Portrait of a Meltdown

I’m laying on the bed with both of my kids fast asleep. We’ve been here for about an hour and a half while they both took turns crying.

Actually screaming. And the older one did some kicking.

It started out as a fun morning at the park, but I overbooked our schedule which makes me feel tense. I’m not as patient then with three year old explorations and questions. On days like this, my mind wanders far away, distracted with adult worries. I start feeling the clock ticking in my mind on all of my responsibilities while they are blissfully unaware of it.

Then when they’re both needing some extra time, extra patience, extra explaining, I don’t have it because I’m stretched too thin.

It creates a bad cycle of tension with me just wanting them both to cooperate with my agenda for once and them both just wanting me to stop stressing and be their mommy.

So when rest time comes, I start having visions of my book and a coffee pot, but the reality is that we’ve got STUFF to deal with. They both need to offload the tension from the day and thankfully they persist until I create a safe place for them to do it.

At first I really fight it. Inside I am desperate for the crying to stop and for everyone to just quit needing me. I know that I am the adult here but I don’t always want to be. I’m mad at myself for letting the morning get chaotic and frustrated that my stress affects them.

Then I remember: I am human, I can have a hard time too.

I repeat a little mantra I learned: this is a moment of struggle. Struggle is a part of life. I can be kind to myself in this moment.

I try to mother myself a little and say, “It’s ok Leah. You’re trying your best. You’re right where you need to be.”

Then it clicks for me. That is all they need too.

I stop wishing their hurt away and just let it be. I take turns holding them and saying, “it’s ok, Mama is here.” I talk to the three year old about the moments I got frustrated and spoke sharply. I tell him, “you don’t like it when Mama talks to you like that.”

He stops the whining and writhing around long enough to open one soulful eye and look right at me.

I pick up the baby and snuggle her close. I feed her again and don’t feel guilty that there isn’t two of me and that sometimes one has to cry while I’m tending to the other.

They both melt into the comfort a little. Sweet feisty baby unclenches her tiny fists and relaxes. Tender three year old makes himself a blanket nest and falls asleep.

Afterward I tiptoe around the house and smile at the aftermath of our chaos; abandoned lunch plates, smashed crayons, a suitcase I had packed that became a fort instead.

It all looks comical to me now and almost sweet. My acceptance helps me see it in a different light for awhile.

I know this will happen again. There will be more tears, more mornings where I didn’t get our routine quite right, times when I forgot to refuel my own heart before beginning a day of mothering.

But in this moment I know we’ll be ok and I try to make a mental road map of what it feels like.

Maybe next time I can read that map and help us find our way there a little sooner. Or maybe not, maybe I’ll get lost again and have to forge a new path. But in my heart, I hope I can know that all the paths lead us home.


Crawling Lessons

I’ve just spent the past hour watching Pearl try to army crawl across the bed. She fell asleep at her usual time but then suddenly opened her eyes, rolled over, and popped up on her elbows. It’s like some little baby alarm clock went off in her head and said, “time to get moving sister.”

It was so precious and a little bit sad watching her process. She started out all smiley and giggly, just perched on her elbows and so proud of herself. Her cheeks were jiggling and her toes were curled from excitement.

Then she started flailing and got really frustrated with the lack of traction as she tried to propel her body forward. She would struggle for a while, then spit up a little from all the pressure on her tummy. Then with a dramatic sigh she would face plant into the spit up and wallow around and wimper. I guess learning new skills is not always glamorous.

I asked her if she wanted to be picked up, but she eventually raised back up and continued.

This cycle repeated several times and if I hadn’t watched closely, I would never have noticed that she was making progress. There was no discernible movement but eventually she was about a foot farther on the mattress than where she started.

After she fell asleep I started thinking about how beautiful it is to be able to shamelessly struggle like that; to laugh and cry and rub your face in your own throw up (ok maybe skip that part) and not worry if anyone can see that you’re moving.

I keep waiting for my life as a mom to stop being a struggle, but it never does. Some days things seem effortless and the babies seem weightless. I can stay in the moment and keep myself open to them.

But more often I am taking huge belly flops and trying to propel myself forward oh so slowly.

I’m trying hard to know my own boundaries, to stay present emotionally, to set empathetic limits, to be kind to myself and respectful to them, and to speak my mind. But the progress is slow. It’s hard that I’m not the easy breezy dream mom that I thought I’d be. Honestly I’m a bit weary of the emotional work that parenting has been for me and impatient with the steep learning curve.

But tonight I’m taking a lesson from my courageous little four month old and remembering to let myself flail and flounder. I’m remembering that the. struggle itself is progress, and all I can do is show up every morning and expand upon what I know.

I guess if my kids lived in a perfect world then they would need a perfect mom to show them how to live effortlessly.

But since their life, like mine will be full of fumbles and falls, they need a mom who can say from experience:

yeah, I see how you work so hard and feel like you’re not moving, but think how much stronger you’re getting each time you try.

And hey, look behind you. Can you see how far we’ve come?