To my two sweet and spunky girls,
When you are hungry, and instead of asking for a snack, you whine and cry and maybe pick a fight with your sister. It takes me awhile to realize the problem is your low blood sugar and not just the attitude.
I wish you could have said you were hungry.
There are moments when we need to get out the door and you lose your temper. Finding the right shoes, or any shoes st all, becomes tantamount to climbing Mt. Everest carrying an elephant on your back. Not to mention that you need to get the right toys for the car, the perfect book to keep you occupied, and a bottle of water just in case we’re gone for hours instead of minutes… because you’re the kid and have no idea what’s coming after “we’re leaving, go get buckled in the car.” Add to the pressure a mom who is starting to lose her cool and yelling, “hurry up!” only adds more fuel to your overwhelmed feelings.
It should have been no surprise that you had angry tears by the time we pulled out of the driveway.
There’s the time you lie. A small innocuous lie, because you know you did wrong and you so wish you had done right. And you want so badly to make me happy in the end. Lying doesn’t feel like a choice … just the only option for escape.
I still wish I could help you understand no matter what has been done, lying always makes it worse.
If you and I were all being honest with ourselves, we would admit that our home is made of meltdowns, of overwhelm, of fears and frustrations all playing their part.
And the adult in me wants to blame you.
I want to say it is your age, or immaturity, or background, or something. Because if it is you, then by default it is not me.
The other day, I found myself deeply missing you. Both of you. I longed for cuddles and snuggles. To play together. To bake. To giggle. I longed for kitchen dance parties with loud 80s music. To swing, hand in hand, in the space between the fridge and the dishwasher, laughing because laughing is always good. I longed to feel your body soft and warm resting up against mine as we watch The Great British Baking Competition, and guess who the winner of each challenge might be.
I long for all these things.
And yet, what I do so often does not reflect what I want to do.
I yell when I really want quiet and peace.
I push away when what I need is comfort.
I ask to be left alone when inside I’m feeling a mix of loneliness and touched-out-ness.
You go to snuggle, but you’re so wiggly I worry you’ll wake baby so I ask you to leave my room.
You play music but the worries in my head are so loud the noises clash and bang against each other. Figuring out what to fix for dinner in an hour, remembering 5 minutes too late I was supposed to go to the bank, obsessing over the latest development in the results of your sister’s medical tests, feeling sad over the losses in my family, and looking around at all the messs that demands it be cleaned RIGHT THIS MINUTE overwhelm me. You ask me to dance. I sigh. I shake my head. I’m too stressed for fun. Dancing is the last thing I feel like doing.
At night, I love reading books together. But this night, breastfeeding has got me hangry and I don’t have an easy snack I can fix with my food intolerances. I’m trying to cope, but you and I both know, coping when you’re hungry is hard.
Dad has the baby, but I hear her getting frustrated and him getting frustrated too. I want to sit and snuggle you two. I want to read for an hour, especially if we’re into a good book. But I’m needed in too many places, and have little time as it is. You dawdle and need ice … a drink … a potty break … a different book … a new stuffy … and I snap at you.
You think I don’t want to spend time with you. But nothing is further from the truth.
Sometimes, mommy needs a timeout too.
See the thing is, I thought you were the only ones who struggled. The only ones in this family who would just act better if you wanted it badly enough.
But I find myself thinking all day long, I don’t want to be like this.
I want to be fun mom, engaged mom, happy mom. Instead, what you too often see is angry mom, stressed mom, frustrated mom, overwhelmed mom.
One day, you’ll grow up and you’ll be a mom, and I know you’ll understand.
You’ll understand how hard it can be to manage the needs, behaviors and emotions of 5 people in the home. You’ll know what it’s like (I hope) to have older children and a needy baby. You’ll know what it’s like to feel fragmented into a million pieces with nothing leftover for yourself. You’ll know the struggle between self-care and other care when you have limited time or resources.
But there’s too much time too wait, too much damage being done, too many misunderstandings on all our parts to wait for this conversation.
And so I say it now: I am sorry.
I am not always right, I am not always fair, I’m not always as kind or generous or loving. There are times when I have needs and I am poor at recognizing or verbalizing those needs. There are times I too get anxious and react instead of be intentional with my time and energy. There are times I lose my cool too. There are times when I give when I need to take, and times I take when I need to give.
It’s not just you.
But the thing is, even if I am far from perfect. Even in the midst of the struggle, the love I have and always will have for you goes so much deeper. It is the foundation of everything I am trying to do and be for our family.
I know it doesn’t always feel like it. Like you, I’m still a work in progress.
But I promise. I /’mtrying and will continue to try to make the feelings I have for you on the inside show by my behavior to you on the outside.
And in the meantime, when you’re losing it over a missing shoe or a favorite rock from your rock collection that has gone missing, or that your room is so messy you’re in complete overwhelm …. I’m going to do my best to stop. To offer grace. To show a little compassion. To offer help.
I’m choosing now to remember that the most important thing is not a clean house, an on-time schedule, or a life that looks put together from the outside.
The most important thing is that you and are not alone. We’re in this together. And we’re in this forever.
Now … about that dance party … I think I might have found a little time to squeeze that in.