Sometimes, I let life get to me. The struggle of keeping my head above water on days when my PTSD and PPD make just getting out of bed hard, and I have two little people who need me to do nearly everything for them. And it’s not just the struggle to get up and take care of them, but the struggle to be present for them in the way they deserve.
Today, there was a big mix of failures and successes. I am learning that just because I failed at some parts of the day does not mean the whole day was a waste, or that I’m a failure. I’m learning, slowly, to move past the rough moments and enjoy the good ones, even on the days when there are more rough moments than good.
If you had asked me a month ago if I succeeded or failed at a day like today, I would have said, without hesitation, that I failed. I raised my voice more than once. I lost patience many times. There were timeouts and there were a couple yelling matches with my three year old when I forgot to be the adult.
But I also fed the kids three real meals and two non-packaged snacks today. And we had a mini-dance party in my room after I changed the baby’s diaper. Briana and I spent twenty minutes looking at a Mickey Mouse book that is similar to a “Where’s Waldo” book…a find it sort of book, and the look on her face the first time she found something in the sea of objects on the page without my help was pure magic. We used straws for magic wands and had a “magic fight” that mostly involved a lot of giggling and saying “hex, hex, unhex!” Bri went through three outfits today before settling on the perfect dress. The baby shared her graham cracker with me, and giggled like crazy with every bite I took.
I used to feel like all the moments I stumbled as a parent far outweighed the moments when I got it right. But at the end of the day, after I rock my snugly, sleepy, happy 1 year old baby to sleep and get her settled into her crib, and walk across the apartment to my 3 and a half year old’s room to say goodnight, she doesn’t want to talk about the moments we slipped up. She wants to snuggle up to me while I play a song for her on my phone and we sing about taking on the world. She wants me to read her a story and give her a kiss and “Please, Mommy, lay with me just a little bit longer? I need your attention. Your attention makes me happy. How about we read a story?”
Kids are great at moving past the negative and holding onto the good stuff. Somewhere along the way, I lost my ability to do that. My kids are reminding me how. Every day.
Something happened at my nephew’s birthday party on Sunday with Briana that keeps making me smile, because it shows me that, even though I may forget how to “bounce back” myself sometimes, I’m doing an okay job at teaching her how to handle her emotions in a more healthy and constructive way than I do.
Her cousin got a cool ride-in truck for his birthday, but was a little leery of getting in. So they had Bri jump in…well…she’s three. So of course she didn’t want to jump out! I went over and lifted her up out of the truck and told her it was someone else’s turn and set her down in the dining room. She was facing away from me, so I couldn’t see her face, but I could tell from my mom’s face that it was a sad one, and before I could get her turned around to talk to her, she had taken off for her cousin’s room.
I followed her and found her face down on the floor, hands covering her little eyes, crying. I sat down next to her and scooped her into my lap and she put her head on my shoulder and I asked her to tell me what was wrong. Between big sobs, she said that she wanted the truck, and she was sad that it wasn’t her turn. She was sad that it wasn’t her birthday.
I reminded her of her own birthday party, when she got lots of presents, and asked her how she would have felt if someone took one of her presents and wouldn’t let her have a turn. Her crying got quieter, and she said “I wouldn’t like that. And that’s his truck, huh? And I had a turn and now it’s his turn?” I agreed with her. She still sounded pretty teary, but she wiped her eyes and said in a trembling sort of voice, “Mommy, will you just play with me for a minute? I feel sad.”
So we sat there on the floor and played with some of her cousin’s toys, for maybe three minutes. She jabbered at me about this toy and that toy, and how they were her cousin’s toys but we could take a turn since he wasn’t using them. And then she popped to her feet and said “I feel a little better now. Thanks, Mommy.” And just like that, the rough moment was a distant memory, and she was ready to fly off and play with her cousins again, while I trailed along after her down the hall.
My three year old is better at moving past things than I am…my kids are going to teach me through me teaching them. How crazy is that? Life is crazy. But life is also good. And today, I succeeded at life.
One step, one minute, one hour, one day at a time. And each success matters, and the moments I mess up don’t take away from the moments I get it right.
I’m learning. Slower than my three year old maybe, but I’m learning.