I am going to say what every mother has thought at least once or a hundred times in her career as a mother, but has probably been too afraid to admit on the internet at the risk of becoming another casualty in the Mom Wars: My three-year-old daughter was really annoying today.
Wherever I would go, she would follow. She was almost always touching me in one way or another - it was cute sometimes, like holding my hand or hugging me. Sometimes it was obnoxious, like flicking my ears, laying across me, digging her feet under my butt as I sat on the couch or poking me in the neck. At one point, I just wanted to yell, "Leave me alone for five minutes! Find something quiet to do by yourself!" I was very close, but thankfully for all involved, I didn't. I just kept pushing her hand off my ear telling her she needed to stop.
It's hard to deal with these kind of annoyances sometimes, but they'll always pop up so "dealing" is just what we have to do. My first idea of "dealing with it" is saying Welcome Home to my husband as he comes home from work and then immediately disappearing to the bathroom where I can sit in a hot tub for an hour or two and read a book in relative silence.
So, I challenged myself today and did the opposite.
It's hard for Evelyn to get all the attention she craves and rightly deserves. Her younger brother consumes a lot of my time and resources. It's hard for all of us, and can be very frustrating at times. I don't stop and think about the toll it takes on her often enough, though. While Gus is throwing a tantrum and I have to rock him, or while I'm struggling to feed him, or when he's climbing all over me and ripping the book from my hand when I'm reading to Evie, she watches me walk away from her to tend to him very often. She handles it with such grace and patience, though, far beyond anything one would expect from a child her age.
My daughter is amazing. She is at this age where she is realizing the effect she has on the people and the world around her, that she can manipulate her environment to suit her desires and needs. It's a self-centered stage of development, this time when the ego truly seems to come into full glory. It doesn't need to be reigned in and beat down, but nurtured and guided toward the right ends. Even without a constant stream of correction or input from me, she is guiding her ego into this green pasture of love and sympathy all on her own. It astounds me.
It also makes me feel intense guilt. Here I have this beautiful child with an old, wise spirit and I'm not doing everything imaginable to lift her up, enrich her, nourish her mind. The guilt I feel for simply being a mother to two children who must divide her attention - unevenly at times - is suffocating. There have been times when I have called my husband at work in tears convinced that I was failing the entire family and destroying their little lives for simply deciding to stay in on a nice day because laundry needed to be done, or that I felt I was failing Evelyn for not taking her to play with other kids at the playground because I finally got a screaming Gus to take a nap, or that I was failing Gus because he didn't want to play with Evie and I so I wasn't actively engaging in therapeutic play with him when I was giving Evelyn the attention she craves.
My heart is full, but this fullness makes it so heavy. I beat myself up all the time for the many failures I see when I look in the mirror, and the more beat down I become the weaker I am, and then even less gets done. Then the cycle continues.
That obvious solution of running away to my bathtub oasis seemed like the exact choice a weak person would make, something predictable. Run away, indulge in some selfish luxury, affirm my original belief that my daughter was annoying me, justify my escapism with a nice pat on the back and a "You deserve this warm bath and good book."
No. If I was the swearing type, right about now is when I would say "Fuck that."
I took Evelyn out for a Girl Night. We talked about anything she wanted to talk about and sang songs in the car. We held hands around Old Navy and Half Price Books, saying "I love you" freely as often as the spirit moved us. We shared kisses and laughter. We ended our night with new books, a new summer wardrobe for a growing toddler girl, and a table at Menchie's before a huge crowd shoved in.
As we sat there, she with her bowl of berry frozen yogurt with chocolate chips and fresh raspberries and me with my simple honeydew sorbet, I felt this overwhelming sense of relief. The guilt was lifting, and for the first time in a long time I feel like I finally did something right. We both needed this time alone together - she needed to know that she's still my best friend, she's still important, she's still a priority, she is valued; I needed to see that she's still this amazing person despite not always being able to go to the park or the library, that I'm not an abject failure at motherhood, that I'm still her best friend and that no, she's not annoying. Not in the least bit.
I still spend most of my night in her bed, because she gets scared and upset without me. I'm writing this now from her room, and the feeling of her little feet burrowing into my back is the welcome sensation of love and trust.
At this moment, I feel good.