The laughter drew me to them from my bedroom, where I was folding laundry with my morning coffee. I walk down the stairs and find them sitting on the living room floor with a paper between them. They are taking turns drawing on it and bursting into hysterics, their entire bodies literally shaking from the power of their giggles.
“What’s going on?” I say.
They don’t hear me at first.
“Hey guys,” I try again, attempting to sound casual and not at all like I’m about to start making them clean up. “Whatcha doin?”
They both look up at me like I’m an alien trying to invade their tiny planet.
“Nothing,” they say together and resume whatever nonsense this is, erupting into new fits of laughter as I walk away.
My children have a club. I’m guessing they call it “CoopLa” as I see it scrawled all over the place, but I’m not privy to the information. It looks like a pretty fun club. Their mission seems to be along the lines of:
*Cut up as many things as possible and use all the tape and aluminum foil in the house.
*Be really loud and make sure to laugh and scream out random words frequently, like Moo and Noodles.
*Move around the furniture often and in a dramatic fashion.
*Name every stuffed animal you can find and cover every surface in the house with fluffy cuteness.
They are enthusiastic about everything they do. They fight sometimes, but generally find resolution without intervention. They are tight, like peas and carrots.
There are days when I try hard to join in their fun, but I will never be in the club. I’m the bouncer and owner, but I’ll never quite belong.
They are exclusively exclusive.
Which is as it should be, I tell myself.
Childhood belongs to children.
Right? It’s how I’m supposed to feel. This is their time, not mine. I didn’t give birth to them so I could have friends and comfort.
But fuck. I miss it.
When they were very little, I was everything to them. Comfort. Food. Friendship. Playmate.
I was the sun, the moon and the stars.
But now I am not the only thing in the world filling those needs. They have each other, friends, grandparents, teachers and themselves. They have discovered inner strength and often find contentment in being alone.
All this is what is supposed to happen. This is the parenting process.
It’s beautiful and natural.
But I fucking hate it.
I feel myself being pushed away and pulled back on a daily basis. Give me space, but you better be there for me when I need you. Ask me what I’m doing, but don’t expect me to answer you. I need to know you care, but I don’t want you with me. Give me what I want, but don’t really because I’ll change my mind in five minutes.
The teenage years are still far away, but I feel them coming. This is the sweet spot of parenting right now and I know it. They are somewhat independent, but not disillusioned yet. They want stuff, but it is not their primary focus. They still ask questions and actually listen to the answers.
This is supposed to be the easy part.
There isn’t one.
I walk into my boy’s room and find him listening to the iPod with earbuds in. He is singing and tapping his toes while flipping through an animal magazine.
“Mom, there is this new song on the radio I think you will like,” he says pulling out just one earbud. “You have to hear this.”
I put the earbud in and sit close to him and my heart feels all kinds of confusing shit.
My girl and I go school shopping, just the two of us. She picks out clothes she likes and goes into the dressing room all by herself. Hanging the sign on the door, like she has seen me do a thousand times, and then coming out and modeling the clothes.
I stand there, outside the door, and I don’t even know what to feel.
I make eye contact with a mother of a teenage girl and she looks exhausted. She smiles at me encouragingly, but it looks forced. It is forced.
This shit is hard.
Not the kind of hard babyhood is. Not the sleep deprived, please don’t choke on something small and die. No. More like, my heart breaks every day to see you figure out how fucked up things can be and please don’t let you have the same depression I have.
That kind of hard.
Sometimes I just wander the house, not knowing what to do with myself. I am drawn to them, but also pulled away by a million things always needing to get done. I rush around cleaning, making plans, paying bills, writing and working. I see them slip by me and I reach out, but then they are gone.
I walk into my daughter’s room to deliver laundry and there they are. My boy is reading to his sister. They are snuggled and happy. My girl looks up and gives me the smile she always does and I want to join them. But I don’t. I smile back and walk out of the room.