We've had a kind of rolling sickness affecting our household for the past two months, and while I thoroughly enjoy motherhood, my enjoyment most definitely does not stretch into the perverse realms of tending to sick kids. Sick kids who have suddenly reached that horrific phase of childhood that involves pinching and whacking each other over and over and over and over again and after each transgression, shouting, "Mom, he hit me! Mom, she pinched me! Mom, Sister hurt me! Mom, Henry's stanking me!" Yes, Henry's innocent and necessary habit of bowel elimination is perceived by Violet as an attack. Come to think of it, I'm starting to perceive that shit as an attack as well.
Anyhow, it's 5 a.m. and everyone is sleeping, although the occasional phlegm-rattling cough echoes through the hall and strikes fear in my heart. Not because of the sickness itself -- that's old news -- but because I will go batshit if a cough attack wakes up one of them. This 5 a.m. business is the only time I can get to myself! A 25-year-old me just gave herself a hysterectomy when she realized the kind of early bird-ness inherent in motherhood.
That said, I find myself really sinking into motherhood in a way I've never experienced before. I kinda sort of feel like I've been fighting motherhood until now. It's hard to describe what I mean, but up until recently, I engaged myself in battles I should've known I couldn't win. Trying to get them to eat certain foods, to wear certain things, to brush their teeth, even. I found myself uttering trite parenting phrases like BECAUSE I SAID SO or YOU HAVE UNTIL THE COUNT OF THREE and oh my God I totally said YOU ARE CRUISIN' FOR A BRUISIN' a couple weeks ago.
But lately, I find that a lot of the battles I pick with my kids aren't that big of a deal and won't affect whether or not I ultimately raise serial killers. For instance, if they don't want to eat, I don't force the issue. "Fine. You're done," I say without emotion. I tell them to take their plate to the sink. Most of the time they continue eating. Funny, isn't it? It's like they want the fight. As if they take pleasure in my begging. Without the fight there is no enjoyment in refusing to eat. Little sadists.
Just letting it all go is a kind of reverse psychology (that often works!) and also a new-found freedom. But you can't view it as reverse psychology strategy or else you're still angling to win. You have to truly let go. Don't want to brush your teeth? Fine. Go to bed with dirty teeth, I don't care.
Before, I would've struggled with a screaming Henry in a desperate effort to brush his teeth, sometimes losing myself in the struggle in the same way I would in an argument with Serge. I wanted to win, but for the wrong reasons. Wanted him to brush his teeth because I'M THE MOM AND I'M TELLING YOU TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH AND YOU ARE DEFYING ME and not so much because I wanted him to have clean teeth. The clean teeth were important, yes, and the impetus for the battle, but somewhere after minute ten of a logic-defying argument with a 2-year-old, I was just trying to prove my authority, my mom-ness, and make him brush. Now I let it go. Not all the time, mind you. But when I see the struggle will be epic and pointless I just shrug and tell them to have dirty teeth for all I care. More often than not, they end up doing what I want when they see it isn't that important to me. Oh, they're evil, to be sure. Mind games like no other.
But this sinking into motherhood I refer to isn't just because I'm learning to pick my battles better; it's a general state of mind. The best way to describe it is that I'm enjoying the chores of motherhood now as opposed to rushing through them to get to the other side. Instead of rushing through bathtime so the kids are clean already and I can attempt to read another chapter of Les Miserables (very slow-going), I park myself on the bathroom floor and enjoy bathtime. Instead of being annoyed by traffic on the way to pre-school to the point of distraction, I engage the kids in conversation and am usually dazzled by the craziness that comes out of their mouths.
The shift comes from an acceptance of kids as they are. Toddlers are insane, kids are nuts and you can fight it until you're as cuckoo as they are or just relax and roll with it. And not just roll with it, but enjoy it, because that's why you became a parent, for godsakes!
Yes, that's it! That's what I'm trying to say. I finally got to it there after a couple rambling paragraphs: Enjoy the children in all their children-ness and be mindful of not losing your mind over the little things. Their children-ness is why you became a parent, is it not? And before you know it, the whole gig will be over and you'll be sitting in your La-Z-Boy looking for an episode of "CSI" you haven't seen 454 times and complaining that you're out of pickled onions.
Sink into it. Revel in it. Even the arguments that make your brain leak out of your ears. Pretty soon, your only arguments will be with "The Bachelor" from season 745 when he gives the wrong girl the rose and you give him The Business from your recliner in between sips of your nightly warm milk before bedtime.
Oop. Here's Henry now. Creeping through the secret passage that connects our closets. Time to revel in it. The early morning cartoons, silly arguments, demands for milk, dirty diapers and runny noses. I can sink into it all... Except maybe the Dora theme song.