So many of you have had babies lately. Or posted adorable photos of your young children on Facebook. I’m sorry I haven’t joined the gushing. It’s not that I don’t care. Granted, I’ve never been much of a baby person – I’m a fan of self-sufficiency and babies have so little of that – but mostly my reluctance to add to the “Oh my gosh, SO CUTE!!!” commentary stems from the fact that I’m having a hell of a time with my teenage/adult children. When I see those wee babes or kids still young enough to find joy in playing with stuffed animals or T-ball or glittery facepaint, well, my heart just breaks that much more.
I remember, you see, the hopes, dreams and optimism I felt back then. When, despite all the challenges of getting through the days with three children under the age of 10, one sweet moment – a huge grin, a sticky hug, the satisfaction of having my children gathered round while I read, how completely engaged they’d be in listening – oh, in those moments, it was all clearly worthwhile. They glowed with darlingness, so bright, so cheerful, so clearly destined for happiness. I was sure all the years of sacrifice would pay off in their successes. I knew that despite the hard times – mom and dad fighting, money always tight, flared tempers and constant crises – that the fact that I loved them would carry us through. I thought with my love and experience wrapped around them, they’d be cushioned from too much hurt, from making bad decisions that would bring them more pain.
I was so fucking wrong. Learning you can’t protect your kids is the first horrible lesson you learn as a parent. Usually about the time you’re standing in the emergency room or when your kid has come home in tears from being teased by some rotten little asshole child in preschool. Realizing you’re the one who has screwed them up is the next. Because they come into this world nearly perfect. At least mine did. I thought all I had to do was not mess them up too much. But right now, feels like all hard times and no pay off. Like maybe I wasn’t nearly a good enough mother. Like obviously I haven’t been a good enough mother because if I was, my oldest would be thriving and my youngest wouldn’t be worrying me to tears and my middle kid wouldn’t be sick of being the only one who’s managed to keep it together.
And all this hurts in that way that I want to curl up on the floor and not move. But I can’t because I have this whole huge life in addition to my kids, the one in which I’m actually doing pretty well, and I need to keep that going because that’s all I have left to offer my family in hopes of moving forward. Whatever “moving forward” means. Mostly I think right now it means “surviving” with a little bit of “please let this be as hard as it gets.”
Sounds whiny, doesn’t it? You should be used to whininess, what with the little kids and all. That’s one advantage of them being bigger now. They don’t whine – although they may call you an asshole to your face.
So anyway, when I look at your pictures, hear your excitement, it only drives home how much I’ve lost. My failure to muster up enthusiasm is selfish, I know. I’m really, really sorry about that. I hope you can forgive me. They are really sweet.