proper amount of socialization, whether Pearyn was being alienated by our vegan diet during her classroom holiday party – instead, I was feeling my own uncertain thoughts in the pit of my stomach.

What if I didn’t do things right? What if, in my attempt to follow the appropriate path of life, I stepped off somewhere and disrupted everything? What if in trying to live my life the right way, I had lived it wrong for me?

Isn’t it amazing what death does to a person? I’m certain I don’t mourn or process in the healthiest of ways, but then again, how many people do? Losing someone seems to bring out this itch in me, this urge to ensure I’m being true to myself, making the most out of the days I have left, however many there are, but I’m then consumed by overwhelming guilt for these thoughts.

Mothers shouldn’t question these things. Mothers are good and patient and gentle – they’re not confused and scared and jumbled.

Of course having children wasn’t “wrong.” My babies are the two things I’m certain I did right in my life. Just because I didn’t envision them when I was a wreckless 19-year-old college kid doesn’t mean they weren’t part of my destiny. Who says I’m tied to that destiny, anyhow?

Who says we have to be tied to any destiny; who says we have to fit into any mold? I’m a mom, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a kickass writer of some sort, it doesn’t mean I can’t still get lost in Europe one day – it just means I have to do a little extra planning, wait a little extra time.  And just because we’ve had children or gotten married or started our careers, doesn’t mean we’re solely those roles; being human means being a culmination of things. How asymmetric would life be if we only let one or two roles define us? I’m not simply a mother, not just a wife and not only an editor, I’m this wonderful mishmash of those things and so, so, so many more.

I just need to do a better job of reminding myself of this. I need to do a better job of being all the things I want to be. We all do, really.

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4 comments:

  1. Happy New Year!
    Interesting how having kids and losing someone close changes a person's perspective, isn't?

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  2. Love this post. Parenthood is crazy isn't it. Before our daughter was born 6 weeks ago we had become used to life with a toddler and I had gained some of myself back since having our son (who is 22 months old). All that has changed again as i spend most of my time with my boob out or trying to entertain/contain my son. I've reverted back to seeing myself as just a mum. And even though the baby stage is fleeting its hard. I can't be the version of myself that I want to be, not even in part. Oh well, there's a time and a season for everything! :) happy new year! X

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  3. Sorry to hear about your aunt! But nice post. I'm 34 and still living that glam childless life — doing what I want when I want. But I do wonder what life would be like with a kid. Not that I want one. But it's hard not to think that I should probably do that before I turn 40. I've got time. :-) I keep telling myself I'll put off thinking it.

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  4. "... I still feel like I’m never going to fit in here... I still feel like I’m living some weird, alternate reality of what I thought my life would be."
    "Who says we have to be tied to any destiny; who says we have to fit into any mold?"
    "I just need to do a better job of reminding myself of this. I need to do a better job of being all the things I want to be. We all do, really."

    Thank you so much!! These are feelings I've been having but haven't been able to put them into words. Now that they are articulated, I need to remember them!!

    Perfect timing with this post. I can't thank you enough for always sharing the real deal here. I'm 34 and in a similar place, questioning everything from my career (honestly it's really just a job) to my parenting abilities (I'll have a teenager in May and feel like my amazing Mom skillz peaked when he was around 8...) to my decisions about my own life (I've found love after 6 quiet years of singleness sincemy divorce). For so long things seem to just glide along at a status quo, but then illness or a new birth in the family or as you just experienced, a death, comes along and shakes you to your core. It is so unsettling!!

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