Sometimes, when I’m particularly tired or frustrated, I let myself daydream about what my life would be like if I didn’t have children. Oh, the freedom I would have!
I’d hire a trainer at the gym. I’d run in all kinds of races. I’d have a career. I’d walk the dog in the evening, get drunk on the weekends and sleep in the next day.
Do you know what I’d really do? Long for children. If I didn’t have children because we couldn’t conceive, I’d cry into my pillow and my heart would break with loneliness. I’d chart my temps and track my ovulation because all my life, I’ve wanted to be a mother. If I didn’t have children because I had never found Steve, I’d be less than half the person I am right now. I’d be anxious and lonely and probably on some sort-of mood-altering medication.
Well, the grass seems green where we’ve never been
But it’s seldom true my friend
I’ve been struggling – really struggling – to find patience lately. With the kids mostly, but also the dog, the dishes, anything or one who crosses my hurricane path. Saturday night I laid on my parents’ pool deck at their house out in the country while the girls slept peacefully and I watched the stars. My dad pointed out the Big Dipper (as he always does, every single time I’ve looked at starts with him) and the Milky Way. I saw four or five shooting stars and I centered myself and closed my eyes and breathed in the fresh air and said quietly to myself, “I need to find patience.”
A woman in my run group has a five year old daughter. We compare stories, as parents do, and laugh with each other. She comes to our morning run on Sundays with green paint smeared on her arms and under her nails. “Craft time,” she says happily and unapologetically. She is probably 45 and told me once that she would have loved to have more children, but had been lucky to have her daughter.
Last week, as we stretched, I complained about Leila’s reluctance to wipe her own bum. She smiled and told me that those are the moments she treasures. That soon her daughter will head to school and start limiting what she allows her mother to do for her. And I was floored. Because it has never, not once, occurred to me to approach these kind of situations with that kind of attitude. It is fleeting, these innocent years, and maybe sometimes I don’t appreciate them enough.
I yelled at the kids a few days ago, a monstrous roar that erupted from my chest because I was just So! Frusterated! (over what, I can’t remember). I grabbed Leila’s arm and told her to STOP COMPLAINING AND LISTEN TO ME. Her big blue eyes filled with tears and she stuttered out, “You scare me when you talk like that!” Had the kids behaved that way, they would have been sent to their rooms.
And I must’ve been blind, ‘cause I thought I could find that kind of love anywhere.
Everyone once in a while, I long for another baby. I plan it out in my head, the next 18 months and what they would entail. I have imaginary conversations with Steve, arguing the pros against his cons. Time is running out, I think. If it’s going to happen, we should do it now, while our life is still this close to baby-stage. Last week, as I watched the girls run on the front lawn, I saw my family for what it is: Complete. And yet, the longing? I think it might be a mixture of fear and boredom. Fear, because my children are growing alarmingly fast and maybe if I did it just one more time, I’d like pregnancy. Maybe I’d do it right. Maybe I’d be better, more patient. I’m not sure why I direct that outwards instead of focusing on the children that I have.
I’ve never done well with routine. On one hand, I need the same schedule each day, but on the other, I bore easily. School is good for this type of short attention span, as we are always talking about something new, something different. And the kids keep me busy enough on our days at home that it usually doesn’t occur to me until late afternoon that I forgot to brush my teeth or that it’s a possibility that every Tuesday for the rest of my life will be cleaning day.
We’re taking a vacation this week, a few nights at a small chalet in the country and then a few more nights at my parents. Steve needs this time off work, and I need this time with him. But I’ve been homesick lately, when I leave even for one night, and just want to go home to my own bed. In two weeks we leave the kids with my parents and head to Florida for five days. It’s our first time away together alone since our Honeymoon and I salivate at the thought of getting away.
Life continues to flow as fast and steady as a large river. It is both tumultuous and soothing, and frightening in its strength of speed. I keep up, some days because I have to and some days because I can so easily see all the gifts I have.
Well the road is long
But my legs are strong
And I’m coming back home.