Tuesday, August 08, 2006

On a clear day I can see forever

Dear Annabel,

This isn't about your milestone, really, it's about mine.

I yelled at you the other day in a way I've never yelled before.

It wasn't the happy, over-loud play yell we practice as we bounce on beds or run through the grocery store. Nor was it the exasperated hiss pushed through closed teeth that has started to creep into my voice now that you are well into your testing TWO-year.

Sadly, it was a scream; an all-out, no-words vocal blast that ricocheted through the house and sent the dogs in two different directions. It was a lost-control-and-couldn't-get-it-back, wanted-to-cry-but-didn't howl that sought to break windows with the sheer force of its pitch.

In the instant that followed, all things stopped. And there was silence.

You had been pulling me around with a measuring tape you'd wrapped around my leg. You were pretending I was a horse and you were taking me for a ride. Up and down the hallway we went. It was the same measuring tape that had brought us such joy a few hours earlier.

But I had been tired all day. I was tired of the game. I was tired of playing with you. Tired of begging you to nap, be still or eat something. I was tired and I was sad and lonely and miserable. I was also coming to grips with something I hadn't let myself think before that very moment: 'You may be an only child, not by choice.' And when I put away your crib at the end of the summer, replacing it with a "big-girl" bed, I may as well put away my childbearing days along with it.

As you looked up at me, your eyes were huge but tears didn't fill them. You let the measuring tape drop and you backed away. You didn't want me to come near you. Who could blame you?

But here I am, your mother, a screaming banshee who inwardly wonders whether you need me at all. Knowing that you do, but feeling that you don't. You are such an independent little girl in so many ways. Every "I love you" that escapes your lips is unsolicited, a precious gift that refuses to be forced.

My apology was as quick to come over me as the outburst itself. Patience is something I have rarely lost with you, even in the most trying times. I sat down, put my head in my hands, and cried. Really cried. What goes through me, along with the waves of guilt, is the memories of all the absent times. And not just those hours we spend away from each other. You at Lori's and me at work. The times when all I want is for you to sleep, or play by yourself and leave me be.

You side-stepped the measuring tape, now abandoned on the floor, and came to me. "That's OK, mama. That's OK. You wanna have a possissil with me?"

I went to the kitchen to get the pops and you climbed into your chair.

As I opened the freezer door a photograph slipped from its tenuous letter-magnet mooring and floated to the floor. It was of you almost a year ago. Your little-girl looks were not as chiseled, your elbows and knees still beautifuly dimpled and sweetly ringed in baby flesh. Your hair was just wisps barely visible in the print.

I missed that baby girl; a girl that, squinting through the viewfinder a year ago, I thought was big. I looked up from the photograph and saw you waiting at the table for your treat. I knew that next year at this time you will be bigger still, and if I'm not careful I will be the same person I am right now, lamenting the baby you used to be and missing out.

Perhaps, in some strange way, it's good that I yelled. Perhaps it woke me up. I don't want to sleepwalk through any more years.

Love and endless apologies,


Andrea said...

I could not have written those feelings any better, though they've passed my heart and soul. I have lost it like that, and I hate how I felt afterwards. I hate that I shocked my little boy with the force of my voice, my impatience, my loss of control. But like you, I hollered myself out of a pattern of wishing time away so I could get a break from the overwhelmingness of parenthood.

And his little hand on my hand was what got me through. He didn't know it, but he learned how to comfort that day, how to reassure me it would all be okay instead of me reassuring him. He grew up a little in those few moments, and I wish it hadn't been because I'm the one who lost it. But I'm learning this as I go along. And his patience with me is growing, too.

I'm sorry your frustrations with overwhelming thoughts took over for a second, but it happens to everyone. Sometimes the strangest things wake us up to time's inevitable march. We learn from our outbursts as much as our inner thoughts. Hang in there.

Be Still said...

Oh you poor thing! I've been there and it made me cry reading about your tough day.

Being a mom is the hardest thing I've ever done. Being kind 24/7 to a 2 year old is shockingly hard at times, despite the fact that I love him with every fiber of my being.

One day, I barked at Jude on a particularly trying day. The look on his face shamed me to my core. That image will be burned into my memory forever. I still get sick when I think about it.

It sucks that the desire to be a good mommy can carry such guilt and shame with it. It would be soooo much easier to be an asshole.

kimmyk said...

*heavy sigh*

Oh it's hard being a good momma isn't it?

My mom always said "this hurts me more than it hurts you" when she would yell at us for whatever the reason.

She was right.

ECR said...

That's really the first time you yelled like that? As the mother of a kid more than a year younger than your ittybit, I already can't say the same thing. But the redeeming fact is that I can be taught (sort of) and that my daughter is actually showing me how to be more patient. It's not an easy lesson to learn. But that's motherhood for you.

Melissa said...

ditto to the previous comments

Patience is something I've had to learn, and it hasn't been easy. I've been a mom for seven years now to three children ages 7, 4.5, and 13 months.

The first time I raised my voice to my oldest daughter and made her cry, she was only 6 months old. Granted, she was about to stick her hand into a hot fireplace, but her look of absolute shock at the tone of my voice is something I will never be able to erase from my mind.

Just know that you are not alone.

By the way, your words and pictures are just beautiful . . .

Firestarter5 said...

Nothing more need be said.

supa said...

this post is just amazing. it brings tears to my eyes ... I've been in that exact spot recently.

thanks for writing this.

crazymumma said...

You have made me cry. I have done the same thing...lost it and been redeemed by my child.
They humble us.