Is it possible to feel like a failure twice in one day, in a matter of hours?
Yes, yes it is.
The first time was when I snapped at my oldest, for throwing cookies all over the clean floor. His face fell, feelings clearly hurt. As I grumpily went about vacuuming the crumbs, it struck me that in that moment – I had just lost it over crumbs.
“Failure! Failure! Failure!” my inner bitch screamed.
When nap time for the boys came, I couldn’t get them to their rooms quick enough. As I said, “Sleep tight, buddy,” in a slightly strangled tone to the cookie-throwing boy, he waved me off with a cheery, “BYE!”
He’d already forgiven me for yelling. I hadn’t forgiven myself. This time, silent whispers of “failure, failure, failure” rang in my head.
Utterly defeated, I sat down at my desk, turned on my laptop, and the first thing I read, hit me squarely in the gut. “Why don’t we allow children to feel the same things we feel as adults? Why aren’t they allowed to have a bad day? Or be grumpy?”
I had not given my son the grace of just being human. I had piled on expectations on him, because of my own standards. I hadn’t given him leeway to just be three years old. On the other hand, I was grumpy all morning, I complained and bitched, I yelled and showed displeasure. I was acting like a toddler having a bad day.
Later that day, I found myself alone with him. We had settled down quietly – me, writing, him, drawing.
Then, he stopped, took my hands, said, “Mama,” and climbed into my lap. As I held my firstborn in my lap, his head on my shoulder, I noticed that his legs seemed to have lengthened overnight. I reminisced when he used to sleep on me, his little head over where my heart beat, his legs curled up on my stomach. As I inhaled the scent of a 3 year old and held a hand bigger than I remember it, I realized with great certainty two things: that my son has given me the grace of being a fully flawed human whom he loves unconditionally, and that time is not on my side.
Time is a thief. It steals away all the minutes and hours when their brains grow, their limbs lengthen, and their independence flourishes.
Time is a liar. It tells me that my days are long because nerves are frayed, and tempers are lost over the smallest things.
Time is devious. It hides from us all the tiny moments that truly bring joy and rounds up your days, by showing us our perceived failures.
By wishing it away (“I can’t wait for them to be old enough to wipe their own butts! I can’t wait for them to leave me alone in the bathroom!”), I have made time my enemy.
Time, I am sorry. Slow down a little, let’s be friends again. I need all of what you can give, and I promise not to waste a single minute. Thank you.
Do you ever wish time away?
I wrote a letter to first-time mothers-to-be over at Everyday Family. Would love for you to read it – it has a picture of me with a brand-new Monkey boy in it!