I have fucking had it with motherhood

by renegademama

First, the world makes me think having a baby is the greatest fulfillment of my woman-self paired with pastel nursery items and tiny duck sleep-sacks. Like having a doll only more fun because it gives life everything you need to not worry about death.

Okay, so maybe I’m the only asshole who believed this.

I am not. I am not the only asshole. Look around!

I was, however, twenty-one when I found out I was pregnant with my first kid, and had, admittedly, spent the previous few years face-down in my own alcoholic vomit (aim high), but I really thought having a baby was like adding a small tasteful accessory to the lapel of an otherwise-totally-unchanged life.

And then, I get that kid, and realize having a baby is no more or less fulfilling than any other life activity but your body

We were babies.

will change and your identity will feel like it’s been sucked out of your breasts by this separate human being without whom you would die, which is the whole fucking problem.

And if you get postpartum depression, which many of us do, you’ll feel like a lone monster in a world of organic cotton harem pants while your husband looks at you like “But we wanted this,” or sleeps. Quite soundly, actually.

Not to oversell it.

And then it seems I have nothing but time, all those years of childhood – eighteen! So much can happen there, can’t it? And I’m thinking my life is going to be this raucous, fun thing of running around and telling kids to do shit and watching them grow and thrive and when they finally do – grow and thrive, that is – I will send them off with beaming pride and vague sense of relief.

I sent Ava off four days ago.

This morning I looked at the wad of her hair, permanently placed over our shower drain no matter how or when I ask her to clean it, and I thought to myself “I can’t clean that. It’s my last memory of Ava in the house.”

IN OTHER WORDS I’M DOING REALLY FUCKING WELL HERE FOLKS.

On the morning she left, I walked into the house and buckled, feeling like the air had been removed from my body. I spent the next fourteen hours walking around in a daze, crying, and not showering. I only broke my silence to tell Mac how I wasted it all and “only yelled” and “now it’s gone.”

I also ate a significant amount of brie and played Two Dots on the couch. When she left. Not during her whole childhood. There was a Candy Crush phase in there.

OH MY GOD I HATE EVERYTHING I DID WASTE IT ALL.

On day two I got a shower in at 4pm. That’s it. That’s what I did.

On day three I got a shower in at 3pm, and read an entire James Baldwin book for a book club I’m in.

And today, today I showered at 10am and now I’m writing to you with absolutely nothing to say beyond this: Motherhood is a crock of lies and I’m done with it. I’m out.

Please allow me this tantrum thanks.

Much like the way we don’t recall the pain of childbirth twelve seconds after they put that adult diaper on us, when that child leaves 18 years later, do we remember the endless work of raising her?

No, goddamnit. What you remember is her face beaming in the hallway as she comes out of her room, eight years old, in the most ridiculous outfit ever imagined, ready to go out for the day, and you remember her hair all frizzy in the beach wind and you remember her toddling and you remember her on the first day of middle school and you remember the way she became a woman. Do you remember the flaming cauldron of bullshit that is no sleep? Fuck no, you remember the way her body felt pressed against yours for the first time, the way it felt insane to drive home from the hospital – to actually place something this precious in a vehicle and move it around on streets shared by the common man.

I’m a mess without her. Her absence is a gaping hole in my home, this family, my heart.

The world tells me to be proud. Sure, but give me time. People say the happiest moment of their life was when their kid left. Cool. Good for you. I feel like my bowels have been removed. That was gross.

People say “It hasn’t ended.” Oh but it has. Part of it, at least. Can’t we let that be? Can’t we say “yes, the unbroken 18 years are broken.” It HAS changed. It’s okay, but for things to change, other things also have to end.

LET ME WEEP ABOUT HAIR WADS IN THE SHOWER IS WHAT I AM SAYING.

Nobody told me about the shower-hair sadness. Nobody tells you shit.

 

Since she was about ten, Ava would play music while getting ready for school. She’d turn it up to wake up the other kids, to lure them out of bed to start the day. She’d play Disney soundtracks. She’d play Hamilton. She’d play horrible pop music I couldn’t name. Sometimes she’d play the Rolling Stones or Grateful Dead. Always she’d play the Beatles. And she’d sing. She’d sing and sing and sing.

I lived for that music. So many mornings, I held that music as my lifeline, proof that our family wasn’t really that fucked up. Here we were, singing. Look at us.

Well, the kids. I may be racing, late, yelling, so tired my bones ache, wondering how and why I’m going to face another goddamn day of driving in circles wondering how much is left in the bank account, but by god here are these four little humans and there’s music playing and it’s our home and we did this, Mac and me. Somehow, we did it and we’re alright.

She’d crank up that music and pull our family into her joy, and I heard it, goddamnit, I heard it.

The morning before she left, I heard it again. She was in the bathroom next to me, singing along to a country song, playing her music just as she’s always done, only I sat on my bed and wept.

It is just her I will miss. The rest we move on from – the regret, the pain, the shock – but her person with us, every day, bringing only what she can bring – for that I’m grieving, for now.

It’s funny, isn’t it, the way everything can change in a single meaningless moment, a single bad country song? It isn’t that I’m fed up with motherhood; I’m fed up with every story we tell about it. All the expectations I have around it. All the ways I think it’s going to be, or should be, or would be if I were a better person.

It is a tragic, heartbreaking, limitless joy, contracted sometimes into my own disappearance. I get smaller, this whole thing does, eighteen years pressed into her voice, singing oblivious to my ears, right next door, dying for her sound and its end.

One of these days, when my heart can bear it, I’ll turn the music on myself. Maybe I’ll even sing the way she did. Maybe we all will.

the day before she left we spent the best afternoon ever on the square in our town, listening to some dude play guitar and sing. I walked over and saw them like this.

 

***

Hey, hi. Look. There we are, a long time ago.

Also, holy shit my hardcover is $9.50 on Amazon.

Cheaper than the paperback. No idea how these things work, but for sure it will change soon.

33 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | August 14, 2019

Hey Moms: If we could have done better, we would have.

by renegademama

Look what kind of bullshit the world handed me recently. These two photos are taken one year apart, to the day:

One day, we have the child we’ve always known, and the next day, we don’t. This is hitting me so hard right now, and I’ll tell you why: The boy who I somehow felt was always going to be a little boy is suddenly a teenager with size 13 shoes and I feel like all I did was yell his entire childhood.

Get off my case about the soaring drama, okay?

Sometimes, I don’t care what my Facebook and Instagram look like and I don’t care about that time you had dinner in my house and thought we were just such a loving family. What we really were is a fraudulent rage family.

Was I ever a real mother?

So many nights I’ve rested my head on my pillow and wondered if I said even one kind thing to any of my kids that day. I don’t mean “You’re the most special creature I’ve ever encountered and I’d die for you.” I mean just a compliment, at all. A recognition of them as human beings trying to grow up.

Or did I simply bark orders? Did I simply lose patience? Did I simply tell them to do this and do that and then, that night, did I think tomorrow, damnit, tomorrow I will be better. Tomorrow I will ask my boy about how things are going in general and maybe I’ll suggest we go get some tea together and my god Janelle you went to the grocery store with him – you could have talked – were you on your phone?

Were you too busy? Did you even notice?

 

And as I rest right now at 3am on a mattress on a floor in Holland, my four kids tucked into their rooms, the boy in the photo who used to sleep every night in a pile of stuffed animals and blankets on our floor, currently snoring behind a CLOSED DOOR if you can imagine that shit; as I lay here next to my husband who does not stay up at 3am wondering about these things, my whole body aches for some relief. My whole body seems to shiver with a desire to go back, to see him one more time as the little boy I’ve always known, the little boy I held held held until he shut the door to his room.

Those nights, when I’d watch my life screaming past me in frenetic monotony, I’d tell myself, “At least he’s still a little guy. At least he’s still just a boy. Tomorrow.”

What do I say now?

 

After a week of these highly fruitful midnight contemplation sessions, I have decided I am sick of this fucking guilt. I am sick of the way my brain wraps it all into regret, wraps it all into you coulda done better. You know what? I obviously could not. If I could have done better, I would have.

But let’s talk about this, the “mom guilt.” What a terrible feminist I am for even admitting I have it. MOM GUILT!

We don’t have that since we’ve been liberated. We don’t have it because men don’t have it, because it’s an invention of the patriarchy, because we congratulate dads for bathing their offspring, so this is all nothing more than internalized self-loathing, so stop.

Okay fine, good talk. I feel so much better.

I don’t. I don’t feel better.

And you know what? I’m tired of every feminism that doesn’t meet me where I am. Every feminism that tells me I have to love being fat all the time. Every feminism that tells me feeling a loss of identity when I became a mother is a betrayal of my bra-burning ancestors (read the comments).

Yes, it matters where the guilt comes from so we can deconstruct it. Unexamined life, etc. But HEY FRIENDS I’m here now. There’s no solution in “Don’t feel that way, Janelle, because it’s a construction of the patriarchy.”

OH SO FAKE IT THEN? What a fresh take!

And as much as these self-empowerment gurus tell me to shed that shit alongside all lingering desires to diet, the feeling is still here. If I were to declare otherwise, I’d simply be lying to myself. How is that “empowering?”

I want something real, something tangible, something actually freeing, not just some fucking band-aid rhetoric.

We are where we are, and if you can’t help me from there then you’re just trying to sell me another line. A workshop, perhaps. A retreat. A book.

Weird how the world makes money off polishing my shit into something more palatable.

 

And the truth is this: I have missed a lot of my kids’ lives and I feel like shit about it. Some of it I missed because of alcoholism, but most of it I missed because I was living a life of seemingly impossible circumstances.

Years of a husband leaving at 3am and coming back at 5pm only to not see raises except in healthcare costs and student loan payments while babies keep getting shot in school and the rich get richer and my degree gets smaller and they keep telling me my discs are crushed because I’m fat, which is probably true. I’ve just spent so much time so fucking tired. Always, it seems. Tired, worried, drained. A frantic monotony. How quickly life can become something to survive, kids something to manage. Manage. Manage.

Play with? Engage with? Cuddle with? Stolen moments here and there. A glance.  A book before bed.

But inside of myself, you know, there was often such turmoil. So much goddam pain.The world suggests “self-care.”

You know what? Sometimes we’re too poor for self-care, too tired to even remember. We squirm under the boot of a damn-near impossible life then beat ourselves up for “missing it.”

And that, my friends, is some bullshit.

 

After more tears than a feminist like me (lol) would like to admit, as my breath stops in my throat when I think about Ava going back to America in three days to finish high school in the States, when I think about my first two babies never returning to how they used to be, and I feel once again I may die from the sadness of what’s gone, of what’s lost, of all that was once in my hands, I follow it all the way to the end – past regret, shame, wonder – to a deeper part of myself. The part that knows I did the best I could with what I had, and I always fucking have.

We always, always fucking have.

And sometimes, sometimes for years, it isn’t much. But if I look, I see those stolen moments. I see the times I looked at my kids as they sat on our front porch, and handed them an ice cream to watch a movie with me, and watched them sleep, reached for their hands while driving.

Hey, little one. Here I am. And damn, you’re beautiful. In this mess, this fucking crazy life, I race and race but I show up when you need me more times than not and sometimes, for mere seconds, I stop to feel your palm against mine. Could that be enough?

The other day at dinner I asked my teenagers “Do you feel like all I did was yell at you your whole life?”

They threw their heads back and laughed. “Absolutely! It’s been terrible!”

Ava then turned to me, her voice a serious tone: “Why would you ever ask that, Mama?”

And I see in a flash that today is where the freedom lies, the healing, because today is the day I will someday yearn for, when they were young, when we were young. Someday, I’ll look back at today as the years I can’t get back, and I’ll remember the time I asked them if all I did was yell, and I’ll remember the way they glanced at each other and teased me, the sun against their sweaty teenage necks, and the way I sat between them, almost in their hands.

****

Speaking of mom guilt, have you read my book?

It’s not really about mom guilt I just couldn’t think of a segue. 

Also, did you know I’m teaching a five-day writing retreat on a magical island in British Columbia? 

 

40 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | August 7, 2019

Eleven days in Holland

by renegademama

Heyyyy, so we’re in the Netherlands now. I had all these visions of videos and blog posts, recording it all and telling you all in great detail, but as it turned out I was just trying to get through it.

For the week leading up to our departure, I just felt fucking numb. So numb that I wondered if something was wrong with me. I guess the mind/body has a way of protecting us from that which is too massive to comprehend. Intellectually I knew I could just come back, that it was an adventure, that it was a great thing we were lucky to do, but my heart kind of broke anyway and all the unknowns lit fires of anxiety raging, so I mostly sat there staring at suitcases, vaguely throwing shit in the them.

The hardest part was causing pain in the people I love. People in my family don’t really move away from northern California. I chose a college that was close enough that I could still see my parents on regular old days. Not just Christmas. A Friday. Some wintery Tuesday. That’s the way I like it. That’s the way I’ve lived.

But this thing happened to Mac and me a couple of years ago. We went to Spain and France. And we knew we had to come back. We had always wanted to go somewhere, live elsewhere, show our kids something other than America, and when my grandmother was murdered, we lost all delusion of that “someday” will present itself. There is no good time, no reasonable time.

It will never make sense. This isn’t some “follow your bliss” Eat Pray Love bullshit. This is fact.

The time never comes.

And one day you may be eating Chinese food with your family then find yourself ten minutes later taking your last breaths on a linoleum floor. Was that too intense? Sorry. But that was the reality we had to fucking digest and I’m telling you it changes a person.

How the fuck are we going to live a life we can hardly stand (Mac commuted 3-5 hours/day), running circles on some rat wheel, hoping “someday” it will all mellow out and we’ll be happy and free and able to afford insurance without a job that’s sucking our lives dead and dry?

How do you “focus on retirement” as the time when you’re going to do all the things you meant to do when you have indisputable evidence that life is a fleeting motherfucker and you may not make it that long?

Ah, I’m bored of myself. I’m sick of this talk. It’s simply impossible to talk about any of this without sounding like a motivational speaker in some soul-crushing Marriott conference room during a self-improvement weekend retreat in Bakersfield. “Someday never comes, guys! Follow your dreams!”

To which the world responds: “Fuck you, Janelle. I’m just trying to feed my family so fuck right off with your ‘sell everything and go to Europe’ bullshittttttt.”

And I agree.

 

Anyway on July 6, we found ourselves in the airport. I told my mom we are not doing a goodbye. There will be no goodbye. I told my best friend that, too. Some goodbyes are impossible, pathetic. They hover in the air like a gnat. Irritating, meaningless things.

But it doesn’t matter. At some point you have to walk away. The goodbye forms itself.

It’s strange how things in the mind are dreamy and exciting, but when reality hits, when you’re actually living it, the physical logistics of moving through the world take over, and you’re just trying to check your bags and feed your kids and not lose your five-year-old and get on the fucking plane and not miss the connecting flight in Copenhagen and sleep on the plane (no way in hell) and get the rental car and SIM cards and through customs. It just becomes activities your body is accomplishing. Ain’t that annoying?

Everything and I mean everything becomes REAL. That’s the part on Instagram we don’t get to see.

We had friends who met us at the airport. I don’t know if they’ll ever understand what it meant to us to see their faces.

They held a sign that said “Welcome home.”

 

But then, that first night in Haarlem, Mac and I walked out of our Airbnb and stood on a little bridge over a canal as the sun was setting over the old town, and we could see the big church that stands in the central square, and I looked at him and said, “Do we live here now?” We both maybe cried a little but in a totally tough guy way.

And that was a moment when it all felt just like I imagined it.

A Dutch man walked by just then, grinned at us, and said something in Dutch. We ended up chatting with him (in English), telling him it was our first night in our new town, that we had just moved here for California, and he was so delighted we felt like he was our very own tiny welcoming committee.

He said, “You’ve come to the most beautiful city in Holland. Time to open champagne, you did it!”

And then, the fucking mayhem began. We had two nights in the Airbnb. The morning after we arrived, still basically hallucinating from exhaustion and jet lag, we got the keys to our house. It was entirely empty. We drove with a friend to Ikea and loaded up on cheap ass mattresses, plates, silverware, cups. Some toilet paper and food from the grocery store. It’s really fucking weird to realize you have NOTHING IN YOUR GODDAMN HOUSE AND THERE ARE SIX OF YOU WHAT DO YOU BUY WHERE DO YOU START?

Coffee. That shit’s obvious.

I went to Ikea five times in three days. Going to Ikea was my new hobby.

 

But we have a table now, and a TV and a couch. We have a couple of lamps. Mattresses on the floor. Hoping to get our shipping container in six weeks or so.

So, do we like it here? Well, yes. It’s gorgeous and laid back and there are moments when we look at each other and say, “Do we really live here?” Moments in cafes, drinking lattes and hot chocolate under some old ass church. Cobblestone and gelato and those wonderful cafes in old European squares, with all the people facing out so they can watch the passers-by. That was my dream. That was what I missed from Spain.

We live across the street from a beautiful park. Everybody rides bikes with no helmets, and the cheese is spectacular. We don’t have a car so we ride busses and trains and bikes. I find myself sitting at bus stops now with my kids, chatting and waiting. Our refrigerator is the barely bigger than a hotel fridge, and the grocery store is .5 miles away and we have no car, so I walk, almost every day, a mile to get food. It’s a different pace of life.

We are fifteen minutes from Amsterdam, three hours on a fast train to Paris. It is a dream.

But there are moments, moments when a strange loneliness washes over me. It feels ice cold, bone-deep loneliness and a touch of unrest, anxiety. This isn’t my home.

And I think again of my parents, my friends, of California redwoods and the thick fog of Santa Cruz. I wanted to come here to build a new home, to look around at a new world and try something outside what I know. This is my home now, and I’ll find my way, but everything has a cost. Those moments of strange loneliness remind me things are never simple. We don’t just cut off our lives, our people, and walk away. We remain tied, inextricably, as if it were all just one mile away. You just leave a part of yourself over there and walk along to some new place. They both become you. But only one wraps you in the history of your life, your place.

I am right where I’m meant to be, that I know, but the pieces of my life have been thrown into the clouds. I’m waiting for them to fall into something I recognize.

In the meantime, I’m letting this whole thing teach me. That is, after all, what I’m seeking, isn’t it?

Haarlem

I’m telling you the fucking cafes.

The park across the street from our house.

Seriously Haarlem is gross

Our living room. I can’t believe we actually pulled this shit off. Or have so far.

BTW, I write more off-the-cuff daily (or mostly daily) updates on Instagram and Facebook, but mostly Instagram. So if you’re interested in following along, that’s where to do it. I am going to try to write more often on the blog, but it’s a different kind of writing. 

***

Hey, so I’m still here talking about my book. People are reading it and still sending me pretty wonderful messages. If you haven’t checked it out yet, THERE IS STILL TIME.

27 Comments | Posted in Netherlands | July 18, 2019

We leave in ten days. Still don’t know how.

by renegademama

“Mac, THIS IS THE CRAZIEST SHIT WE’VE EVER DONE.”

“Honey, I’ve been with you 18 years and this doesn’t even rank in the top ten.”

I guess he has a point, but dude. This is fucking nuts. We just got a place to rent in the Netherlands. As in, yesterday. So the day before yesterday, we were thinking we may have to delay our arrival date. That woulda sucked.

Look, I know people do complex things, but selling all your shit and moving to another country with kids really has a lot of moving parts. Who woulda thought?

Schools, housing, bank accounts, immigration application, cell phones, health insurance, drivers’ licenses, tax implications, shipping your shit overseas, getting to the actual other country, figuring out what to bring, getting from the airport to the town, getting the keys to the house, and then, once you arrive, remembering it’s an empty house because it takes 8 more weeks for your shit to arrive.

Sooooooo we arrive in Amsterdam July 6 with our four kids. We rented a VAN because that’s all we fit in, and we’ll drive to a hotel in Haarlem for 2 nights. The next day, we’ll get the keys to our house, and then we’ll head to Ikea to buy a sofa bed and beds for the kids, and pray to god they can be delivered that day so we have somewhere to sleep. DOES THIS STRIKE ANYBODY ELSE AS A SHIT PLAN?

Whose idea was this?

 

It’s funny how things change when you’re in the middle of them. They seem to get, well, super real.

A few times a day, I ask myself or Mac: “What the fuck are we DOING?” He laughs.

Are we really doing this?

Is this actually going to work?

If this works it will be a fucking miracle.

You know that feeling when you’ve been thinking and packing for a family vacation – and packing and thinking more – and you finally load into the car, throw it in reverse and know you’ve forgotten shit but you just can’t care anymore, so you just hope it isn’t anything tragic?

Yeah, I feel like that, only if I DO forget something, it could be a massive fucking problem. Like, I’m on the wrong continent to fix it. That kind of problem.

I’ve surrendered. I’m at the point now where I’m saying “Okay, we have birth certificates, passports, immigration paperwork. FUCK ALL THE REST.”

I suspect this also a shit plan.

 

The hardest part of this move, however, is not the moving parts. It’s hurting people I love, which is really happening a lot lately. Goodbyes, real goodbyes. Grandparents with a voice that cracks as they ask Arlo to write them letters.

“Where will you stay?” asks Grandma.

“Right here,” George says, patting Grandma’s heart.

Tell me you can watch that without bawling.

That’s a really shitty thing, isn’t it? When you know something is right for you, for your family, so right that you just couldn’t shake it for years, no matter how hard you tried, no matter how many times you told yourself “You can’t do it.” “It’s too hard.” “It’s irresponsible.”  “It will hurt your family.”

We tried to dodge it. We tried to not go. But it because like a fire in our guts, this all-consuming thing that raged harder the longer we tried not to extinguish it, until we couldn’t take in anymore. We knew we had to go. And yet, in doing so, we are harming others. We are taking grandkids away. It feels unnecessary sometimes, ridiculous.

It feels so fucking self-centered. Funny how a thing can feel like all those things and still be right.

 

People have been asking me why we’re moving. They seem to want a clearly defined REASON. People assume we have a job change. That’s not it.

I want to answer the question, “Why are you going?” with the words, “Just for life, mostly.” To live, pretty much.  But that doesn’t go over well. Confuses people more.

And yet, that’s kind of all I can say. First of all, I spent a year in Spain from 1999-2000 and always, and I mean always, wanted to return to Europe. I didn’t return because I had Ava.

That dream went into hiding, mostly, poking its head up occasionally. Mac had the same dream, though he’d never lived there.

Why have we had that dream? Because we want to experience something else. Because we want our kids to experience something else. Another way of living, breathing, thinking, speaking.

We just felt like we wanted to DO SOMETHING. Try something new. Check out what it’s like to not live here.

And for the last few years, we found ourselves simply existing with no end in sight. We worked all the damn time to barely survive. Barely cover our bills. Barely keep from drowning. Is there another way to do life? Are we allowed to try? Could we just do it?

We started looking at retirement as the time when life was going to get easier, when we’ll live freer. And then we started thinking about how sad and risky that is, because who the hell knows if we’ll get to live that long?

We began thinking about our deathbeds, about how we’ll feel if we never tried doing a thing that lived in our guts and souls as the path for our families.

Look, maybe this is just a midlife crisis. Let’s not rule that out.

Y’all. We were feeling dead and just wanted to fucking do something. Is that enough reason?

 

And I’ll be real frank with you all right now:

I am extremely nervous about where our country is headed. I am not at all convinced we can defeat Trump and his authoritarian regime. We elected a democratic House and they aren’t doing shit. Congress is our last line of defense and they are cowering. They are cowards. The disgust I feel.

So yes, we’re getting the fuck outta here to see if it gets better in America so we can come back. I hesitate saying this because, well, let’s just say not everyone in my family is politically aligned, but also because I’m a white middle class woman. I ain’t even the person they’re coming for. Yet.

But yeah, we want out. That’s it. Period. We want out.

I feel ambivalence about this: Indescribable relief to get the fuck outta here, and deep guilt for getting the fuck outta here. A friend said, “We need people out of here, to remind us of other ways of living.” Yes. But I think of people who want to leave and can’t. Fuck. There’s no right way. There are no answers. I am deeply grateful. I don’t know. This is all so complicated.

But I can promise you I’ll keep writing and I’ll keep voting and I will keep fighting these fucking fascists with my words. I hope getting distance from America will allow me to understand her better, see her more clearly.

I realized while sitting at the foot of the Grand Tetons, staring up at those snowy peaks, the sun cutting through the trees – my beautiful, wild, scrappy country – I fucking love her. And that’s why my heart is broken.

If I hated America, I wouldn’t care about her being brutalized like this. And yet, I’m saying goodbye anyway. For now, at least.

God, nothing is simple, is it?

Here we go.

somehow my overall mood don’t even know how exactly

***

A relevant excerpt from my book

“Sometimes I would imagine myself on my deathbed, looking back on my life, and I would feel – I mean really feel – that this life is all we get. These years, one shot, ninety years if we’re lucky. And I’d grow so terrified of just not doing anything that l would grow almost frantic.

And yes, standing among those other mothers, I was searching for meaning, even when nobody was looking – for connection, purpose, color – some taste of recklessness in a neighborhood of neutral tones. I’ve always been looking for Barcelona.”

 

28 Comments | Posted in Netherlands | June 25, 2019

Arlo turned five today and I’m really doing well

by renegademama

I never thought I’d be the mother enduring some sort of existential crisis because her baby is turning five. I don’t know, I’m not much of feeler.

No, that’s a lie. I have always been a grade-A feeler, but I used to be an excellent feelings-suppressor, thinking as long as I didn’t look sad, I wouldn’t actually be sad. As long as I didn’t show you I had feelings, I didn’t actually have the feelings. If anybody would like further emotional intelligence guidance, I’ll be here all week.

Crying felt like vulnerability which felt like I’D RATHER DIE.

If this makes sense to you, hi. We should probably go to therapy together.

I’m totally healed now. Totally. I assure you. Despite my max-healed status (I may be overshooting here a bit), I still have a hard time crying in front of certain people and those certain people are people I’m the closest to.

I’ll cry in front of a room full of strangers at a book reading but have a very, very hard time crying in front of, say, Mac. I can cry with love, or remembering a loved one, but I can’t cry because he hurt my feelings. I can’t cry when I’m just HURTING.

The more I write about this the more I feel like you’re going to tell me I’m highly disturbed and should throw in the towel in a sort of all-encompassing life way.

There’s some part of me that suspects that if you know I’m sad, that you’ve hurt me, you’ll think I’m weak and beat me with a metal rod until I bleed out.

Maybe I should keep these things inside.

 

Anyway, something happened to me at about age 35, and it’s just gotten worse (better?) since then. Thirty-five was also the year I turned five years sober, so I really have no idea if this development is on account of age in years or the relative maturity that comes with sobriety, but my fucking point here is I FEEL SHIT ALL THE TIME NOW AND I AM SAD ABOUT MY BABY TURNING FIVE AND I WANT ANOTHER ONE LEAVE ME ALONE.

I never knew I’d be a mother who looks at her youngest and simply wants him to stay.

I don’t want him to get to that next phase or stop this or stop that. I just want him to stay, right here.

It isn’t that he doesn’t annoy me. He does. Kids are annoying. But all I really feel when I look at him is an all-consuming gratitude that I still have this tiny bouncing kid in my house.

I have his lisp and his fat little fingers shoving Spiderman into the mouth of a metal bird on my mom’s porch. I have his little bottom racing down the hallway to escape the bath. I have his ringlets covered in unknown sticky substance two hours after the bath he almost escaped. I have his big eyes and closed-mouth smile and endless, meandering, nihilist questions. I have him playing on our floor.

Oh lord almighty, the playing. The imagination. The little lilt they get while inventing games “Pretend you’re the fireman and I’m the dad and you come to save me but my dog won’t leave.” Can you hear it? All the kids use the same one.

The story spins endlessly. Pretend, pretend, pretend. Do they ever actually play? I watch them and listen as they create the scene endlessly, never actually having the characters do the thing. I could watch them all day, but I stay in another room, because they’ll stop if they know you’re there. Or they might. I want them to get lost. I want them to forget about me so I can soak them up just as they are without Mama around.

I still have a little body against mine, a body that fits perfectly in the curve of my body, that snores the tiniest little grumbly snore, that smells like sweet baby sweat in his neck. I still bury my head in it when he wakes up. I take in the wild fuzz of his head. Pajamas. I have those, too.

I’ll never be a person who wags her finger and instructs young mothers (hahaha) to “Enjoy it. It goes so fast.” But fuck me, I’m here living that recognition against my fucking will. I didn’t ask for it. I HATE FEELINGS AND SENSITIVITY.

I certainly don’t enjoy this all the time, and my patience is just sort of – misplaced? – but I can tell you that every single fucking day, I think about how soon I’ll turn around and he’ll be somebody else. He’ll talk “properly” and he won’t spend thirty minutes rolling a truck on a pillow with a Paw Patrol character, and he won’t just fit on my lap if I curl him into a very tight ball. He just won’t be, well, a little guy.

I suppose in a way this is a wonderful place to be, though if I think about it too hard I dip my toe into a pool of guilt and sadness that I didn’t “take it all in” perfectly enough when my other kids were young. I thought I had forever. I knew another was coming along.

I thought I had forever.

You don’t think about how things will end when it all feels like a beginning.

But fuck guilt. We only have what we have when we have it. And back then, I had the smooth-sailing ignorance of “so many years.” And now, now I have minutes that seem to contain entire lifetimes. That’s how sacred they’ve become. I hold them like I hold his little hand, aware of the softness of his palm in mine, the pressure of his grasp, and how fast it slips away when he turns, runs.

Happy birthday, Arlo.

 

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