When you read blogs full of instagram photos that capture lovely little moments of life, it’s easy to think that everyone is just having a wonderful time.
Recently, after we’d been out for a long day, Graham protested as he often does that he didn’t want to go home. And this one time I indulged him. I turned off the road back to the house and stopped at a park. The weather was perfect. I sat on a shady bench. Tessa was calm and comfortable. Graham played happily on the playground. I took a minute and let myself enjoy it.
I sat there in that wonderful moment. And I thought about how I’m really not the greatest parent.
Normally, when I find myself sitting on a park bench, I’m wishing I could be somewhere else. I sit there knowing I’m supposed to be treasuring every minute, but I can’t always muster the maternal love to treasure this particular minute when Graham is burying his toy train under wood chips again like he does every time we go to the park.
But that time, that one time, I snapped a picture of Graham playing and felt at peace. It was a nice feeling. And I wonder if that’s what other people feel every time they take their kid to the park and take a picture of their child at play.
The truth is, most of the time when I snap an adorable picture, what’s happening around that picture isn’t particularly treasured. It’s the obligation of the parent to capture the moment, to be able to later show your child their own childhood and to be able to show yourself that you gave them this moment and you love them and you are a good parent.
Picture-taking can make your life seem better than it is. And maybe by snapping one, you can make your life a little brighter because, hey, at least it looks pretty in this little square that you posted on Facebook.
The truth is, this last August has not been a good month for me. I knew it was going to be hard and it didn’t disappoint.
There’s been a lot of un-bloggable stuff going on. I know it’s hard to believe that this champion oversharer actually has stuff she won’t blog about. But it’s true. Everyone has a line and lately there’s been a lot going on in extra-super-private land for me. I know that feels like an indulgent blogger tease, but it’s all I can really say to give you a little bit of context.
August was a month where I just had to put my head down and push through. I just had to survive it. (Truth be told, I have one more week in this same mode, so I’m not out of the woods yet.)
The result is that I haven’t been a great parent. I know the automatic response when someone says that is for everyone to jump in and say, What are you talking about? You’re a great parent! I’m not saying I’m not providing a suitable home for my kids or anything like that. But in today’s world where we expect parents to provide not just the basics, but a loving environment filled with learning, I have not been up to snuff.
I have been exhausted. I have relied far too much on episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine on the Roku. I encouraged Tessa to sit because I needed her to have that extra bit of independence for the sake of my own sanity.
There haven’t been that many exciting outings or even unexciting outings. It’s usually hard for me to muster the energy to get both kids out of the house, especially since we haven’t had a car most of the time.
There’s been plenty to complain about. You know the stuff. The blahs of parenting. The ups and downs. Still, this month, with the extra gloomy layer of badness around, it’s been hard to stay peppy and be a good mom.
The kids’ schedules (or lack thereof, in Graham’s case) have meant I get less time by myself to recharge. And when I do get that time, it isn’t time where I kick my feet up and relax or time where I get a few extra things done to prepare for the next day. It’s time where I just exist on the lowest level possible to give myself a little buffer before I go to bed.
I know I can’t be the only one that does this sometimes. I can’t turn off life, I can’t pause it, I can’t make it stop. But I also can’t really turn it all the way on. I have little things to help me feel something good. Lately it’s been things like a carton of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer. I’m not incapable of being happy or anything like that. But that time by myself, it can’t really be a refuge and so instead it just becomes a bit of nothing. A bit of sensory deprivation, if you will, where nothing is too loud and no light is too bright and nothing can get my brain moving too much in any one direction.
I suspect the nothingness is my brain’s way of avoiding lots of feelings I could be having. I don’t want to end the day with a deluge of negativity, with an onslaught of emotion that will leave me spent. So instead I end it with nothing much at all. And every day a little more of that nothingness trickles into the next day and I wake up with a little more of it still left in my system.
Do you remember the law of inertia? A body in motion tends to stay in motion. It also applies to a body at rest. And that tells you a lot about how we find ourselves at home more and more days.
The kids won’t be scarred for life. They won’t look back on this time as The Month Mom Sucked. It’s more likely to do damage to my own psyche than to theirs.
And I’ve been able to push through thanks to the hope that things will be better when Graham starts school and I have time to get things done and Tessa will be independent and I can find a way to function well as a parent and as the person who keeps our household running.
I have no idea if that’s how things will really be. It’s completely possible that Graham being in school will not magically fix anything and that I’ll still be operating on basic-survival-mode for a while longer.
In times like this, the blog is a good thing. It’s good because it gives me something to do. It’s something I can work on almost every day. And it’s something that I don’t hate. It gives me a place to go where I can do something that isn’t just an automatic reflex. The blog doesn’t care if it’s been a few days since I’ve been able to squeeze in a shower or if I’m still in my pajamas. And it lets me be happy or sad or write about something else entirely if I just don’t feel like writing about me or the kids just then.
The honest truth is that this mom-of-little-kids thing doesn’t come naturally for me. It takes some real effort, not just to do it but to get myself to enjoy it. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way, but when it’s just you and the kids and plenty of long days, it can feel like it’ll last forever. This last month I’ve tried to take those moments where I see something beautiful in my kids and hold it in my head for a bit. Kind of like when you snap a cute pic, find the perfect filter, and then post it on Instagram.
Take it, freeze it, remember what’s beautiful.
The picture, it’s just a moment. Whether it’s a lovely moment, or just a second of pretty in the chaos. At least when I have that picture, I can feel something good, whether or not it was a perfect moment. It is, in its own way, a bit of nothingness.
That picture doesn’t come with any noise, it doesn’t come with anything that needs to be done, it makes no demands and has no requirements. It is just something beautiful, something beautiful that is mine. It is something more than that moment. It is its own refuge.
So that’s what you see when you see my pretty pictures. Not a perfect life. But perhaps a vision of one.