Momdom. That’s where I live, where I hang out in yoga pants and a ya’ll sweatshirt. I am the queen of the kitchen, the laundry wench, the seamstress, and the schoolmarm. I am the queen of my own castle, but man, most days it looks more like a hoarder’s house with toys in every corner and mail strewn across the floor. Most moms can understand the multiple roles I play because they also have many more roles than any human should. When asked to write about what my day looks like, I decided, instead of boring you with my days, I would entice you with my nights. Sounds exotic, no? Keep your pants on. It isn’t. My nights look like getting up every three hours with my youngest son and literally wrestling my older child into bed each night. I am simultaneously the comforter and the disciplinarian.
I read a lot of self-help books. It is actually slightly addicting to invite these strangers into your head and life to dissect you with their words and charts. From early on with my youngest, I read to be in-tune to his needs, because he had a touchy personality, among other variances. I doubt you have met a 6 month old that can make grown ups mad, but Liam could. He refused to smile at strangers, or coo, or really do anything other than deadpan stare at them. It was actually pretty funny. Though, I was usually the only one laughing. Following the advice from a few different books over the last three years has led me to the belief that unless you have that perfect child all the authors list first in their charts, you are just screwed. I was screwed. My kid didn’t eat, didn’t sleep, wasn’t friendly, and could scale refrigerator shelves at 9 months. Oh, the shame of it all. Fast forward two and a half years: he is at least friendly now. He still doesn’t eat or sleep well but, hey, I will take one out of three. The odds are at least looking up and I don’t think he is an old dog yet. I still remember driving to my in-laws and listening to a pediatric doctor on the radio. She spoke directly into my heart when she said that some parents would just be happy they got their children in bed without stitches each night. She also said if you were one of those parents, good job. I sat there savoring the affirmation that my job, my only job, was to get my kid through the day in one piece. Her advice has stayed burrowed in my heart for almost two years.
Recently, he has started having night terrors. Night terrors are baby nightmares which, you, as the parent, can do nothing about until they wake themselves up. It is the most heartbreaking thing to endure. Imagine, you are sitting beside your wailing child and they literally do not register your presence. They are panicked and crying and you can just sit there. You are totally helpless. The one thing you have always had, if nothing else, was the calming presence of just being momma. What do you do when that doesn’t help?
The funny part is — and really it isn’t funny — I feel totally helpless most of the time with my kids. Both are at different ages and stages and I find myself more and more helpless to deal with what they bring to the table. I guess as a parent we feel that way so much of the time. It is all a balancing act. How hard do I push? Am I supportive enough? I find myself saying more and more, ‘I just don’t know’. That razor’s edge I feel poised on for different reason with the boys is exhausting. It is a different kind of exhaustion than the sleepless nights. I am almost used to those, and have found I am a high-functioning zombie most days.
I have decided that raising children is a lot like a series of night terrors. You have 10 hours with them a day (until they go to school) to be loving and compassionate. Then darkness falls, and the terrors come, and all the hugs and kisses and encouragement don’t matter for those few minutes. I view sending my kids into the world as a sort of protracted night terror. I can only wait until they wake up from their selfishness or rebellion to comfort them. I can pour myself into both of them but there are times they are just on their own. I can’t be there to push or encourage, that’s not my role. I have to trust that they will wake up and turn to me. It is funny how comforting it is to me to equate my older son’s bumps and wrinkles to night terrors. I can put a name to it. It is no longer floating anxiety. It has a name and a function and my role is clearly spelled out. I am to wait patiently until they wake up. I am to sit quietly in the dark, with my heart hurting, until they turn their eyes to me for help.
I can do that.
I can wait.