**Warning** I write what is in my head and my heart. Sometimes, it’s beautiful and sometimes it’s not. This post is not. I thought about keeping it to myself. I decided to share it because I feel like it is SO important to hear the real and varied voices of motherhood, not all of which are happy. I share it because I want you to know, when you see me in the store and it looks like I have everything together, effortlessly, that nothing could be further from the truth. I struggle. I fall down. I veer off the path and find thorns. I recognize that these darker, scarier moments make up a minority of my time with my children, but they happen and they are here nonetheless. In my desire to be authentic, I must present the bad, the ugly, the hidden….otherwise, what is the point?
In the still of the night, I cried. I cried with my child, for my child, because of my child.
What started out as a lovely day turned so quickly it made my head spin. I stood in the store parking lot, feeling a hot wave of tears and anger well up from deep inside. Should I go home? Drag on? Do I try to work with the tantrum or stand my ground? He wants everything and nothing, all at once. I try consoling. I try discussing. I try bribing, threatening, leaving, staying, in and out of the car, stand here and do this….nothing works. I sit in the seat, defeated, wondering how I got here and when it’s going to get better.
Then, the wave subsides and there is calm.
We make our way through the store, on eggshells, trying to get what is needed and get out before the next storm hits our shores. She is waiting in the car and I long to talk to her, give her the attention that seems to be solely focused on them. I put on my “happy face” for the store, but my man knows better. I tell him that now is not the time, I’m holding it together but need to get home. He follows me out to the car and asks how to help. I wish I knew. Instead, I try to instill exactly how I feel:
I am barely holding it together
I want to lay down on the ground and cry
I want to run away
Someone is always upset, I can’t make them happy
Two of them get everything
One gets something
One gets nothing
He asks what he can do to help. Should he come home? I tell him no, I’ll be fine. And I will be. I know this. It doesn’t help in the moment, though. And then the baby cries. I get him out and plop him in the cart while I load the groceries in the car. I am silent. I am still.
The day wears on and I wonder what is wrong. Is it me? Is it them? Why is this so hard? Why do I feel unglued? Why am I overwhelmed? More tantrums ensue, timeouts occur. Screaming, lots of screaming. The tears are burning my eyes for hours on end, but I hold it together. Am I going insane? Is this what it feels like to descend into madness?
I try to make things fun. Let’s go for a walk, plant seeds, play with neighbors…anything to avoid the tantrums. During those times, there are moments of peace, moments of joy. Underneath is the constant current of self-doubt. What am I doing wrong? Why is this so hard? How can I keep this up?
Finally, it is evening and Daddy is coming home. My voice is flat, I can hear it. He asks, again, what he can do to help. He gives the little ones a bath, but the baby cries the whole time. I hear it, in the kitchen, and keep chopping. My heart stings for him while at the same time understanding that I need a break. I keep chopping. After the bath, we eat and then the little ones fall asleep.
Darkness comes and I can breathe
Moments to myself
Space to myself
All is quiet
The whimpers start
Small, quiet at first
Sometimes they go away, but not tonight
They become yells, screams, demands
I comfort him, to no avail
He fell asleep peacefully, but he wakes upset. This is not the first time, but today’s events make it seem insurmountable. There is nothing I can do for him when he’s like this but wait it out.
I hold him, he screams to be put down.
I put him down, he screams to be picked up.
He screams for us to lay down.
I lay down and he screams harder, something incoherent.
He’s crying and kicking and thrashing.
His dad tries to hold him.
He fights and cries and yells for mommy.
Daddy takes him away to calm down, worried about my sanity.
I scared him, he says, I don’t know how to help you, or them.
Eventually, he calms down enough to walk to the bedroom and cuddle up next to me. He falls asleep, with a few more cries, in my arms. Thinking over the day, over the words, the screaming, I can’t help but wonder why? The tantrums over which bowl the food goes in, where I stand, what I say, how I look at him…and on and on. I know the developmental struggle between independence and dependence. I know that this will pass, but when and will we be okay?
In the still of the night, I cried.