Monday, December 9, 2013

It's Kind of Crazy and It Hurts

My Hooligan woke up this morning and asked me to scratch his back. "Harder, Mama. Really scratch it. A little to the right. No, the other way. Up, up... perfect. How many days until Christmas?" A little early morning subtraction lesson and hey! It's sixteen days until Christmas.

"How many days until today?" I asked him. He narrowed his eyes and rolled them at the same time. Can you picture it? He pursed his lips and silently held up his hand in a closed fist: zero. "What's today?" he asked me. "Today is Monday. It's a day we get to enjoy." I drive my children crazy with this. He yawned and stretched and lazily rolled onto me so that his face was right in mine - morning breath and all. "I know, Mom. I need ten more minutes of cuddles before I get up." Ten turned into twenty and then we decided that school lunch sounded good today.

I spent yesterday evening on the phone with my sister. She had some questions about the mechanics of small-human care. Her baby boy is the most beautiful boy ever born and is only just a week old. We talked nipples and blankets for a while and then she paused. She took a deep, shaky breath and sniffled a bit. My tough little sister almost never cries. She sounded like the child with whom I shared a room and whose hair I used to brush and braid.

"I love him so much," her voice broke for real. "Sometimes I just look at him and it hurts, I love him so much. I feel like I'm going to break in half. It's not pretty. It's huge and it's scary."
"I know, baby. That's how it feels sometimes."
"But don't you think that's neurotic? I mean other mothers love their babies and they don't feel like that. They don't break and fall apart."
"Of course they do. They just don't talk about it to you. Because it's kind of crazy and it hurts."
"Will that go away? Is it hormones? I feel like I am breaking."
"No, it doesn't really go away. You just get used to it."
"Great. I don't know how I'm going to live."

I have no useful advice to give her in this department. How do you tell someone who is exhausted and overwhelmed and up to her eyeballs in brand new experiences that yes, you just break in half and then you keep going until you break in half again, and then you keep going some more.

My husband and I were talking about it later. I told him: "It's like when you first get married and you have these flashes of overwhelming fear. Where you think to yourself, 'This person just gave me the rest of their life and I could utterly destroy them.'" He laughed and said, "Yup. You could, but you don't."

Love is a fearful thing. Trust is a fearful thing. They are large and they hurt. They break you in half. They push you until you think you can't bear it anymore, and then you can. They wouldn't be worth a whole awful lot if they didn't do these things. It's kind of crazy and it hurts. Well-wishers and greeting card writers tell us "Enjoy every minute, it goes by so fast" and we feel like there's something a little bit wrong with us when we admit that it's huge and scary. I have not enjoyed every minute with my children. Sometimes the minutes that brought the most joy have almost crushed me. It's not always pretty.

My husband and I spent the rest of our evening in huddled conference about how we would face this next phase of parenting in our own lives; marveling at how far from diapers and feeding and sleeping positions we've come. We conceded we still know almost nothing about the raising of small humans. And yet we've all lived.

This morning while my Hooligan was giving me sass and demanding back scratches and being such a cliche by asking how many days until Christmas, I felt it again. Like I might just break in half. Like I might just grab his big old head and squeeze it until it popped. And then we got up and went in search of his sister and some breakfast.

Because somehow, we've found a way to live.


  1. Oh, yes....with every stage, every step, every solo flight my children have done, I've done my own fumbling fall with style with a pair of wings I still don't believe are mine. And every time they perch on the edge, ready to leap, I am standing there too, ready to try.

  2. My oldest just turned 21. Twenty-one. It's been a very long time since I first felt those overwhelming feelings, yet as you described them--there they were all over again. Motherhood, parenthood, is an amazing ride.


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