Edie prefers to wear her sister’ underwear over her bathing suit in lieu of clothes. A few pats on the back always accompany her hugs-- a trait her father shares. She tells me to go take a nap when I use a tone that she isn’t a fan of. If I’m about to lose my temper, she reminds me to take a deep breath and then asks me, “Mom, are you happy now?” Yes, I am, because it is impossible to stay unhappy around you. When I ask her if she wants to start using the potty like a big girl, she simply responds with a “No thanks. I’m good.” She talks to herself while playing and is happiest sitting in my lap. She refers to her brother as Knoxy or Bubby. She thinks PENIS is the funniest thing to say at the dinner table. She likes to tell people she meets that she was born in New York.
Marlo is currently in that grey area between innocence and an alternative that makes my insides hurt. As such, she's asking such very big questions— questions I don't always have answers to. Mom, why are people mean? Why is that person homeless? Why did someone kill the King? (Referring to Martin Luther King, Jr.) She has a hard time keeping a lid on her emotions. She doesn't walk or run; she skips. She can't decide if she loves or hates or loves her sister. She has anxiety about staying safe. Like me, she can't watch a show or movie without asking 1,001 questions. (Side note: I am now starting to understand why Joe becomes so annoyed when we watch television together.) She sneaks gulps of my iced coffee when I'm not looking. She will ask for one-on-one Mama Time when she needs it. She has very strong opinions on shrimp, mushrooms, and my bangs. All negative, in case you were wondering.
Knox is our last and, as a result, my forever baby. He's taking his time doing everything unlike his eager and over-achieving sisters. His favorite activities include farting, cuddling, and vomiting. He prefers sleeping as close to me as possible and loathes naps. He's helped us reach our health deductible before February so he's productive and efficient (and maybe an over achiever after all). He is Edie's baby twin minus the auburn hair. He makes you work for his laughs and smiles.
Focusing on these seemingly unimportant details has become my lifeline during a time where I feel as though I am drowning.
Drowning while holding a baby. Or three.
I am touched out and overstimulated by the constant noise. I am overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of raising decent humans and underwhelmed by the process of doing so. The worry I feel on a daily basis is all-consuming while the day-to-day logistics of keeping three kids on their different schedules is exhausting. So, I not only want to focus on these seemingly unimportant details; I NEED to focus on them. Otherwise, I fear that I will lose sight of why this job is such a beautiful one and I'll begin to resent it.
Life, within the scope of motherhood, feels rather impossible right now. There is only surviving the day and counting the hours until bedtime. There is washing bottles and wiping asses and cleaning up spit-up off of the couch. There are weaning hormones that make you weepy and sad for no reason. There is exhaustion and there is begging your toddler to take a nap because you're tired of being yelled at. There is cleaning up mess after mess and opening forty-seven bags of cheddar bunnies and doing all of the things you said you'd never do. It frequently feels like a tsunami of things that will never get done and, along with that tsunami, comes with it a current of guilt for not doing all of the things and for doing them all well. Motherhood is a repetitive slap in the face even when you see it coming.
But as impossible as it all feels right now, it’s a chapter of my life that I never want to lose memory of. I desperately want to remember how loved I am by my kids in the moments I deserve it the least. I want to remember the relief I feel when Joe pulls into the driveway after work because my team mate is home and I can’t do any of this without him. I want to remember the dinners with my girlfriends where we sit around a table, drinking wine, talking about how much we love our kids while also admitting that we're so happy to be away from them. I want to remember how intense all of the feelings that accompany this chapter are and how, in spite of where motherhood falls short, I've never felt more fulfilled or more sure of my place in the world.
Which is Marlo, Edie, and Knox' mom.
And it is because of being their mom that during those times when I don’t feel like smiling or cuddling or playing, I do it anyway. Because any other option is unacceptable. When I struggle, I show my kids that life inevitably ebbs and flows and beauty lies within the resilience and graciousness we force ourselves to fight for. When I cry from emotional depletion and exhaustion, I get my shit together, apologize, and I show up.
And showing up should be the only measure I use to judge the kind of mother I am.
Not that time I lost my patience or raised my voice. Not whether I breastfed for a year or weaned after three months or formula fed from day one. Not if I let my kids eat goldfish for dinner. Not if my kid has perfect attendance. Not if my almost three year old still uses a paci because I just don’t want to fight that battle. Not if my house is perfectly styled or if there is a leftover macaroni noodle from dinner three nights ago. Not if I buy all the ugly plastic Fisher-Price shit instead of bougie organic wooden toys. Not the times I stuck my kids in front of the tv (including my infant) because I needed five minutes of not being touched. Not the ten pounds I can't lose. Not the home-cooked vegetable-heavy meals. Not the extracurricular activities. Not the PTA participation.
Just showing up.