I don’t know if it’s because we’re coming up to the end of summer, but I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts about how quickly childhood slips away and how parents need to cherish every moment of it. And I really have to say. . . it’s kind of starting to piss me off.
Not in the way you’re probably thinking. I actually sort of like torturing myself with those really sappy stories about finding the outgrown little shoes or pining for the days when the kids messed up your house. I’m a crier. I watch Hallmark commercials at Christmas. I get it.
But here’s the thing. My entire life, I’ve tried really, really hard to look at the bright side of life when things are bad. And, additionally, I’ve tried to remember that everything in life is temporary. So when my kids are driving me absolutely bats in the the belfry, I do my damnedest to appreciate the fact that they won’t always be leaving toys around and whining about getting ready for bed. I — being deep and enlightened — try to remember that soon they’ll be teenagers who’ll shut the door at night. That they won’t cuddle up with me and beg to hear one more bedtime story. That they won’t wrap their arms around my neck and hang on until I tickle them to let go — and then tell me that they need one more hug.
In my perfect world this is what I try to remember when I’m feeling bad. In my perfect world, I think about life without my kids or my husband or the other people who mean so much to me, and I calmly, with the utmost grace and gratitude, make the best of my day. I am, however, nowhere near perfect in my world.
What usually happen is, I completely lose the ability to move past my emotions and access the logical portion of my brain. Actually, that’s not completely accurate. I can make the arguments — “You’re incredibly lucky, this too shall pass, enjoy your kids while you can” — but it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. My reptile brain is way too strong, and I just stay annoyed, depressed, irritable, short-tempered, despondent. . . take your pick. They all have different, but equally nasty, reasons for sucking the life out of a place (And, yes, I know that reptiles don’t actually have emotions and that feelings require a much more highly evolved brain. This is not the best analogy I’ve come up with to date. Just go with me on this, okay?)
So I don’t need any more reminders about what a poor job I’m doing with regards to appreciating and enjoying this fleeting time in my children’s lives. Incidentally, one huge slap in the face has been hanging out with our friends who’ve adopted a one-year-old and a newborn baby. Sad to say, but I think I’m finally seeing what my own son and daughter may have looked like without that veil of exhausted-mommy tiredness and fog of postpartum depression hanging over me. That’s right — just imagine all of that piled on top of my normal predisposition toward the strong reptile brain. It’s amazing we all made it through completely intact.
I’ve always truly despised this shortcoming of mine. I used to say I had the “crazy artist’s gene” without the great talent to go with it. I know that other people get upset or angry or sad. But there are times when I feel like a hostage to my emotions. So much so that it often takes an actual event to set me free (Sometimes my husband makes me watch Will Ferrell movies — I’m pretty sure Talladega Nights kept him from murdering me. Or at least wanting to drink until he passed out.).
But tonight, I had a revelation. Up until tonight, I never saw any positive use for my insanity. And then it happened. My son got upset because he was reading a book out loud, and my daughter and I wanted him to show us the pictures. This was not, for some reason, in his plan, and he suddenly got really annoyed. So we stopped reading, and he left to get a drink.
I found him out in the hall, “hiding” because he was at a loss about what to do with himself. So we sat on the floor, and he was able to explain how he felt cranky, didn’t want to be cranky, and even though he knew he was being ridiculous, couldn’t make himself stop being cranky. And this inability to stop was upsetting him more than anything. So I told him the abridged version of my reptile brain problem. And that I understood what he was going through. And that I was so sorry because I knew how hard he was trying to feel better — but I knew how frustrated he was that he still couldn’t do it. And that’s when he started to cry.
Actually, we both started to cry. Because I think when it comes down to it, we all just want to be understood. And after all these years of wishing away my natural tendencies, it turned out that once again, my street-rat craziness actually helped me be a good mother. Finally, my darkness helped bring something to light.
After we finished talking, he got up and asked if I’d read him “Green Eggs and Ham.” Because unlike his mother, he’s already figured out how to get himself out of his funk and back on track. He’s already found his Talladega Nights.
It was a moment I’m pretty sure I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.