Saturday, 14 September 2013

...But I LOVE my kids!

It happens all the time. I'll be talking with another mother, and she'll be sharing the latest trials in her house: "My two-year-old is so obstinate! He doesn't listen! He is driving me crazy!" I'll listen to the story and laugh and commiserate. But after a while, she'll pause for a moment, and a guilty look will come over her face. Then comes an abrupt about-face: "But I LOVE my kids...."—followed by an all-too-earnest diatribe on how wonderful motherhood is. 

I have to admit, I do it too. It's hard not to—no one wants to look like a "bad" parent. But I'd like to pass on a message to my fellow mothers: I get it. You don't have to defend yourself, and you don't have to explain.

My kids can be cute and cuddly, smart and funny. My husband and I often watch them at a party or a family get-together and smile at each other with a secret swelling of pride, thinking, They are so adorable! How did we get so lucky, to have such wonderful, beautiful girls? 

Sometimes, my kids are absolutely lovely. 

And other times, they are more akin to demon spawn.

But does admitting that mean we love them any less? Of course not.

My husband put it well the other day, as we were lamenting the horrid behaviour of our three-year-old over a glass (bottle) of wine. "Look at it this way," he said pragmatically. "If you had a friend who constantly burst into tears and threw massive temper tantrums and yelled at you that they weren't going to be your best friend anymore, would you like them all the time? Would you be okay with that kind of behaviour?"

No, indeed.

So let's collectively let go of the idea that we, as parents, have to handle the vagaries of our children's moods and desires with perfect grace. We're not perfect; they're not perfect. But we're hardwired to love our kids—so let's just accept that love as a given.

And let's be honest with each other about our struggles and feelings, so that we can find a solution, a coping mechanism or, at least, a measure of comfort that we are not alone. 

That's what I'm trying to do here.

Because, you know, I love my kids.

Monday, 9 September 2013

No More Babies

My youngest—my 13-month-old—seems to have changed overnight. She's walking now and starting to talk, and I'm amazed at how much she understands, even if she can't communicate it all yet. Every day, she's looking, sounding and acting more like a toddler: mischievous, opinionated, full of spirit and into everything.

So that means, this is it: I have no more babies.

The rational part of me—the part that dreaded having a newborn the second time around—is supremely relieved. I was walking through the baby aisle at Whole Foods the other day, eying the nursing covers and the bottles and the jarred baby food, and my overwhelming reaction was, Thank God I don't have to do that anymore! 

No more sleep deprivation (well, most of the time, anyway); no more frustration at trying to figure out what on earth the little creature is screaming about. No more marathon nursing sessions; no more pumping. No more living my life in three-hour increments based on a baby's sleeping/napping schedule. 

As my kids get older, it's getting easier—and my friends with older children tell me it gets easier still. I fantasize about the day I'll be able sleep in past 7 a.m. or go on vacation with my husband and leave the kids behind.

And yet.

No more babies means no more naps with a sweet-smelling newborn cuddled right up into my neck, searching for that warmth and comfort that she lost when she left the womb. No more tiny clothes or adorable but pointless shoes. No more waiting impatiently with a hard, swollen belly, wondering, What is this little person going to look like? Who is she going to be?
It means there's no longer anyone who is hopelessly, helplessly dependent on me. And, if I'm being honest, I'll miss that.

So when I nurse my 13-month-old to sleep knowing that this time might be the last time; when I watch her eyelids grow heavy and feel her warm hand clutch mine, I want to freeze that moment. And keep her a baby for just a little bit longer.