By Lauren Gonzalez
I often wonder, what will be my children’s perception of me? Which choice stories will they repeat to their various therapists? I’m guessing that my battle cries of “get away from me,” and “just shut uuuuuuuuup” will top the list. Every night, I pray to wake up as Oprah, or, if not, that my kids won’t remember most of their daily interactions with me. My bad attitude, my anxiety, my anger.
My faith teaches that we aren’t given more than we can handle. Try believing that when you live with a 3-year-old. Apparently someone “up there” feels that I can handle quite a lot, and I’m not exactly taking it as a compliment. Sometimes I wonder why these children were given to me at all. They deserve to be loved and cherished in a way of which I, as of late, feel entirely incapable.
I was not built for adversity. Chalk it up to a life richly blessed, but I don’t weather with aplomb the feelings of purposelessness and loneliness that darken my door these days. My children recently both graduated to their next developmental phases at the same time, what fun! It’s good, in the way that middle school gym class is good… meaning it fully sucks, but it serves a necessary purpose, giving you a “rock bottom” with which to compare the rest of the shitty moments in life. And it means they are growing, making more sense of their world, and of their place within it.
But my toolbox for managing their needs is grossly lacking. I spend at least 16 of my given 24 hours refereeing spats between my kids, shooting from the hip (in other words, yelling at them), coaxing them to sleep, stop screaming, clean up their messes, and eat food that isn’t covered in dog hair, or stuck to a playground bench. Afterward, I spend an hour balled up on the bathroom floor, questioning my existence and shaking a fist at the universe, asking how is this my life? Then, I try to get some sleep, and pretend that I’m not about to wake up in a fucking war zone.
Last Monday, I awoke to find two children that I didn’t recognize, nor understand. Pod people, needing things and defying my every request. The thing I hate most about parenting – the thing keeping me up at night, enraged and brooding – is that my children use me up, drain my resources, empty me of everything I have to give, and then they ask for more. And throughout the whole overwhelming, soul-crushing experience, there is no guarantee of what the future holds. Will my kids turn out well? Will they maintain a relationship with me, broken as I am? Will they – will we – be okay? Am I going to make it through this, do I have what it takes?
Nothing is different today than it was last Sunday, before this horribly unexpected pod people/ election shitstorm blindsided me. My mandate remains the same: to be kind, patient, loving, forgiving toward my kids, myself, my fellow humans. To stand up for what I believe, to model courage, grace, and strength for my children. But the question stings more today than it did then – in the face of an uncertain future, do I have what it takes to give all of this and more, and when I am empty, to give more still? I can’t answer that right now. But I know who holds my future, and so I’m not afraid.
Lauren Elizabeth Gonzalez is a Missoula-based writer and blogger whose kids provide ample inspiration for her short stories, social media posts and articles on motherhood. Drawing on her master’s degree and background in conflict and dispute resolution, Lauren is also working on a series of how-to guides to enable parenting partners to build a stronger, more connected team dynamic. Find out more at www.LaurenTheFreeMom.com, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter for a daily peek inside the head of a nutty gal just free mommin’ it.