Of the many things I didn't really understand before I had kids, top of the list is the range of emotions that I would feel within a single day...even within a single hour. I love my kids, I really do, but they also drive me crazy on a near-constant basis.
Yesterday, my husband spent several hours putting together a shoe cabinet that we'd bought to try to de-clutter the front hallway. Then we decided to go out and do some errands in the small window between the baby's nap and the crabbiness that inevitably arises if we miss lunchtime.
My husband and I were upstairs getting the baby and ourselves dressed; my three-year-old was downstairs putting her shoes on. "Don't touch the shoe cabinet!" my husband yelled down the stairs. "I haven't anchored it to the wall yet; it's not safe!" But we all know that three-year-olds aren't particularly good at following directions...
There was a loud crash, followed by an even louder scream.
All parents know that scream: the one pitched an octave higher, filled with genuine fear. The one that makes your blood run cold and the hair stand up on the back of your neck. The one that makes you drop whatever you're doing and RUN.
When we got downstairs, we saw that she had pulled the cabinet down on top of her and was pinned underneath it.
Fortunately, aside from a couple of bruises, she wasn't hurt. But we were all a little shaken. I found myself pulling her close to me, cuddling her, kissing the top of her head. Thinking, My god, what if she had been seriously hurt? What if something really bad happened to her...what would I do?
That lasted for a couple of hours.
But by the end of the day—after hearing "No!" and "I don't want to!" for the thousandth time; after she swatted me for telling her to sit and eat her dinner, and I gave her a timeout; after she screamed and cried so hard about it that she almost made herself sick—I was done again. Out of patience. I wanted nothing more than to get out of there; to leave my screaming, needy children behind for someone else to deal with.
My love for my children is simple but profound: I can't think of a single thing that I wouldn't do for them, and I can't imagine my life without them. But it's hard to reconcile the depth of my love with the depth of my frustration.
Does every parent feel this way? I hope so. At least if my kids do drive me off the deep end, I'll be in good company.