The tide of parenthood.

I’ve been swimming against the tide all day today.  Each wave crashing over me, leaving me tumbling end over end, fighting, reaching for light and gasping for air.  

I felt my anger rising this morning, almost from the moment I opened my eyes.  It simmered just underneath my tired sigh as I peered at my wide awake, smiling 4 month through one eye, hoping that he would go back to sleep and knowing that he wouldn’t.  It bubbled up over coffee as I negotiated a cranky toddler and dealt with the nagging guilt of not being able to give myself fully to the baby, content in his crib.  A hesitant moment of negotiation broken by screams and shouts of “no!”  Moments of excited reconciliation ending in sighs of frustration and fierce, defiant wails.  

Finally, I couldn’t fight the tide any longer and I let the next wave carry me under.  A final kick (to my shin) and my anger burst forth ferociously, uncontrollably. I yelled with the voice of a mad woman, so loud my voice cracked with rage and tears began to leak from the corners of my eyes.  I yelled with all the rage of a hurting heart; pushed past my breaking point, I lost my self-control.  I was tired of being kicked, tired of being defied at every turn, tired of having to say everything 5, 6, 7 times and still not have it done.  I couldn’t take any more and I let the waves carry me.

It is not a good feeling to let your anger get the best of you and act out towards your child. Even when they are hitting you and kicking you and they don’t stop after you ask again and again, it does not feel good to act in anger towards a tiny being who is as much an extension of you as your arm.  It’s as if, in that moment, you can see their light dimming in front of your eyes.  And in the back of your mind, even as you are gasping for air and fighting the urge to hit back, to throw something, to just start running and keep running until your lungs burn and your legs give out beneath you, you know that their behavior stems from being over tired, that if you could just have a minute to calm down, everything might be ok.

I got both boys secured in their car seats and they were asleep within a block of our house. And when I was finally able to take a breath again, it came out in sobs.  I cried so hard that I almost had to pull to the side of the road to keep us all safe.  But each mile that passed allowed me to breathe deeper and gave me the space I needed to forgive myself, to begin to understand, to allow the waves to settle and the sea to calm.

Their lights are so bright, my boys.  I never want to dim that.  I want to be their home base, the one they run to when they are hurt and tired and in pain.

Having children opens your eyes to the areas of yourself that need work, the areas that are strong as well as those that are weak.  As Casey navigates these new waters of big emotions and increased autonomy, I sometimes find myself wading in muddy waters, trying to figure out better ways to handle my own big emotions, trying to identify the places where I need to exert more control and where I can give a little.

It’s not easy, this mothering thing.  I am not perfect.

When he woke up from his nap, I got down on his level and apologized to Casey, told him that it was mommy’s job to help him when he felt angry or out of control, instead of becoming out of control myself.  I gave him a cake pop from Starbucks.

“Thanks Mom,” he said as he reached up and wrapped his body around mine, resting his head on my shoulder and sighing with release.  I felt his light then, felt the brightness return. Children forgive so easily and so completely.  They give themselves so entirely to us when we allow them to.  My job now is to forgive myself, to continue to work to allow Casey to give himself to me, to accept him and guide him in his every step.  It is my job every day to work to turn myself towards the horizon and move with the eternal rhythm of the tide of parenthood.

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