March 9, 2015
by Tricia
2 Comments

103 minutes

sled

It’s been 55 minutes. 55 minutes since I handed over the children and the trajectory of the 3485th snow day this season to my husband. I handed him the baby monitor that was silent only because I had the thing turned all the way down but the stupid little light bar was a constant shade of toddler-is-screaming-red. Not that I needed the monitor. He filled the house with screams and sobs of “Mommy!” because he didn’t want to nap and after going in there to settle him down about a dozen times in an hour I had given up. Though ‘given up’ is almost too active a description for what I did because I wouldn’t call it a conscious decision that I folded my legs under me in the big red armchair and stared at the screen I’d opened on my lap, mindlessly typing words that had come to me the night before as if maybe they might form a story that had little to do with the snow and the cabin fever and the screaming child and this feeling I’ve got right now that there is nothing steady around me and so instead of taking charge, and living with intent, I’m falling fast into the abyss.

Now it’s been 62 minutes. 62 minutes into these couple of hours that I get today to sit in a room by myself but, more importantly, to work. That is what I am supposed to be doing with this time. Work. I have things I need to write. Things I want to write. I have story ideas that I’ve transferred from one page of my to-do list book to the next for enough weeks that it might be faster just to write the darned things and move on with life. I also have time sheets to fill in and emails to return and submission opportunities to add to my calendar. And I have these couple of hours today to get to it all if I’m really efficient and focused. Or, if I’m honest with myself about my humanness, to most of it.

But in the first 55 minutes, I read. I dove into Facebook and I clicked and I read. And I lingered over inspirational message, of which my Facebook feed has many, and tried to breathe them in to shift my perspective. There are, we all know, many worse things in life than back-to-back snow days, children with loud voices who are stir crazy, and a toddler who won’t nap. There are worse things than two straight months of more or less not working because the house is always full and the streets are always white or someone else is sick or the car needs to be fixed (again) or, or or. And yes, I know I’m not a horrible mother. And yes, I can do this. And, of course, this day is a gift. And absolutely I will look back three, four, five years from now, maybe even next year, and wish I could get back just one of these days when we’re all here together, cooped in but together, when they want to hang out with me and have me paint their faces and take turns dumping flour and sugar into a bowl and then serve me play dough cookies and tea. I’m longing for that even now when I’m still in it and if you don’t know what I mean then you haven’t been stuck inside with your children nearly enough this winter.

But I had sunk to a place that even inspirational quotes spread across images of suns setting or rising couldn’t bring me back from. And I wasn’t ready to write about it here, yet. So I tried to write out all of the really bad stuff into the journal I use for morning pages even though we’re winding our way into late afternoon by now and thinking about morning pages just reminds me that I let my alarm ring this morning until it stopped ringing all on it’s own but my phone still flashed with the alarm screen when I finally woke up to look at it. Which of course reminds me that I could have started this day far differently than I did if I had gotten up and written actual morning pages in the morning when the sky was dark and they day still stretched ahead. But I didn’t. I wanted to write all of the really bad stuff in my journal so that I wouldn’t come here and write it because when I come here to write, I publish. And I’m a bit tired of the same old tune I’ve been singing, that this is hard. We know it’s hard. You know it’s hard. You don’t need me to share my snow day sob stories to remind you. I’m sure you’re feeling it all on your own. And there is more to motherhood than hard, isn’t there? There is love and sweetness. And memories and closeness. And small wins that keep you moving and instill in you this belief that through the stumbles you might actually be on the right path. There were those things today. Little people in capes running around the house fighting invisible bad guys. Empty purple bowls of invisible food and matching cups with invisible tea left for me outside the bathroom door. Ordering ‘the specialist’ at her play dough cookie shop (she means ‘the special) and delighting her by pretending to voraciously gobble up the entire thing. Giving them popcorn at lunch and a freshly baked cookie afterwards because why the hell not and then basking in the little bit of good will it generated (until, of course, nap time arrived and the screaming began).

Yes, there is more than hard. But has it occurred to you that so much of the not-hard stuff is invisible?

And man if the hard isn’t so damn heavy. And I don’t know how to shrug it off when it builds up this high. And so instead I shrink down under it and begin wonder if I was built for this life. I begin to modify ‘yes I am a good mom’ with ‘only sunny spring days, actually just on sunny spring Fridays, when everything flows just as routine demands and the kids are in a good mood and nobody has been sick or upset in days and the nanny is here to handle nap time.’ And then I realize that I just described a day that actually doesn’t exist. So now what do I do?

It’s been 103 minutes now. The family has ventured out into the white world and the house is quiet for a breath, maybe two, but then they’ll be back to pick me up to go to dinner, which I’ve been looking forward to because oh do we need to eat some pizza and color on menu-drawings of Venice and I think I’ll sit with my back to the door so that I can look into their eyes instead and remind myself of the times we’ve eaten here in Spring and then wandered down the street for ice cream. I didn’t believe in those days last March either. But they came. I do feel lighter in Spring. Especially Fridays in Spring. When it’s sunny.

110 minutes now and this is where I leave you. I have work to do before they get home.

~~~~~

“Editor’s note” – I wrote this on Friday afternoon at a particularly low point when it felt like this winter and string of snow days would never end. I scheduled it to post today and then over the weekend, I nearly deleted it. Because, of course, we did go eat pizza on Friday night and I did sit with my back to the door and I did feel better afterward. And then Saturday dawned and felt like Spring and Sunday dawned the same and it’s not Friday but I am feeling lighter. So I almost deleted these words written in the heat of the hard moment. But we can’t really delete the hard moments. And I do believe that each time I get brutally honest about the hard, those words reach someone just when they need them most. So, you who needs these words, these are for you. Your spring will come too. Promise.

March 4, 2015
by Tricia
8 Comments

Things I have lost

Socks (see also: gloves, hats, hair bows, etc.)

mismatched socks

Keys

Sanity

2 of 4 wheels that belong to the model car we bought at the beach three years ago

The backs to my diamond earrings

My motivation

My sense of self, separate from my sense of motherhood

Lazy Sunday mornings with coffee and the paper

coffee art

The ability to watch a Subaru commercial without tearing up

Patience

Opportunities

Naiveté – though admittedly not as much as I should have by the age of 34

The idealism of youth – though admittedly not as much as I should have by the age of 34

Grandparents

Friends

Boyfriends

The feeling that I am invincible that led me to wild adventures like canyoning and rock climbing and roller coasters that flip you upside down

A head of hair that is free of stray grays

Breastmilk

My nearly complete autobiography that was due as a school assignment at the end of my junior year in high school

The ability to stay up late with my head bent over my work

Bitterness towards friends and family

Faith in organized religion and/or the belief that there is only one answer to the question of why we are here or only one identity for a higher power

sunrisebeach

The ability to pray

Routines that brought comfort and joy

A taste for soda

An abhorrence of fast food

Admirers

And, also, haters

Cares about what other people think of me

And, also, the ability to disregard others’ opinions

fancydressocean

The belief that I know how to do good in the world

A sense of adventure that trumps the comfortable and known

Tethers to people who saw me through my childhood

Money

Moments with my children

The unique feeling of being a newlywed

The pin I was supposed to wear everyday while pledging the business fraternity my junior year of college

The courage to be vulnerable, honest, to put myself out there, to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself

Days

Sleep

The slip of paper I need to retrieve my dry cleaning

Track of time

Memories

baby and mommy at the beach

Vacation days

Respect

Weight

The ability to experience an unproductive moment without guilt or remorse

The feeling that all will be ok

The feeling that nothing will ever get better

Fear of endings

~~~~~

Linking up with Lisa. The prompt I chose this week was Lost. Many of these, of course, I have since found. And, perhaps, lost again and found again and the cycle continues. Some remain lost, living forever in the ether. Like those darned socks.

What’s been interesting is how much lighter I’ve felt since I wrote this list. We think of loss as a bad thing, a sad thing, something uncomfortable that requires mourning. And, it does. But after that, isn’t there almost always a feeling lightness? Also, looking over this list and realizing that lost things can be found is a hopeful kind of thing.

What have you lost?

March 2, 2015
by Tricia
0 comments

Come on, let’s play!

play dough and tea

“My children are small. Larger magic, bigger adventures, louder moments compel them. They want to get up and shake and move, their energy bursts at the seams. They handle my need for quiet time well but their growing limbs and minds exploding in synapses need more. I know they need more. I know how running through the house with voices loud in song is just as enriching as blending primary colors into a masterpiece, maybe more so. But at 4pm on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, when a long day isn’t even close to over, I struggle to match their energy. So when they run off to play on their own, most of the time I let them, breathing a sigh of relief that they, at least, have each other.”

I was so honored to join the amazing group of writers participating in Rachel Cedar’s 28 Days of Play over at You Plus 2 Parenting. This is the second year that Rachel has taken us on this journey of play – what it means, how it happens (or doesn’t), why we perpetuate this love-hate relationship with it, how anyone finds the time for it. I think about play, and my role in it, every single day. I’m not great at play, or, at least, not the kind of play my kids seem to favor, and on the topic of future regret haunting my present, that happens most often in the realm of play for me. I worry about missing tea parties and playing family when my family has moved on.

So I’d love if you’d join me over at Rachel’s blog today as I move towards a happy middle with play.

February 25, 2015
by Tricia
3 Comments

I’ll be the monster

closet door with tutu

I walk into her closet, leaving the light off, and close the door behind me. My socks are no protection against the floor which I am convinced is ice made to look like wood. Her closet is always so cold. I stand there facing the door and I begin to shake but not just from the chill. I am 34 years old and I’m not ashamed to admit that I am still afraid of the dark. Standing in there I can see just a few inches all around me but not much more. I’m thankful that I recently cleaned this space of its clutter but, still. Standing in her dark closet brings back memories of watching scary movies as a kid. To other kids my age, those movies were not all that scary, but they still frightened me. A scene from E.T. springs to mind, the view from the closet through the slats in the door. There was a time when I was too young to see the beauty of that movie and only saw the terror. For a while it was all frogs jumping everywhere and men in hazmat suits long before I knew what a hazmat suit was. So, of course, I was terrified. I try to remind myself that I’m an adult. I’m the mother now. I shouldn’t be afraid of the dark. I know that there is nothing lurking in her dark closet. But I’m still shaking, just a little. I don’t like to be scared.

My children, on the other hand, seem to love it. Or, at least, she does. He has just entered the scared-of-the-dark phase and refuses to enter a space that hasn’t been well lit, even in my arms. But he follows her everywhere and so if she wants to be scared, he’s usually right there too. And she often wants to be scared. She plays hide and seek because she loves the thrill of knowing we could jump out around any corner. She wants us to tuck ourselves away and spring out to surprise her. And she begs for us to be the monster.

Being the monster is quite simple, really. The two of them curl up in her bed, usually under covers, and, at my leisure, I sneak into the room and startle them with tickles, adding a growl for effect. They scream and squeal and their eyes grow with what they want us to believe is fear but is really just extreme surprise. And then the tickles and giggles finish it off. I wander off, folding laundry and doing other such monster things before starting the whole thing over again. I don’t get the appeal but they love it. And although I don’t love being called a monster, the invitation to tickle them and squeeze them and hear their squeals is one I don’t often turn down.

I love that she loves to be scared. Because it means that she is surpassing me. Or spinning off a different thread, one that I surely did not pass on to her. It means that she’ll spend fewer nights awake from dusk till dawn, the scary movie she watched that day playing over and over in her head. It means that the night lights that set her room aglow will dwindle over time and she’ll never find herself shaking in a darkened closet three decades from now. I like to think she has less fear than me and that this will take her farther. And I like how she surprises me as I surprise her.

“Mommy!?” I hear their feet coming down the hall, not their usual run because they are thrown off by not being able to find me. “Mommy? Where are you?” I call out that she should get dressed, knowing full well that she will be able to follow the sound of my voice but that she’ll pretend that she can’t so that she doesn’t ruin the surprise. The light clicks on in the closet and in another breath the door swings open. I form my fingers into claws and deliver my best monster growl and she shrieks and squeals and laughs out loud. “That was so much fun!”

And I laugh too. Yes, it was fun.

~~~~~

linking up with Lisa for 1-word prompts

February 23, 2015
by Tricia
3 Comments

Visit me On Parenting

ballet legwarmers

I’m so honored to direct you to The Washington Post today where you can read a piece by yours truly.

I have so much to say about this piece. The more I write, the more I practice my craft, the more I edit, the more I leave off the page. I feel more about this moment in the ballet studio, and all the other moments that I’ve tried to forget, then I could ever convey succinctly. I have more thoughts about shame and how it happens and the havoc it brings.

And say more, I will. I’m sure.

But we have to start somewhere and so I start, today, with this story. I’d love if you’d visit my words over at On Parenting.

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