I have not set my alarm in over 2 years. Who needs one when there is an intense scream from the next room of “mommy!”, “daddy!”, or “wake up!”? As I struggle to open my eyes, roll my body out of bed, feel around for my glasses and slide into my slippers, I greet my child for the day. I would love to be able to claim that our day together starts with him wanting to be held for a moment as we slowly adjust to being awake…instead he is singularly focused on a mission for food. “Eat!”, as he signals with his hand going to his mouth. “Yes, granola” repeated over and over until we finally begin the trek downstairs to fulfill his needs. There is some comfort in starting the cycle over again. Buckling my child into his booster seat, serving him granola and milk, turning on the tea kettle, letting the cat up, emptying the dishwasher. And we start another day. As the breakfast routine comes to a close, I reflect on the day and what it holds for us.
Did I manage to plan ahead and arrange an outing or do the next 10 hours (till Daddy comes home and it is not just me and my child) stretch out in front of us like a huge expanse? Am I determined to “get things done” like laundry, shopping or some other project in the house or am I going to surrender completely to the whims of a toddler? Either choice has proven to hold both inner struggle, outer struggle and mixed sense of satisfaction. The accomplishment of getting laundry washed and folded while supervising the play of a little one does feel significant – especially if it can be done with little to no whining, neglect or feelings of guilt. On the other hand, the constant battle of putting off a child to do something as trivial as carrying a laundry basket downstairs doesn’t seem worth it in the big scheme of things. These are those precious days of parenting. He will only be this young for such a short time. That said, when I hand over a whole day to my child – who in reality doesn’t need me 100% of the time, just 70% of the time or every 2-4 minutes, I often find myself feeling a lack of purpose, a sense of emptiness, particularly if I have no meaningful interaction with another adult.
For me, I pride myself in being attuned to my child – perhaps at the expense of staying connected to what I want. I try to stay open to what I’m really feeling but often after so much deferring to the demands of my child, my heart has shut-down in a way that it is not that easy to reconnect quickly. I shift to a mode of “doing” that makes sure food is provided, naps happen, appointments are made, and dinner is at least identified, purchased and perhaps started. After days of not being in touch with my own heart, various stirrings creep up and suddenly I find myself wanting to sneak a Little Debbie’s Nutty Bar into my purse so that I can eat in the car while driving to the store. My son has starting asking what people are doing. Sure enough as soon as I opened the crinkly wrapper, from the backseat (good ears since his car seat is facing backwards) I hear “Mommy doing?” and I feel busted! The guilt of eating it to begin with, then trying to evade his question…I had to laugh at myself for the ridiculousness of the situation I had put myself in and how much I was projecting on to a 2 year old.
It is this type of inner dialogue I have over and over again – trying each week to discern my needs as well as those of my child to spontaneously and with careful planning, design the “perfect” day. Too often finding the balance on a daily basis eludes me, but often enough I feel a splash of joy with a smile on my lips as I go to sleep at night.