Welcome to another addition of More Than Cheese and Beer’s Sunday Confession. This week’s topic is: Reconcile. I’m revving up my confessing engines as we speak…
I have a tendency sometimes to focus on the negative parts of life. At the end of the day, I usually remember the struggles, the messes, the tears, and the time-outs more clearly than the “I love you”s, the hugs, the kisses, and the fun. This is partially just my personality, but also partially an unfortunate by-product of blogging. Chaos is funny. I like writing about it, and people like reading about it. I know I do. Who wouldn’t want to read about somebody else’s family doing things at least as bizarre as their own? All families are dysfunctional in their own way. Realizing that is the most functional thing I’ve ever done. It’s like free therapy.
So I remember the hard times: the hilarious, sticky, disgusting, humbling, dysfunctional parenting moments that bond us together as mothers and fathers. However, there is another, very important, commonality that often gets lost in the comedy: we love our children with a fierceness and a power that can be overwhelming. Sometimes we need to laugh at other parents’ disastrous attempts at potty training their toddlers, or the play date from hell, or the time someone’s child pooped in their handbag. We need a distraction. We need something to take us away from our troubles, just for a moment, so we can regain our perspective, find our compassion, re-don the hazmat suit, and head back into our own crap storm.
I am challenged every day to reconcile my intense feelings of love and tenderness with the urgent feelings of irritation and frustration that only a preschooler can elicit. My three year old is the master of simultaneous cuteness and mania. He walks the line between adorable, loving cherub and satanic, unhinged imp with the ease of a tightrope walker. Sometimes when I ask him to put his arms up so I can help him get dressed after using the toilet in the morning he starts hugging me instead. This would be fine except it’s the hug that never ends.
He wraps his arms around my neck in a vice grip and starts climbing up my body, which when you weigh 42 pounds is not an easy task. I try peeling his arms off my shoulders so I can get his pajamas shirt off but he fights me. At this point, I usually start to lose my patience. The threats start coming out: if you don’t let go and help me get you dressed right now we’re not going to (insert daily activity here). This is where the master truly shines. He recognizes my breaking point and backs off just enough to keep the dams from bursting. He loosens his grip with one hand and starts stroking my hair.
“I love you, Mommy. I just want to hug you.”
With that, all the anger, all the frustration, all the irritation, just disappears. My heart melts and I wrap my arms around him and fight back the tears. For a brief moment he is my baby again. All I want to do is hold him and comfort him. How could I have been so hard on him? Why am I always rushing him? I promise him that I will work harder at keeping my cool.
Still locked in an embrace, I hear a squeaking sound near my right ear. I turn my head to see that while I have been hugging him on the floor in the bathroom, he has reached his left arm out and unrolled all the toilet paper onto the floor. I pull away from him to see the biggest, proudest, most diabolical smile I’ve ever seen. And that ladies and gentlemen is how the master works. The cute skips hand-in-hand with the crazy into the sunset and they drag me along with them.
Every day my children and I engage in this intricate dance of pushing and pulling each other. There are moments where all I want is five minutes of quiet, alone time, and there are moments of pure joy where all I want is to kiss every part of them. It’s easy to focus on the negative moments. It’s easy to keep the precious moments to myself, locked away in a vault, for the teenage years when I know I’ll need them. The real challenge of parenting (and writing about parenting!) is reconciling those conflicting moments into a coherent identity.
At the risk of exposing myself as a geek, I often think of my children like the ring from Lord of the Rings, and I am Gollum. My children are my precious, and I can love and hate them as I love and hate myself. On the one hand, I want to hold them tight and protect them from the rest of the world. On the other, they have the power to suck the life and sanity right out of me. Ok, so maybe it’s a little dramatic, but for some reason I always think of it when trying to explain how I can feel rejected and smothered by my children almost at the same time.
Of course, children have no concept of conflict or reconciliation. They move fluidly from one personality to the next and can’t understand why we aren’t keeping up. They can love mac and cheese with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, but refuse to eat it from the green bowl because green is a sad color and they don’t like to eat sad food. This is not a problem for a three year old. Sometimes, even when you love something, you just have to pour it into a different bowl before you can eat it. I think parenting is a lot like that. Some days our kids are delicious mac and cheese in a crazy bowl and we just have to figure out how to pour them into a different one so we can enjoy our lunch.
Bon appetit and good luck!