Motherhood

Charlotte was in our bed this morning when I opened my eyes. She had an accident in her bed last night, and rather than peeling back sopping layers on her bed, we just changed her and put her in bed with us.

She woke up so happy. Rolling around and goofy in her mismatched, grabbed-from-the-drawer-in-the-dark-of–night pajamas. She was smiling her brightest smile with shining eyes, cooing at Twix, who was cuddled on Charlotte’s pillow. I watched her, and thought about how she is truly just a beautiful child. Inside and out. When Charlotte smiles, everyone smiles.

Soon, we were forced from our little cocoon of wiggly cuddles into the throes of the morning routine.

“Mama, can I watch Blaze on my computer please?” she asked as she swung her legs out of bed.

“What are the rules in the morning? First potty, then breakfast, then you get ready for school. If we have time, THEN, you can have your computer for a bit.”

I knew in that instant that it was all over. My happy, beautiful child was about to transform into a kicking, screaming, emotional wreck incapable of reason. I was right.

The next hour was basically one series of standoffs and horrific tantrums after the next. She didn’t need to go potty. She wouldn’t. She was going to go pee on my bed. I’m a bad mom. She wants Little Mama RIGHT NOW.

Then, she told me she wished I wasn’t even alive, and then she could just be with Little Mama. That was basically the lowest blow she has ever dealt. I walked away.

Within a minute, she was pleading with me to come back. “Don’t leave me alone! I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE!” she screamed for the world to hear.

All I wanted in that moment was to be alone. If I could have blinked and made her disappear to preschool, I would have right then.

After something like 45 minutes of this battle of wills over going potty and getting dressed, she grew tired. At that point, I don’t even think she knew what she was fighting about. She was just screaming for the sake of screaming. She grabbed her sunshine blanket and tearfully crawled into my lap and laid in my arms like she did when she was a baby. I rocked her a bit as we talked quietly about making good choices and about how there are consequences for bad choices. She closed her eyes and cuddled into me.

Now, she is at school. I told her teacher that she’d be staying for extended care this afternoon and that I’d pick her up around 4. Her teacher just posted a photo of her dancing with one of her best friends and their smiles are total perfection. I miss her, now. It’s pouring rain outside and the thunder is so powerful that it’s shaking the house and causing the power to surge and flicker on and off. I keep thinking about how I could go pick her up from school and we could spend the day cuddled up on the couch watching whatever Nick Jr. shows she wants with a giant bowl of freshly popped popcorn.

I’m sharing this because I can’t be the only mother in the world who feels like having a three year old is a bit like being in an abusive relationship. They smile and you melt because they are just so lovely. That smile gives you life. Then, they turn around and spew their unique brand of emotional abuse, and when it’s over, they need you to comfort them. You know you need some space, but you are addicted to that smile and find yourself craving it the moment they’re away.
I love my daughter more than anything in the world, but there are mornings like this when I wish I could just curl up with the dogs and a bottle of champagne and forget about my parental obligations for a while. A few days? Maybe a week? Just long enough to relieve the ever present crick in my neck from sleeping with my arm around her because if I don’t, she will scream, “SNUGGLE MEEEEEEE!” until she wakes up the whole neighborhood.

Parenthood. It’s the only abusive relationship that binds you both legally and morally.

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If I only had a brain…

Once upon a time, I had a brain. It was a lovely brain. Truly. It often received compliments for its well thought out responses and ability to apply reason and logic to various situations.

Then, Charlotte was born.

Between the extreme lack of sleep (remember how she woke up every 50 minutes for a year?) and the stress of managing work, marriage, child, dogs and house, my beautiful brain started giving me warning signs that it was unhappy.

At first, it was tiny things… Mismatched shoes, or an inside out blouse post-pumping at the office. We tried sleep training to appease my unhappy brain, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there were cracks forming in the foundation of our relationship.

Months passed, and my brain’s unhappiness persisted. Warning signs escalated. Now, it was a forgotten pin number for a debit card, or a meeting that I should have been at an hour ago. Did I ever send that email about the Very Important Thing? Where is my wedding ring?

My brain started singing, This is not my beautiful house. This is not my beautiful wife.

It is really difficult to silence one’s brain once it starts singing Talking Heads songs. It’s not as if you can just pop in some earplugs.

I pleaded with my brain to give me another chance. I just need more time, I told it. More sleep. Please, just let me get some more sleep and everything will be better.

I thought my brain had reached its breaking point the day it made me quit my job, but it denies having influenced the situation. It blames my heart for my abrupt departure from the working world. I’m not so sure. I feel like the two have a habit of making one another their scapegoats.

I really believed quitting my job was precisely what my relationship with my brain needed. Less stuff to remember! Fewer people to please! We can spend the whole day in our pajamas together if we feel the need!

My brain was skeptical, but my heart assured me that this was exactly what my brain needed and everything was going to be okay.

I decided that what we really needed was a vacation. Quality time. Just me and my brain… and Catch and her brain and Charlotte and her brain and Twix and her brain. In hindsight, a road trip with all of those brains to please probably wasn’t the sort of quality time my brain was hoping for.

My heart told me that my brain was missing the challenge of working. It was feeling neglected. I had the solution! Let’s go back to school, I told my brain. It will be great! We’ll read and write—we love reading and writing! Brain uttered some expletives that probably aren’t appropriate for mixed company, but I went ahead and registered for classes.

Brain was THRILLED for a while. I heard it thinking, This is fun! Let’s get an A! Let’s get ANOTHER A! I feel so used and loved for the first time in 3 years!

Then, Christmas rolled around and I’m not entirely certain where I went wrong, but my brain appears to have filed for legal separation. I feel lost without it, but I’ve spent the last 3 years trying to make our relationship work and I don’t know that I have much more to give.

I  miss my brain, though. I would love to have it back. Working on my classes this term has been a real struggle without it. The two of us were made for each other. How do I make my brain see that?

Brain, if you’re reading this, please come back. I promise I’ll do better. I promise to stop playing mindless games on my phone instead of sleeping. I promise I’ll listen to you when you tell me I should be studying instead of spending more money at Costco. I promise that I will put you first. We can do this, brain. Don’t leave me now.

+2

In terms of the number of legs in our household, not much has changed since Charlotte was born. We started with 12 and Charlotte made 14.

So someone please explain to my why I suddenly need to buy cleaning products in bulk. Seriously.

My mom added me to her Costco membership at least 15 years ago. It’s always just been a thing I use maybe once every few months.

Suddenly, I’m a Costco regular. I’m sitting here looking at bulk laundry soap, bulk floor cleaner, bulk toilet paper, bulk disinfectant, and let’s face it… bulk mac & cheese.

How is it that the addition of only two legs has created so much damn MESS?!