Making deals with myself or how I’m not entirely sure I’m a grownup

IMG_8709.JPGThis morning I woke up early to make steel-cut oatmeal with homemade applesauce. I spooned it into pretty bowls, played the “Moana” soundtrack and tried hard to listen to my kids for the entire drive to school.

Yesterday, I made pink homemade bubble solution and watched all the “tricks” the kids wanted to show me; a bubble stacked on a bubble, a bubble inside another bubble and “look there’s a mosquito inside a bubble!” (That one was impressive).

These were premeditated mothering moments.

I don’t dislike doing these things for my kiddos. Not at all. I’m just finding I must “manufacture” them more than I used to. I don’t have the kind of mental and emotional energy I had for entertaining my kids. It’s not “spontaneous” anymore.

I plan these moments out now and make deals with myself.

Be a patient, good mother all morning and when you get back home you can stare out the window for 30 minutes.

Play three games of Sorry! after homework, then you can make the kids play outside and listen to your audiobook while cooking dinner.

These deals keep me going, because motherhood is hard and I don’t want to share my candy or my blanket.

I don’t want to hear how unfair everything in the world is, how blobfish are the ugliest creatures on earth, every detail of a dream which includes the phrase “and for some random reason” about a thousand times, how adorable sugar gliders are and the life-changing effect a giant pogo stick would have on our family.

I just want to sit in silence and do what I want.

Without guilt.

So, I do extra things when I can muster it up and make deals to push myself. I cut sandwiches into hearts. I fill hot water bottles up before bed. I massage their feet. I listen to the same story over and over.

Sometimes I’m rewarded with moments of pure motherhood bliss.

When my girl puts her hand on my chest because, “I can feel the warmth of your heart momma.” Swoon.

When my boy curls up in my chair, and I rub his head, and he coos the same sound he has made since he was an infant. Nothing better.

But then there are the moments when they are so loud, I can’t even breath. When the sound of their voices, even in play, makes me want to scream.

Yesterday, I read the same paragraph 15 times because the kids were laughing so loud I couldn’t comprehend the words in front of me.

They run by as squirrels, bears, monsters, quickly morphing from one to the next effortlessly with a kind of unhinged glee I can’t ever remember feeling.

They tear things out of every cupboard to make elaborate costumes, forts and lands, in an endless game of pretend which leaves me feeling dizzy with the speed and ferocity of it all.

Don’t you guys want to watch some TV?

Did I just say that?

Yes, I did.

Ugh.

I am turning 40 years old in April and I think I’m having a stereotypical freak-out. I don’t want to. I keep telling myself, it’s a number and it means nothing.

But, shit, I still have so much stuff to do.

I was supposed to have written lots of books by now, have tons of friends, explored castles and be a serious grownup.

I still sneak candy, forget to brush my teeth and don’t like vegetables (I only pretend to so my kids will eat them). I wear all black like a moody teenager, love Harry Potter, cry when I’m disappointed and don’t know what I’m doing.

When I pay bills and taxes I feel my age. When my back hurts after scrubbing the tub or my hand hurts from sleeping on it wrong, I think maybe this is adult life.

But, I don’t feel like an adult.

Maybe I never well.

I’m just Bridgette, and maybe accepting all my contradictions is the most grownup thing I can do.

‘Ugly, bad and stupid girl’

I see anger and hurt in her little face, but there isn’t time to address it.

I pack her lunch. I make her toast and oatmeal. I put a little watercolor Valentine heart next to her plate.

“You make me proud every day.
Love,
Mom”

She smiles and says thanks, but I can see it didn’t reach her. The place inside where it is hurting is hidden too deep. I can’t reach it with a card or a hug.

It is time for her to leave for school. She moves slowly, layering three jackets over her flower dress.

“Remember,” I tell her. “You control what kind of day you have.”

“Yeah,” she says and gives me a half hug before walking out the front door.

I watch her stomp away with her head down. She doesn’t look back, but I wave from the door anyway.

I drink my coffee and silently pray for her.

The day drains away. Errands. Cleaning. Driving. Driving. Driving.

Carpool reports she screamed on the way to school because she lost a game.

Brother reports she was yelling at some kid on the playground.

She reports everything is unfair.

Great.

The day isn’t over. We have to make a second trip back to school. She brings her knitting and I think maybe this wave is over.

No.

On the drive back home, she starts in on her brother again. It is over nothing at all.

He tries to tell her he doesn’t want to argue, but she clearly does.

She needs to prove her point and won’t stop.

The sound scrapes along the edges of the car and seems to fill every space.

“Stop it,” I say.

She does not. The sound escalates and I try again.

“Just drop it,” I say louder. “I’m serious. I don’t want to hear it anymore.”

I turn on the music, but she continues even louder.

The sound reminds me of arguing with my brother as a kid.

I want to tear my hair out.

I want to tear her hair out.

“I’m fucking sick of this shit,” I blurt out. “Stop fighting. You have been fighting from the second you woke up. I’m over it. STOP. NOW.”

Even as the words come out, I regret them. I want to force them back down my throat, but the damage is done.

She begins to sob.

You fucked up, I tell myself. You really fucked up.

Even so, I am still angry and my heart has turned into a heavy stone.

“Stop crying,” I yell.

“I can’t!” she yells back. “Don’t you understand I can’t?”

“You can and you will,” I say.

She doesn’t.

The rest of the drive home, I fume and she sobs.

We walk in the door and she loudly clomps up to her room. I stomp into mine muttering about respect and how ridiculous she is being.

I put on my pajamas and wash my face. My anger slowly fades and the sound of her sobs reaches me. A stab of guilt and regret does too.

I take a deep breath and walk into her room.

She is hiding under the blankets crying.

“Can I sit down?”

“Yes.”

“Can I hug you?”

“Yes.”

She lunges into my arms and cries into me.

“I’m a ugly, bad and stupid girl,” she cries. “Nobody will ever forgive me.”

I hate every one of these words.

“Oh love,” I start.

“It is true,” she says. “I am so stupid and dumb.”

I hold her and let her tell me all the things. The boy who told her she looked like a pile of garage. The girls who won’t let her play with them at recess. Her fear she will never learn to ride her bike without training wheels. Her anger at being the littlest in the family.

All. The. Things.

With each word her body softens until she is a mushy, soft baby back in my arms. I cradle her to me and rock gently.

“No matter what you do, I will never love you any less fierce,” I say. “You can never, ever do anything I won’t forgive. Ever. You are my girl and nothing will ever change my love for you. Ever.”

The smile on her face radiates and I am bursting with love.

How could I have ever yelled at this precious face? How could I have forgot for even one second how small and beautiful and tender and perfect she is?

“I’m sorry,” I tell her. “I should not have yelled at you. I lost my temper and it wasn’t OK.”

“You are the best mommy ever,” she says.

We melt into a mushy pile of love under the blankets and talk and talk and talk.

She really does make me proud.

Every day.

lola

A journey with my son

He won’t look at me anymore. I twist my head all around trying to find some angle to reach him, but he is allusive and quick. I don’t know when I lost him, but I feel the separation as sharp and painful as a knife wound. I bleed out silently, letting the anguish take me further and further away.

His feet shuffle slightly and I hear his breathing quicken. The tears are right there. I can almost feel them as if they were forming in my own eyes. He squints hard, fighting them and looks in the direction of the clouds.

“Do you see that?” he says pointing his entire hand upward.

“Yes,” I say without following his gaze.

“I want to go there,” he says.

“So let’s go,” I say.

His breath quickens even more and I look away. I don’t want to break the spell, so I count my intake and outtake of breath.

One.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Five.

“Really?” he says.

“Yes,” I say.

Six.

Seven.

Eight.

“Good,” he says.

I can feel him shift next to me and I stop breathing. I hold everything perfectly still, afraid to shatter this moment or even to crack it a little. It feels like the most fragile thing on the planet and I’m worried that even my thoughts will cause it to flee.

His hand reaches for mine and I stay limp and let him grab it. He squeezes it hard and I match his firmness without moving anything else in my body. My breath is as quiet as I can get it and I’m willing my mind to stay blank.

I feel our feet lift off the ground and I’m terrified. Now I squint my eyes closed, the tears pooling quickly as I feel the air become colder around me. His grip stays tight and I want to look at him. I want to see his face and read all the emotions I know are there.

I don’t risk it. The wind is getting stronger and I feel my hair blowing all around my head, as if it is trying to pull itself free of my scalp. My shoes fall off of my feet and my dress begins flapping loudly in the breeze. Whomp. Whomp. Whomp.

“I got you,” he says.

His voice is almost lost in all the sound around us, but I somehow hear it. My body, all tense and tight in fear, loosens at his words. I open my eyes and look at him.

“I love you mom,” he says.

This time his words are loud and seem to echo around us, bouncing off the clouds and air. His glasses have fallen from his face and his blue eyes have brightened to match the sky around us. His shabby brown hair, always in need of a haircut, looks somewhat perfect up here.

Sunlight is bouncing off his tan face, giving him the glowing effect the leaves in the tree of our backyard get in the early morning light. He is searching my face and seems pleased by what he sees reflecting back at him.

The air is suddenly still and quiet. We stop and he reaches for my other hand. He looks into my face as we circle slowly, the clouds wrapping themselves around us like golden blankets of light. The magic within him, the power I’ve always seen, swirling around us in bursts and bubbles. He giggles and smiles.

“I love you,” I say.

My voice echoes too, bouncing around and coming back in every pitch and tone. Like a chorus of my voices, high and low, singing the words over and over. The words seem alive and powerful, filling up every part of the space around us with great warmth.

We start to descend, the sounds of flapping clothes and wind rushing forward again in a great gust. He lets go of one of my hands and for a moment I fear I will fall, but his other hand is strong and reassuring. I close my eyes to stop them from burning in the wind and don’t open them again until my feet land back in my shoes. His hand drops from mine at the exact same moment.

I turn to look at him, but he is already looking away. I feel the space between us become heavy again, as if a wall was being quickly rebuilt in the span of 10 seconds. He angles away more and more until his back is facing me. I follow his gaze and see he is still staring up at the sky.

clouds

There is a massive cloud taking up the entire span of the sky directly in front of him. The cloud is made up of hundreds of textured layers, each varying in color from the palest of pink to the darkest of gold. It is glorious and we both stand still and look at it.

I want to reach for him, to yell and sing out my love in all the voices of the sky, but I don’t move. He knows, I tell myself and nod my head. He begins to walk away without turning around and a smile bursts across my face and fills my soul with the knowledge of it all.

He knows.

No secret handshake for me

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.

It’s not.

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.

kids

Falling in love in my comfy chair

I don’t normally share my chair.

The kids have dubbed it my “queen chair” and it is my favorite place to sit in the house. The soft-brown striped cushions are enormous and I sink deep into them. My beloved quilt is always folded across the back so it can be easily pulled down for cuddling and comfort. This is where I read, watch TV, craft, drink my morning coffee and have a good cry. It is also where I nursed my babies and read all the Harry Potter books.

I love my chair.

This week I shared it with a special baby, my sweet nephew. I fed him, burped him, played with him and let him nap in my chair. I spent four days with this little guy and I cherished every moment of being his auntie.

But something else happened this week too.

I truly saw my boy.

He is almost 10-years-old and things are changing.

I can remember sitting in my chair with him as a newborn and being so madly in love with him that I wanted to scream it to the world. He became my reason to get up in the morning, to move my body and to love. We did everything together and practically became one.

Now? I barely know this kid.

This week I took both kids roller-skating as a fundraiser for their school. I completely checked out when we got there, spending time chatting with my friends. At some point I see my boy and I reach my arm out to stop him.

“What are you drinking?” I ask him.

“Coke,” he says. “I won it. Didn’t you see?”

“I didn’t say you could have soda?” I reply.

He skates off and I’m angry that he didn’t ask me first, embarrassed I didn’t see him win something and just plain annoyed. I don’t see him again until it’s time to leave, and then I don’t bring it up because I have no fight left. He puts himself to bed and I barely have enough energy to muster a half-hearted kiss goodnight.

The next day we fight in the morning. I make his breakfast and pack his lunch and he takes 700 hours to put his clothes on.

“I have nothing to wear,” he screams from his room.

“I don’t want to hear it,” I yell back. “Get dressed now. You’re going to make us late.”

He finally comes to breakfast with a scowl and barely touches his food.

We go to a birthday party after school and I see him drinking a Pepsi. I call him over and he tries to hide it. I’m furious.

“Where did you get that?” I ask.

“My friend bought it for me,” he says. “Everyone is drinking them.”

“Not you,” I say and take it from him.

I see his anger and hear him tell his friends that I just don’t understand.

Again, I’m too tired to fix things between us.

We come home and fight over homework until bedtime. He is being so lazy and I’m extremely agitated. I yell. He cries. Not sure I even give him a kiss goodnight.

Yesterday we drop sister off at grandmas. We are alone for the first time in a long time and I just want to yell at him. He was poking at his sister the entire drive, he was rude to me and I want to just scream.

Where is my boy?

I miss him.

I miss us.

I look back at him in the mirror and mentally prepare a lecture about responsibility, kindness and not being a jerk to his mother.

But he looks different.

“You OK?” I ask.

“Mom, I need to talk to you about something,” he says.

“OK,” I reply and then brace myself for what I assume will be a barrage of complaints about how unfair I am to not let him play video games, watch TV or drink soda.

I am ready.

Bring it.

“My friend dreamed he kissed a girl,” he says.

Oh.

“Sometimes I get a funny feeling when I think about girls,” he says.

Oh.

He tells me about some strange dreams he has had, conversations about sex with friends and how he stood up for his sister at recess.

Oh.

I listen quietly, asking questions for clarification, but just taking it all in.

He is processing so much, seeing the world differently and he needs me.

He is talking to me.

I haven’t lost him.

Maybe I’m doing something right.

We talk the entire drive.

We talk about what he wants his future wife to be like, how he can be a better friend to someone he knows is struggling, how he really doesn’t like scary things, what he wants for Christmas and how much he loves the Percy Jackson books.

He talks and talks and talks.

Oh.

I take him in. His long legs and lean body; the way his eyes shine when he gets excited about something; the little smirk he gets when he says something clever; that laugh that he makes with his entire mouth open and his whole body jerking.

I fall in love all over again.

This afternoon I shared my chair with him.

We snuggled under my quilt, took selfies with my phone, giggled and talked.

photo

3

I’m in love.

No, he isn’t my sweet baby anymore. He is a growing boy filled with wonder, excitement, joy, optimism and hope. He drives me crazy with his boundless fits of silliness and complete inability to just do what I ask, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

He’s my boy.

Really, it’s just hair

I’m losing it over hair. Yep. My little boy cut his hair and I’m sad.

REALLY sad.

It’s just hair? Why are you freaking out?

Because I’m a mom and that’s what we do. Can’t help it. Not going to even try.

When he was born, I cried over his hair. It was the softest of brown with touches of gold around his face. It had the most intoxicating smell ever. EVER. I would spend hours nursing him and touching that sweet little head. It was my first connection to him. Newborn eyes are all squinty and barely ever open. But that hair. Just look at it.

newborn

As he grew that dark patch of hair turned golden blonde and started to curl around his neck.

one

Then it started to flow down and cascade around his adorable little face.

two

It was HANDS DOWN my favorite part of my little guy. We would snuggle and he would play with my hair and I his. The way it curled at the end would send my heart fluttering. I mean, just look at this.

three

Seriously, folks. Do you see these curls?

curls

Finally, after much persuasion, and honestly post-partum insanity, I let my husband talk me into cutting it. But NO razor. Just a scissor cut. Just trim it up. I cried as the curls hit the floor. He still looked adorable, but not a baby.

firsthaircut

Since then, he has had basically the same cut. Just trim it up around the face. NO RAZOR. Leave some length in the back.

before

But yesterday…he asked to cut it like dad. I knew the day was coming, but I was not OK with it. I didn’t go. Dad took him and they came back with matching haircuts and lollipops. It’s so short and he looks all grown up. No sweet messy hair all tussled when he wakes up. No uneven bangs getting into his eyes. Just an almost 9-year-old boy ready to tackle third grade. Sigh.

IMAG2130

My heart is broken into pieces, but that’s OK. It will happen again. He will continue to break it and I will continue to swoon after him. He is one incredible kid. From the moment he wakes he is filled with the spirit of creativity. His face always holds a smile and he loves to laugh and make others laugh. There is something special about him and it has nothing to do with hair.

Love you Coops.