Yesterday I asked you what you’d like to see more of on this site and many of you replied with “more personal essays!” And it’s true, I haven’t been writing as much personal stuff lately. Part of that is because the personal stuff takes a bit more time and focus — two things I often feel short on these days. And the other reason I haven’t shared as much is because my life now feels awfully narrow, as much as it feels full. I am still many things — a wife, a daughter, a friend, a writer, a champagne-drinker, even a “runner” if short, slow jogs count for that. But mostly, I am a mom because parenting a 2-year-old is so all-encompassing, especially if you are a stay-at-home parent (even a stay-at-home parent who works part-time).
And so, my life is narrow; there are play dates and tantrums and messes and crafty things and silly songs and always looking for a missing mitten. And while I don’t usually struggle with the narrowness on a personal level — I appreciate that this time is but a blink on the radar, and in five or ten years, I will look back and wonder how it went by so quickly — when it comes to writing about it, I worry that: a) it’s boring for people not actively IN it; and b) I don’t want to exploit my son or my family or share anything I may regret later when Jackson is older. I want so much to tell you all how incredible he is — how wicked smart and funny and full of joy he is (when he’s not being a Terrible Two) — but I don’t want to invade his privacy and I don’t want to sound like that asshole parent who can’t stop bragging about her child.
I am a proud mom though. And these last few months as Jackson’s vocabulary explodes and he finally has language to express his many, MANY different thoughts, feelings, and opinions, I am getting to know him in a whole new way. It’s pretty great. Here is this little boy who is part of me and part of Drew and part of our parents and families and yet he is so entirely himself in a way I knew, intellectually, that he would be, but am seeing now right in front of me and it kind of blows my mind.
The rewards of parenting are becoming better. Jackson can tell us he loves us, for one thing. And he tells jokes! Ok, so his “jokes” are basically just saying “fart!” as many different ways as he can, but, come on, that’s funny. I mean, clearly, we are raising a mini Louis C.K. here.
It’s not all laughs though. Parenting a 2-year-old boy is the hardest thing I’ve done. Sorry, brand new parents, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it gets A LOT harder. Yes, you do sleep though the night again eventually (sort of) and that’s fantastic, but the time when the kid is awake gets much more challenging — physically, emotionally, and mentally. Every day, I question whether I’m really cut out for this. Every day, I hope I am not messing it up too much. And every day, even two years and two months after becoming a mom, there are moments — sometimes hours — when I still long for the freedom of my old life.
And I think about that road not taken — the path of the child-free life — and I wonder where it would have led me. Surely, there would be more travel. More spontaneity. I wouldn’t feel so tired. I’d probably look different — thinner, fewer wrinkles, better rested. I’d have more time to see friends — to nurture old relationships and foster new ones. I’d have more time for hobbies and interests and work that fulfills me. And in not taking that child free path, there is some sadness. But less, I know, than if parenthood were the path I hadn’t decided to pursue.
There are never entire days that are perfect, but there are days with many perfect moments. And even in those moments are the tiniest hints of longing — not for a life before, but for this life, or this moment at least, to last a little longer. On days when the three of us are all home together, Jackson says happily, “It’s Mommy, Daddy, Jackson day!!” and I wish I could bottle that — the expression, the joy, the utter contentment in simply spending time together — because I know in a flash, his world, like mine, will widen. And that flash can come literally in the next moment, because with a 2-year-old, emotions are in constant flux and what is contentment now is utter chaos thirty seconds later.
I am learning to weather the constant sea change as best I can — to handle the epic — EPIC — tantrums with all the patience I can muster. But it’s hard. It’s exhausting. And I find myself wondering when it will get a little bit easier — when I’ll have a chance to catch my breath. When he starts school maybe? Hopefully? And then I think back to the newborn days and at how much I’ve learned and grown and I start thinking, “Babies are a freakin’ cake walk compared to this.” And then I think about the potential to really actually enjoy another baby because I would know so much more the second time around. I would know to savor it all a little better, I think, and not get so worked up over insignificant stuff like how much breast milk I could manage to squeeze out if I pumped six times a day, for example.
Anyway, my point is: I’m still here. I’m happy. A friend of mine — another mom of a 2-year-old — commented the other day that it seems like I am finding my pre-jackson self again, but that isn’t really true. My pre-Jackson self is gone. But so is the nervous brand new mother who took her place in the early months of Jackson’s life. Now, I am a more confident mom who is finding a little more balance. I am not my pre-jackson self and won’t ever be again. But I am a better me, I think — more patient, less critical, more accepting of people’s limitations because I simply have more of my own now. There are more headaches now and more arguments with Drew and more moments I want to scream. But the joy is louder, too. And that’s a pretty wonderful thing to experience.