There are a lot of posts that I simply don't post. Sometimes, after sitting on a thought for a while, I decide that I don't need to post it to gain closure. The other problem with sitting on a thought for a bit is that the emotions pass and you don't need the support to get through those feelings. It would be a little strange to receive the equivalent of a hug when I'm not in this space right now.
I don't know why I keep opening this post and then closing it without posting. But without understanding the "why," I figure that it must mean that a part of me wants to put it out there. Perhaps it will help someone else? But I'll begin this by saying that I'm not in this emotional space right now. I've also tacked on a second post that also never went up that relates to this same time period. And I'll warn in advance that because it is actually two posts combined into one, this post is looooooooooooong.
This whole damn post is about the ChickieNob and Wolvog so I also understand if you wish to skip it. It also contains some advice I received recently, so perhaps you'll want to skim to find it. Either/or.
When the twins were in the NICU, the thought that got me through those first months of living in the hospital and coming home on heart monitors and living in constant fear was that it would get easier. I was going through the hardest part and one day it would be easy. And I'm not saying that it wasn't hard--it was really hard during that time.
Then, when we were in the sleepless stage--a stage that lasted until 16 months for us because we couldn't drop any night feeds due to low weight (we were not even on the charts)--I thought, this is the hardest part because I'm emotional AND exhausted. But it will get easier once they sleep. Or, at least, sleep at the same time.
Then they could move and I had to figure out how to watch two children going in two directions at once. Then they learned the word "no" and I had to learn how to navigate behaviour. We had to learn how to drink from a cup and sleep in a bed and potty training is still kicking my ass.
I kept waiting for things to get easier and they kept getting harder. They are getting so much harder.
With infertility, you don't really remember the physical pain. I mean, you remember that you were in physical pain, but I can't really muster how any test or procedure or blood draw felt--only that it hurt. But the emotional pain stays with you forever. You can bring yourself right back into that emotional space with a scary intensity as you think back over words said or failed cycles or moments of loss.
The same is true with parenting in a sense except the intensity and distance come from the situations I can remember experiencing myself vs. the ones I only experience through the twins. The learning to walk, teaching them to sleep, getting them to eat broccoli--those parenting moments are painful (sometimes) in the moment, but now, years apart from some of those experiences, I can barely remember how we did it much less how it felt in the moment. I know I was exhausted, but I can't really remember how exhausted felt. I know that I cried a lot when they gave up their bottle, but we've used cups for so long that I never think about it.
But I am having a really hard time watching my children go through things that were emotional triggers for me as a child. I taught middle school for years and Josh always said that he couldn't understand how I could submerge myself in those years--those years that are so emotionally painful for almost everyone on this earth--and not spend my entire day crying with the kids.
The fact is that as much as I thought I cared about those children, as much as I would have done anything to protect them in the moment and acted like mother while they were between school walls, I watched everything with a detachment. It was like a surgeon who could eat lunch while prepping for surgery, looking at pictures of intestines or livers. You somehow detach and stop thinking about what you are seeing or hearing.
But with the twins, there is no space. It feels like it is happening to me all over again. The navigating friendships and circumventing fears. The true growing pains. I had to plan their birthday party last week and I spent more time crying than I did writing out the details. It brought out all of my worries--would they have enough friends? I never had enough friends; would they have enough? Would they be popular and kind? What if they were popular and mean? Or unpopular but kind? The friendship thing is a huge trigger for me.
If this trend continues, with things always getting harder, how will I make it through their middle school years? How will I make it through their first crushes, their first dates, their first lost friends? I can't even fathom how I'm going to let them go to preschool next year much less how I will ever drive away from their college after helping them move in.
I know, I know, the point is not to jump fifteen years into the future and worry about that now, but I always thought it would get easier. I thought once they became self-sufficient, it would be easy. And now, I've come to realize--at least for me--that the sleep training and crawling and transitioning to a bed--those were all so small, so frustrating in the moment, but forgotten soon after. But the emotional things--making friends and losing friends, overcoming fears and seeing your child consumed with fear, watching your child experience anger or frustration--these stay with you and bring you directly back into your own childhood with scary intensity.
It is one thing to talk about your childhood while you eat a slice of pizza with a friend. It is another thing to relive those moments as you watch someone you love go through it. I just didn't realize that this part was going to be so hard.
And I'm eating the words I spoke before I had children: "these parents don't even appreciate what they have. I would do anything to have my own middle schooler." And maybe, that distance wasn't bad parenting. Maybe that distance I saw between parent and child was simply a mother protecting her heart as she watched her child go through some of the most painful years of her life.
My mother gave me a great piece of advice that I'm going to pass along to you right after I extrapolate and expand and twist her idea (sorry, mummy) because I think it is a very interesting way of looking at arguments and tears as well as shifting the placement of a line.
To completely twist my mother's words: if you don't spend any time thinking you are a shit partner, worker, mother (take your pick of role that you beat yourself up about), then you aren't caring enough. You are going to mess up and you're going to have fights and you're going to have days when you're short with your kids. And the fact that you're crying afterwards is actually a sign of how much you care. And that care is more important than perfection.
In terms of a relationship, a couple who cares will have a fight every once in a while. Fights in a relationship are a sign of passion, activity, the attempt to bring two worlds into sync. The alternate would be a lack of fights but also a lack of communication, attachment, care. Two people, existing in a house, without the energy to actually navigate one another. Even the most perfectly suited partners (or friends or family members) argue every once in a while.
It brings new meaning to the idea of what are you willing to fight for.
She gave me this advice on a day when I lost it with the Wolvog and screamed at him an hour into his own tantrum (so much for deep breathing for an entire hour). After the apologies, more tears, and an early bedtime, I called my mother and admitted that I had yelled at him because keeping it a secret (the only people who knew I had yelled were the Wolvog, the ChickieNob, and I) was eating me from the inside out. I had this compulsion to admit that I was a shit mother who had yelled at her child and startled him with this roar of frustration.
I think blogging is such an interesting medium because it give us this sounding board to do just that: release this compulsion to scream to the world, "I fucked up." I fucked up. I yelled at him and weeks later, I still feel terribly about it. But I really did like her advice about why we occasionally yell or break down. We cry because there is so much at stake. We cry because we feel so passionately and we have so much love. And that, frankly, terrifies us; especially when we think of all the ways we can fuck up inside that love.
My question though is when we step over that line and fights actually signal a problem in the relationship and tears actually signal depression. It's a slippery line of when enough becomes too much.
And I'll end this by saying I care. I care so damn much. I care that they have the best childhood possible. And it keeps me awake at night, worrying. I know there are blessings from a skinned knee and other platitudes like that, but it is so exquisitely painful to watch someone you love struggle. Whether or not you are currently a parent, I think we all can understand that thought through any friendship or relationship you have had. It is so hard to see someone you love struggle and to wish you could do something and to know that part of life is the inability to orchestrate the things that truly matter.
Maybe I needed to post this tonight because I had an incredibly frustrating day today. And I deep breathed through it and came out the other side without screaming. We don't have punishments or rewards in our house--only positive and negative consequences to our actions. The Wolvog had taken peace and relaxation out of my time so I told him that the consequence was that I was taking the relaxation out of his time. As his sister chilled with Wonder Pets (there is such a freakin' long story tied to why it was Wonder Pets and perhaps it could best be explained with a Show & Tell), we rocked in the chair (I may have been a bitch about relaxation in regards to television, but who is going to turn down knocking back with a shnuzzle?) and quietly spoke about what we take away from one another. And each time I repeated, "you took happiness out of my time and that is why I'm taking happiness out of yours" he would lay his head down on my chest in agreement and apology. It was such a larger moment than the scream. I wish I knew how to always reach that place instead of stumbling into it in the dark.
And, yes, once he got it, once I knew that I'd be able to refer back to that moment and draw from his empathy and say, "remember how it felt to have happiness sucked out of your time?" I released him to the sweet, sweet, dulcet tones of the Wonder Pets.