Lessons in Motherhood Pt. 1
My son turned 5 last week and I promptly had an emotional breakdown.
There was something about the way the number rolled off my tongue that felt clunky. Five. F.I.V.E. What happened in the past 5 years? When did he get older than three? What have I even accomplished? (How is it that I don't own a le Creuset pot yet? Shit, I bought that sewing machine 5 years ago, and I still don't know how to sew.)
I kept grasping for memories, desperately trying to hold on to the images that would present themselves. How we swaddled his tiny, little body. I swear we swaddled him so tight, I'm surprised he currently has use of his arms. Those huge, hilarious soothers he was in love with. How he would rest his soft hand on my arm when we sat together. I remember how much he loved cleaning my floors when he was two. We took him everywhere, he was so easy to be around. He is my firstborn and he is my everything. He was my rebirth, the fire that got me started. For four years he was the beginning and end of every day. He bore a hole in me that was the perfect shape of him and I would never be the same.
That is; until his brother was born.
I clearly remember wondering how on earth this new baby could ever fit into our world. How could I possibly love another child the way I love Gabe? The first few weeks after Simon arrived, I was overcome with the joy only a brand new life can bring. Everything with Simon was easier and less overwhelming than it had been with Gabe. That's when the change came. I know it happened slowly, like the autumn air that creeps in on a bright September morning. It wasn't, and then it was. Gabriel became an annoyance. Even as I type those words, my heart hurts. I felt bothered all the time. My patience was waning. I expected far too much from him and in return, I was continually disappointed. I watched as he became closer and closer to his dad. It's fine, I told myself. It gives me a break. I had four uninterrupted years with Gabe, it's OK to spend more time with Simon now.
It's always the trivial things, isn't it? The daily, nonsensical duties that push us over the edge.
Just. Eat. Your. Supper.
No, your shoes are not too small. Yes, you do have to wear shoes.
Please, please try and get your pee inside the toilet.
As I became closer to Simon, Gabe and I started laughing less. Every day seemed to be a countdown until dad came home. For Gabe, it was so that he would have someone's undivided attention. Someone who would play with him. For me, it was so that I could escape. Take a much needed hour away to try and find a piece of myself again. That first year with a new baby is so hazy. Every day feels like a time warp. Somewhere between nap times and meal preparation, I lost myself. I had such a hard time juggling the age difference between my children. One child was depleting all my physically energy which left me with no emotional capacity for the other.
Most nights I would step quietly into Gabe's room and look at his peaceful face. Why is it that during the day he seems so big? Yet, here I am staring at this small, beautiful child. My god, he is only 4, what have I done? I choke back a tear and silently reprimand myself. I can be better. I am the adult here. Patience. Patience. Wine. Ok, Tomorrow is a new day.
The day after Gabe turned 5, I opened his journal. I started writing to Gabe when he was just a whisper inside me. Over the years, this journal has become a compass for me. A reminder of my intentions, my purest heart towards my son. I read almost all of my entries that night. I became completely undone. How did I get so off track? When did I get so frickin' serious? How did I stop valuing joy in our relationship? When did the bullshit adult things become more important than the silliness and imagination of my child? Friends, I seriously lost it. I haven't cried that hard in years. Just the pure weight of it all. The desperation for change. The understanding that I had lost my North. That I had let the 'stuff' get to me. Looking back, it hadn't occurred to me how all the small moments of agitation had built themselves up to become a wall between us. I had felt this right to be frustrated - he just spilled his supper on the floor, again. He cried about that thing I tell him to do every. single. day. (again!) I kept bouncing from one irritation to the next, never fully recovering in between. I hadn't prioritized making purposeful space for fun. Pure, ridiculous, fun. Between a new baby, a maternity leave and grandparents thousands of kilometers away, I had let myself become a real, old, lame-o.
It's been almost a week since I've changed my attitude towards my son. I've chosen to be light-hearted and react to each situation where he requires correction with calmness and clarity, and he has responded so softly. It's been one of our best weeks in months. He saw that I came back to him, and he welcomed me as though I had never left. That is the magic in children, the past is where it belongs and the future is as far as the ice cream store down the street.
I don't think I'm a terrible mom. I don't generally let guilt guide me as a parent. What I am is a human, a beautifully imperfect person. What I want to be is a real, raw example of love for my kids. Sometimes (read, most times) that means I need to be broken in a real, raw way to get there. I know that this is the first of many "shit, I failed" moments I will have as a parent. So, let me celebrate my growth today. I've earned it.