The hard thing

I love this blog. It started as a way to interpret my slow, otherwise useless-feeling days into something retrospective and meaningful, but it’s turned into something more – a baby book, a journal, a collection of thoughts on life and parenthood, a way to talk about all that feels wrong with the world and what is right with it.

I’m especially happy to have the essays about A’s babyhood. Those moments are preserved in cyber ink like the stains that hold fast in my toddler’s clothing. Mustard. Avocado. Peanut butter. These bits of life are built to last.

Looking back on the past year, I notice that the easy parts of parenting are underrepresented here. I have not written about potty training, for example, because my expectations of my small human are in line with her behaviors. So far so good.

The hardest parts of parenting are also under represented here.

When I started writing for all of you, I opened up my life to your scrutiny and criticism: It was a big mental hurdle to jump. I prefer that you like me; even if it doesn’t always seem so. Sometimes my behaviors are unpopular or downright bad. Sometimes I fear that the more we get to know each other, the less well we will get along.

But the self-protection that keeps me from writing about what is hard contrasts with my deeper desire to be known. Remember childhood? Remember those friends who knew you? I miss those friends.

I started writing for you because I have spent too many moments hungering for connection: for something honest and real and safe to exist between myself and another person. How can we love and support each other through strange and difficult times unless people speak and share our most essential selves?

I once watched a Joni Mitchell interview where she talked about this process of digging through the personal in search of the universal. “You keep peeling back to layers of the onion,” she said. “Then you get down to the center and think, my God, do I want to say that in public?”

The larger issue here, bigger than my desire for self-preservation, is that whatever I don’t write up is just gone. I miss those moments; even if I can’t remember what they were.

One day, A’s childhood will be over, and these memories will be all I have left. Good or bad, I want to keep as many of them as I can. I wont miss the difficult parts, but I don’t want to erase them. They are part of this beautiful, spare string of beads. They are all I have to keep.

So I am going to try to write more about the hard parts. Like this: For me, being a mom has come with the long, slow realization that I have given up everything I once was for the one thing I wanted most. Every moment of parenting A is a joy, but the cumulative effort amounts to an endurance I never imagined. Parenting is like running an ultra marathon, except that instead of running it as fast as you can, you have no control over time. It takes as long as it takes. There is no way to know how much more I have to give, and I hope and pray that I have enough of the right stuff to get through it.

The reward of parenting, is discovering that you do have what it takes. I function, even have good days, while meeting almost none of my personal needs; including sleep. Before A was born, I could not do that. Everything I do from here on out will benefit from the resolve I learned in parenting.

Perserverance is is a gift my daughter has given me. That, and I will never again be bored if only I can sit still and sip coffee without someone simultaneously rubbing cottage cheese on my sweater.

This is my life, I’m gonna breath it in; in all of its forms; for all if my days. Clan of the heart, my next of kin, fill up your chest and let it out again.

Here I write about something hard – both hard in the moment and hard to talk about – because what makes each moment valuable is not that it is perfect, good, fun, or even right, but that it is rare and fleeting.

When A finally falls asleep tonight she is crumpled into an unlikely pile, clutching “Eye,” her owl, whom she named, with her leg slung over a pillow. Nothing seems remarkable to me, but my husband pauses to adore her. “We have to remember this moment,” he says.

And so I do.


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