Today has been really hard. And I hate that when I typed that sentence my first thought was: I should quickly balance that statement with how grateful I am to be a mom and have a healthy and happy child. Because if I don’t write that then someone might think I don’t love my son or that I’m not a good mom because as a society we believe only in extremes. If one is a good mom she is forever happy and grateful and suffers in silence if she suffers at all because a good mom is eternally fine, better than fine, great. A bad mom admits that having kids is really hard sometimes because she is ungrateful for the magic that she has in her life. This is bullshit. I am, and can say this with confidence, an outstanding mom. My son is my life and by fucking God he knows it every second of the day. I love him, to the moon and back, to hell and back, and I would in an absolute instant do anything, and I mean anything, to protect him. That does not mean that I enjoy it when he blows his boogers on my own face and then claps for himself or that the days of “Mine!” tantrums go by in a butterfly haze. Keeping him safe and alive is really hard because he is me, basically. If one sentence could best sum up my life it would be: How have you lived this long? Truly. I don’t have many friends who haven’t exclaimed that at one point. My friend Jason said it hourly when we were inseparable in Italy. Coaxing my son off of the kitchen table, catching him mid leap from the chairs, and throwing myself underneath his body as he attempts to “skateboard” (i.e. do what he thinks is a cool trick by flailing in the air after kicking off of a wall) is exhausting and frustrating no matter how grateful I am for his health, for his smile, for him in general. I wish as parents we could openly discuss struggles and get the support that we desperately need without being backed into a corner of toxic positivity or shame. Normalize parenting being hard, beautiful, and hard.
2020 has been one yell of a year but by far the most difficult thing has been trying to entertain my toddler. And I know, all toddlers are active. But imagine every toddler you’ve ever met and then think back to that time you did cocaine or saw someone do cocaine and combine those two images. That’s my kid. He can concentrate on tasks that really matter to him, like cooking, cleaning, or reading. But every other moment of the entire day is spent in rapid motion. As a perk, he’s not only active, he has the strength and coordination of a four year old and absolutely no fear of danger whatsover (thanks to my DNA–Go me!). Also he’s obsessed with throwing shit on the floor right now, sticking things up his nose, and today said “son of a bitch” just in time for me to schedule a meeting with the admissions folks at a fancy private preschool. Why private? I know yall will have questions about this so let me take a quick moment to explain. Where I live there are either preschools ran out of some sketchy woman’s house (I went to plenty of these and one of them resulted in a police investigation, no thanks), daycare centers that are overcrowded and resemble a cow feedlot (I also went to one of these and was suspended for explaining how procreation worked and also a girl with my same name bit a hole in my leg there), or really great religion based preschools that teach kids about original sin in song. I’m not against a religious preschool by any means, lots of our friends send their kids there and they provide some of the best education in the state, but it would be ideal for us if we could find something more secular but also not in someone’s basement.
Back to my original story, I don’t know how to entertain him during a pandemic. We read twenty books per day and do a sensory activity every day and water play and sing songs and have a dance party and play outside and go for walks and if nobody else is around we go to the little park. He’s still bored. I’m still bored. We’re bored. And what does a bored toddler do? Burn your house to the ground, mostly.
Today is a destruction day. I started my period today so I’m already swollen and mad and on top of it my tot has been a beautiful ball of merciless destruction since he woke up. He flooded the kitchen (don’t ask how), grabbed a canister of oatmeal and dumped it all over the entire house seconds after I vacuumed, flooded the bathroom (we have a bidet hose), and then threw his lunch all over the kitchen shelves. Now, you might be thinking: Where were you, lady, while all this was happening? Literally standing next to him, you judgy ass. I don’t pick up my phone when I’m with my son most of the time because I am not capable of multitasking. But like I said, he’s active. And I think part octopus, because in a blink of an eye, like a goddamn cobra, this kid can grab something and activate it. Or throw it. Or write with it. Or dump it. It’s honestly fucking impressive and people who don’t know us might think “you’re exaggerating” but I promise that anyone who spends five minutes with him will declare “My God he’s active, my God he’s fast, HOW IS HE NOT AFRAID OF ANYTHING!?”
Most days I can take things in stride, practice some deep breathing, find a way to keep calm. This is an annoying thing to humble brag about but not much gets to me most of the time. It ENRAGES my husband because everything in all of the world triggers him and I’m like, “Is everyone safe? Then who cares?” As a human with PTSD who has struggled with panic and depression I have to ration my big feelings so I don’t actually combust. But today isn’t one of those days. I definitely cried four times. I definitely said “fine, don’t sleep” and had to lay him in his bed and shut the door and take a ten minute break where I just stared out of the window in zombie mode (while he knocked on his door the whole time giggling and going, knoooock knoooock maaamma). I definitely feel lonely and alone and frustrated and so tired and I’m definitely dealing with some depression from this isolating year that never seems to end and all of that is adding to feeling down today. Today is so hard. I feel so overwhelmed and like every day this year is groundhog day and I’m doing my absolute best but somehow coming up short in one area or all of them. Am I doing okay? Am I doing a good job? I am, right? This is when I’ll text someone who has been around me and my son and ask, “Is he doing okay?” To which so far the reply has been, “You’re an amazing mom.” Thankfully. I’ll let out a large sigh of relief and try to remember it throughout the day.
On the up side, however, because I know this is expected (and it is true) he’s a happy and healthy toddler who loves to climb and jump and learn and pretend to skateboard in the living room (just please don’t be an actual skateboarder or snow bro, I’m too anxious for how brave they are). He’s trying to teach himself how to read right now, can speak in full sentences and knows hundreds and hundreds of words, eighty which are various animals. He’s kind and polite and says “thank you, mamma,” whenever I do anything for him. And he woke us up singing “Jolene, Jolene, please don’t take my man” which is the sweetest thing in all of the world (get em hooked on Dolly young, I always say).
This is hard. This is beautiful. He is hard. He is beautiful. I can do hard things, and struggle and triumph are also beautiful. Let’s normalize parenting being all the things. And normalize being unapologetically open and honest so that others can feel less alone, less shamed, less backed into a corner, and able to get the love and support they need.
I see you, parents. You’re doing a good job.
Any toddler activity tips to share? Put them in the comments below.