My life keeps feeling like it won’t stop changing at a frantic pace. Childhood was sometimes unpleasant, yet it had a feeling that things would always be the same, there was a sense of permanence, even though my parents got separated when I was 2 and divorced when I was 8, things felt like they would always be the same until they weren’t. There was a very comfortable illusion.
I got married at 29, four days later I conceived my daughter and because I had hyperemesis gravidarum (significantly extra vomiting with morning sickness) like my mom did my life changed immediately in the very early weeks of pregnancy. Today is the first day my daughter felt comfortable being away from us, she went with her aunt to hand out and then attend a birthday party. She is four years old now. For the past (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019) five years she has been ruling my life. Not that I don’t have any boundaries at all, just by her existence my existence is forever changed. It’s very hard to describe someone like her to someone who hasn’t met any one like her, it’s like she is a walking party of 50-100 people, so vibrant, but also so demanding.
When she is there it can be draining, but when she isn’t there you wondered if you ever really live when she is not around.
She is the sun of our family and my son is our moon. Both beloved, but my daughter attracts everything she wants as if by magic, the world appears to bend to her gravity. My son is lovely and wonderful, but quietly, he is like “wu wei” effortless motion. He smiles at you and you love him, then he goes back to playing and everything is fine between him and you. My daughter turns, spins, jumps, talks, yells, sings, screams, questions, interrogates, and not just because she is older, but she has always been that non-stop train of adventure and misadventure both.
Tonight is the first night my daughter and son are not with me, I don’t love or hate the way it feels. Alone time has become so foreign a thing. If I knew I would have an hour everyday I think it would feel great, but if I knew I wouldn’t see my kids again it would feel horrible.
Before I met my husband eight years ago I didn’t want kids, but somehow meeting him, either knowing or deluding myself he was my soul mate right away, I wanted to give him what he wanted most in life, a daughter. Our first born had a DNA test saying boy, two ultrasounds and there was no update, until we delivered a girl, the test that is right 99% of the time was wrong for us. My husband was so overjoyed to have a girl. I also felt relieved to have given him what he wanted most. Last year in March we had a son, the last child for us. We all loved him immediately. Even his sister struggling through jealousy also felt love.
Today is the first time I noticed myself forgetting my daughter’s childhood. We were in my son’s Regional Infant Education class, some babies do like getting changed or don’t mind it (my son) and some of the others dislike it, but I can no longer remember what my daughter was like. I know she liked showers and brushing teeth and disliked car rides for a long time, but I can’t remember if she smiled or fussed for changes. Something about that loss makes me value our time together more.
There was a book “The Confidence Gap,” by Russ Harris, that had a lot of good values exercises, so I was prepared to do a more in-depth value exercise today, but usually, while I write my kids are playing (one in the room with me, the other right on the other side of a wall) today I feel the strangeness of their absence palpably and it’s giving me a feeling I can’t name, a feeling I don’t think I’ve ever had before.
I always hear that I’m supposed to enjoy the kids before they grow up, I’ve only just started being able to do that very recently.
I think I feel nostalgic for my kids the way they were. My son will be 1 next month, it doesn’t sound old, but it isn’t anything like a newborn. He played peekaboo with me yesterday and today, he started walking last week, he feeds himself his food, he helps put his arms in his clothes, he simply isn’t a baby the same way he was and for us there won’t be more babies. Our babies are grown in a way. My youngest is almost a toddler, my toddler almost a child. Life is about to get easier, perhaps better, but it’s also changing significantly forever.
There is such a sense of time being fleeting in this moment. Adults change, but at such a different pace then children, it feels like a few months ago I was in my 20s and didn’t even think I would have children, then I changed my mind, had them, struggled to figure out how to be a good mother without having ever seen a good mother, now I’m finally feeling confident with babies and the babies have disappeared leaving behind children in their place.
One thing I learned about life from my daughter is that the babies never completely disappear, in the hearts of children, somewhere their baby self is there, when they get sick or sleepy you can almost see your baby come back to visit.
There were so many times I wanted a break, now that I have one, I don’t feel bad, but it isn’t the way I imagine feeling at all.
Much like my wedding, very stressful, not romantic, not enjoyable, not casual, not 1% like a fantasy of what it would be like at all.
So tonight I started the values worksheets and looking at my life I know I don’t yet take the breaks I think would be good for me to take, I also feel like the time is coming so soon that I won’t have trouble taking them.
When 2020 started it felt like the birth of a new era for me, but tonight I feel in a way the death of an era passed. Not in a painful way, but in a grave way, not in a hopeless way, but still in a slightly stark way. I told myself many times I wanted to move forward in life, growth, time, but I didn’t prepare myself for the truth that I can never go back. What I did have was special and I won’t be able to remember it all, day by day some of it was lost. At this point, I wish I would have written a little bit more to myself about what life was like when my kids were young.
But it would have been hard, I took my daughter to work after two weeks off and worked full time with her for years, until I was about to have my son. It would have been very hard to juggle my daughter, my work as a caretaker and writing about life. I did write a little, but I didn’t keep the writing, I didn’t see it as valuable. I assumed at the time every mom went through pretty much the same life, every child was pretty much the same, now I miss knowing what my daughter in particular was like.
For years my husband loved chocolate, I made him chocolate birthday cake, I got him chocolate for our anniversary and every event. This year all the chocolate is pilled up in his drawer uneaten.
It seems like everyone in my family is changing faster than I can keep up with getting to know, that’s an uncomfortable feeling.
At one point I could spin with my daughter and she loved it, more than anything, now she wants to be put down.
At one point my son would laugh every time I clicked at him, now he is into peek-a-boo.
At one point my husband loved chocolate, now he won’t eat it at all.
At one point my father worried if my friends smoked pot, now he smokes it (legally).
At one point my mother-in-law wondered when we were going to put our kids through the Catholic hoops, now she is Christian and wonders when we are going to put our kids through those hoops.
I feel like a relic of the past, like I don’t change, but I must be changing too. I just can’t see it from my reference point.
The more I step outside of my life mentally, then return to it, the more joy, gratitude, respect, flexibility and happiness I have. It sounds weird to step outside and look inward, but remembering childhood there are many moments that allow you to take a measure of your growth that adulthood (for me) seems to lack.
As a child, each summer you are taller, you are better educated, perhaps more attractive, perhaps with new skills, as an adult you are the same height (or shorter), your education has become mildly staggeringly outdated, you are slightly to staggeringly less attractive, your skills are getting rusty though some may increase… but one thing that seems to grow is kindness, another is perspective.
It’s interesting to me that I never felt this way when my daughter grew to walk, to talk, to turn 1, 2, 3 and 4, but knowing my son is my last baby, seeing him walk, seeing him go out with his dad without me, seeing him graduate from his baby socialization class, it gives me a book of my life closing feeling. I thought that the feeling would be either more difficult or more welcome, but it isn’t either.
I keep wanting a break from change, but life keeps giving me change, I sometimes wonder if the rest of my life will be nothing but constant change? Or perhaps when the children are not children anymore I will feel the sweet illusion of stability again? I know someday we all die, but watching the little children presses that truth to my face a bit more closely than I would prefer.
My older child is four, but including the pregnancy, it’s been the last five years. I spend 27/29 years of my life planning to become a doctor, then the last five years learning how to become a mother (and deciding to forgo becoming a doctor to keep my family together since my husband wasn’t willing to relocate where I was able to attend medical school), now I am finally understanding how to be a mother to babies, my babies are not babies anymore. Deep in my heart, I’m very undecided over fate and God vs a random universe, but it seems like the force of the world or whatever is greater than me, (outside circumstance), definitely will bring me an unexpected life.
I am hoping to find a way to love myself, my life and my family members backwards through time, as if I no longer had them, but in a way that isn’t “crazy” or morbid or too existential… I hope that this feeling of emptiness of a chapter of life closed, perhaps wasted a bit by being too busy to stop and enjoy much, I hope I will save this moment in my heart and be able to come back to this day and calm myself down when I get too angry over small mistakes.
I know where I felt this feeling before now this was quoted in “How to Make Friends and Influence People” Dale Carnegie:
Listen Son, I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little hand crumpled under your cheek and blonde curls sticky over your wet forehead. I have broken into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me.
Guilty, I came to your bedside. There are things which I am thinking, son; I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face a mere dab with the towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor. At breakfast, I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. As you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”.
Then it began all over again late this afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your socks. I humiliated you before your friends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Socks were expensive, and if you had to buy
them you would be more careful! Imagine that son, from a father.
Do you remember later, when I was reading in the library, how you came timidly, with sort of a hurt look in your eyes? I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption; you hesitated at the door. “What is it that you want?” I snapped. You said nothing but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, your small arms tightened with affection that God had set blooming in your heart, which even neglect could not wither. Then you were gone, pattering up the stairs. Well, Son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, or reprimanding; this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you: it was that I expected too much of you. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years. There is so much that was good, fine and true in your character. The little heart of yours was as big as the dawn itself over the hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush
in and kiss me good night. Nothing else mattered tonight. Son, I have come to your bedside in the darkness, I have knelt there, ashamed!
It is a feeble atonement; I know that you would not understand these things which I have told you in the waking hours. Tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, suffer when you suffer and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I
will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy–a little boy.” I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, Son, crumpled and weary in your bed. I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much!
Instead of condemning and criticizing others, perhaps it would be better to try to understand them, to try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it– W. Livingston Larned
breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness, rather than contempt…!!!
I still don’t know what to call the feeling, they said regret, I don’t know. I actually did the very best I could have with my daughter, many mistakes were made, but one thing I know is that all the effort I had in every part of my soul was given to the task, yet it was done so poorly at times. My daughter has brown, hair, but emotionally is so forgiving just like the boy in the story, that story is from almost a hundred years old, but I found myself going through that same cycle over and over. Forgetting my temper, apologizing, repeat, and actually, I always got better, but 1% at a time, so that when my second was born he knew almost a different person in terms of losing my patience. I thought because I was 30 when my daughter was born I wouldn’t be impatient, I was so wrong. I refuse to hate myself for being human, when I would want to, I can’t because I know I did my best every day and it was an imperfect situation that I dealt with the best I could.
One of the best things to come out of that failure is a forgiveness for my own parents, especially my own mother. My mother who never loved me, she was only 18 when she was pregnant, how little I knew at 30, how much less she knew. Her mom died of brain cancer when I was only 2, how little help she had during those years. She was too depressed to hold me. How difficult it was for me to hold my own baby, but at every turn where my life was outside of what society valued for a baby I tried to use that as a gauge for what I should do, I held my baby with no urge to do so, kissed her a million times hoping she would know the feeling of love I didn’t know until I met my husband at 26. And she did, and we survived, and though it was far from perfect it was so much better than the bar I was raised under.
It was strange to focus most of my life on things largely removed from people skills, then five years ago be trust into an arena where only people skills matter. I gained so much strength during these past five years, I became immune to suffering.
“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” was my mantra when I delivered my daughter without drugs, but it became my daily life over the next five years, “I am loved” was my mantra when I delivered my son also at home, and it too has taken years to become fully true.
Looking back at life it is so strange and magical it gives me hope for things to come, they will most likely be far beyond my imagination.
I didn’t expect to write the closest thing to a cohesive narrative of my life as I have today, but I’m glad that I did, because it’s been said that you have to own your own story to be your own person (in the book “T for Transformation” by Shaun Blocker) and after hearing that challenge it felt impossible in that moment that I would be able to sort out what had been important vs all the tiny details of my life time to get a sense of the story of my life thus far. 🕊️