The twins turned one last month — the fastest slowest year of my life so far — and I am feeling better. The anxiety, the fear of not being enough, the sense of having to work so damn hard just to keep my head above water, now and for decades to come, is still with me. But these feelings are less overwhelming in recent weeks, more like background noise that fades in and out and increasingly allows for me to hear healthier, happier thoughts. Like the thought that all of our kids are (relatively) healthy (for the moment) and they are all getting along. Sometimes they even play TOGETHER, which makes having more than one kid seem almost sensible. For example:
In other good news, L does a fully body squeal of delight whenever she sees her older brother H, even if he has only stepped out of her vision for a few minutes; C has started offering toys to L instead of just snatching them away from her; and, any concerns I had about attachment between myself and the babies, although I nursed them for a far shorter period and went back to work months sooner than with H, have been put to rest. They cannot get enough of me, which is such a relief and a joy, when it’s not a screaming, crying shit show. It is usually both.
I would not describe our lives as easier these days. We are still in it as far as parenting goes. This point was driven home at a recent gathering of our college friends, including two couples who started their family years earlier than us. We are so far from the promised land of butts attached to beings who can wipe themselves, drop-off only birthday parties, and overnight play dates, that I’m just going to have to pretend those things don’t exist. Nope. Either my husband or I (preferably both) still need to be on duty pretty much dawn to dusk, with a blessed break for afternoon nap.
Thankfully (and with a great deal of help from my squad, both professional and personal), I have found, or maybe re-discovered, my desire and ability to slow down, pull back from the day-to-day chaos of it all, and revel in what we have made together over this past year.
We have made a family.
My husband and I have given our children a stable, loving, silly, and safe home in which to grow. We have also given them each other, to love and challenge and annoy and play with.
My husband has given me, well, everything. He has been the rock to my raging river of fear and sadness and shame. He has proven me wrong every time I have determined myself to be unlovable.
And my children, my three tiny crazy people bursting with energy and sound and need and love, they have given me the gift of being broken. But for them, I might have continued to live the rest of my days rushing around doing all the things required to be “good” and “competent” and “enough” according to the unreasonable, if not impossible to meet, standards set by me. Or, more accurately, the standards set by the highly driven, near perfectionist voice in my head which, while helpful in certain circumstances (i.e. law school, taking three bar exams in four years) has proven herself downright harmful as a life coach generally, and particularly when it comes to parenting. It took just over a year, but I feel relatively confident that my kids have broken that part of me (or at least managed to tie her up and stick her in a closet at the very back of mind so that I don’t hear from her nearly as often).
All this is to say that there have been more days when I have felt happy, when I have been playful and sarcastic and spontaneous in a way that feels familiar but which hasn’t felt possible for a long time. My daily life is often still an unmitigated cluster of unexpected sickness, teething, tantrums, blowouts, and blown naps, but I am able to find humor in it, to laugh about it with my husband after the day’s catastrophes have been handled as best they could be and all the kids are finally asleep for the night.
Also, I have been listening to music more, crying less, and dancing. I forgot how much I love dancing. And now the babies can dance a bit in their baby way, and H will bust a move every now and then if I ask very nicely, and even Matt let me spin him around the kitchen the other night in between after-hours work and washing dishes.
Things are getting better. I am getting better. My circus of tiny crazy people (and their handsome adult supervisor) have managed to help me do what I likely never could have done on my own — they have saved me from that mean lady in my head. They have broken me free.