Life lately has felt a lot like the wild swings of Kentucky weather. We’ll have a snow day on Monday, bundling up against the cold so we can make snowmen (and stomp them to bits) and snow angels and revel in the wonder of winter. By Friday we’re eating popsicles on the porch, the twins running around in nothing but diapers. And so it is with them: curious, cuddly, adoring toddlers today; whiny, frustrated, tantruming toddlers tomorrow. Sometimes it changes within the hour and I know it is so normal, but I can’t shake the feeling of being off. It’s like boarding a plane in December all bundled in winter layers and then sweating before you even touch down in Miami or Mexico or wherever it is you lucky people jet off to while the rest of us freeze our buns off all winter. I’m losing my metaphor. I’m trying to conjure up that sweaty overdressed feeling that happens when the situation changes and you didn’t have enough time to prepare. Lucky for me, that seems to be what parenthood is all about.
I’m trying to take advantage of the good days. The “get out of the house and explore and run errands and jump in puddles” days. Today was supposed to be one of those. The forecast was for storms but it was brilliantly sunny and warm when we dropped Drew at school and headed to the Y. While the kids played in the childcare center I slogged through 30 minutes on the treadmill, happily distracted by the newest Liturgists Podcast, and then had a lovely shower in a locker room where even a thin curtain and stall feels more private than my attempts to shower at home with the toddlers banging down the door. Exhausted and smelling of fruity shampoo, I went to gather my children. I could hear her almost before I left the locker room – apparently Evelyn had been screaming for the entire hour, refusing to play or be held or comforted. The kind childcare workers assured me it was fine and not to worry about bringing her back and promised “she’ll get used to us!”. Of course, Evelyn turned on the charm as soon as we were safely back on the parent side of the partition, blowing kisses and shouting “bye bye! oh bye bye!”
The giant automatic doors slid open in front of us and Rowan squealed with excitement and bolted towards the parking lot. Evelyn froze, absolutely terrified of the door, and then dropped in protest of our going any further. And so I’m watching Rowan running for the massive mud swamp created by last night’s rain and some unfortunately timed construction work and I’m still holding Evelyn’s hand as she tries to slam her head onto the floor and my mind in that moment is torn. I know I should go after the kid who is either about to be flattened by a minivan or covered head-to-toe in rusty brown mud, but my reasoning is warped by the way E’s screams are amplifying in the Y atrium, echoing and magnifying her terror.
Parenting is just the hardest time to be your own person. Everything is in conflict, not just because there is nearly non-stop actual conflict generated by the children you decided to bring into this world, and not just because you worry what other people think or how your choices and your children affect others. No, it’s mostly because these little people alter your basic faculties with their screaming and their waking up at 5am and their being hell-bent on killing themselves.
As a parent you’re always second guessing every choice, not just wondering how you’re going to carry two 25lb children all the way across the parking lot while they scream and try to wrench and throw themselves from your arms, but also coming up short on why you thought it was a good idea to try out the free weights today (oh my burning and severely atrophied biceps) and also why on earth did you put the kids in rain boots which are the easiest of all shoes to kick, mud-covered, into your face? These are the questions I ponder while trying to aim Rowan’s next flail towards the glasses that are about to slide off my face. That, at least, is a success! (ish)
On the other hand, yesterday was glorious and we had a wonderful little picnic at a fun playground and it was all going well enough that I some had spare time to spend judging the moms who were busy on their phones (ahem. because that’s never ever me). We even made it through costco (with the help of a small bit of frozen yogurt) scream-free and only forgot to pick up laundry detergent and something else I still can’t remember but the point is: the meltdowns were minimal and the sun was shining and the gas was $1.44. And why? Why was yesterday so lovely and today so rotten?
I just long to get on top of these emotional swings. Is it me? Do I have unfair expectations? Am I just exceptionally bad at handling the stress and emotions of irrational little creatures? Am I setting them off in some way, not doing enough, being thoughtful enough, present enough? Is this just toddlers? Separation anxiety? Teething? Sleep troubles? All this swinging in and out of clinginess and independence, from sweet smooches to vicious bites, I can’t figure any of it out.
It’s supposed to snow again tonight. I hope this will mean a day of cuddles and maybe some messy muffin baking, and probably at least one viewing of our beloved “Mater’s Tall Tales”. I hope it won’t mean another night ending with me totally losing my mind, screaming at my people because they look me in the eye after being told to stop splashing and gleefully flood the bathroom and then pee on the floor and kick me while I try to put the diapers on. I hope I will be a little bit wiser and more patient and softer tomorrow. I hope I hope.
This weekend I get to head back to Chicago to celebrate Kendra and her soon-to-arrive little bundle of newborn perfection. I’m leaving these intense little people for a whole 2.5 days, the longest we’ve been apart since they were born. I am thrilled and feeling guilty. Eager for more time and conversations with other adults, but knowing I will miss our weird pace of life and my part in it. I know this will be good for us. I need to spend a day without being screamed at. I need some everyday normal adult conversation that won’t be interrupted by someone trying to bite someone else, or by a thrown truck colliding with a still comically large toddler skull, or because two people are fighting over who gets to put the battery in their mouth. I need to be reminded of the beauty and wonder and joy of new life. Of the hard work of growing and laboring and bringing life into the world, and of the instant bond and swell of hope and pride and oneness you feel with that little person. Your person.
Here’s to a weekend of rest for all of us, my friends. A weekend to remember where we’ve been and where we’re going and new eyes to see the mystery and beauty right where we are.
And my dear Drew. Thank you, and good luck.