“Mama, why wasn’t [insert so and so] listening at child care today?”
“Mama, why did that person stop their car in the middle of the road?”
“Mama, why didn’t you remember to [such and such that my fried brain continually forgets to do]?”
“Because people are still learning, my sweet boy. Still learning how to control their bodies, how to obey the rules of the road, and/or how to remember to do things when functioning on not enough sleep. Life is always teaching us, and we’re always learning.”
A semblance of the above conversation (though for varying reasons) takes place between my son and I a few times a week. So much so that he now chimes in with me in answer, “yeah! They’re still learning!”
It’s a bit of an overly positive take on shitty drivers, I’ll give it that. But, there are nuggets of truth to be found in these conversations nonetheless.
With that said, we’ve recently had a helluva reminder that D and I are still learning.
But first, some backstory.
Six months ago, after having given birth to M, it became rapidly apparent that my mental health needed my son in full time child care while I stayed at home to look after my newborn. I simply wasn’t able to sanely meet both his and M’s needs on the days D was working. It was beyond me, and I feel no shame in admitting that.
Thankfully, we were quickly able to secure full time placement, and it has been the absolute best decision for us all. O adores his “school”, loves the time he can spend there with friends (as he can hardly do that anywhere else these days), and it gives him a place during the day to get out all of his energy and exploratory needs. Furthermore, when he’s at “school”, it leaves me with the sanity I need to care for his sister (now an infant), care for our home, and find some pockets of time during the day to care for myself.
This is not a decision I regret. That being said, I fully get that such an option simply would not be possible or available for some families for a multitude of reasons. Furthermore, some may have chosen differently. I respect that. My anxiety, however, had other plans in store.
Fast forward to now.
After having O at home recently (for reasons that can be found here), I realized something, and it was a something that I had started to clue in on during his week at home this past winter break.
We don’t yet truly, truly know what it means to have two kids.
(It is here I struggle in putting what I mean by that into words. A part of me feels that what I have to say next is not a valid “problem” as it is one born of first world privileges. The other part of me dismisses that notion, and says a struggle is a struggle, and giving words to problems has always helped me better make sense of it all. So, fuck it. I forge ahead.)
We don’t yet know how to fully balance the juggling act of forever meeting the needs of two children while trying to meet our own.
We don’t yet know how to deny the sigh of exhaustion that comes with forever needing to be the type of “on task” that two children require of you.
We don’t yet know how to best give each other breaks (even if that just means one of us being with the “easier” kid in that moment) so that the other can feel the briefest moment of reprieve before having to dive right back in (and how to be accepting of that fact).
We don’t yet know how to quiet the loud sighs of relief come after Sunday evening bedtimes and Monday morning child care drop offs.
How to be at peace in the mess of preschooler + infant “all-day-no time to clean” living… How to give up the illusion that our sore bodies won’t forever be laying or sitting on the floor for YEARS to come… How to not blessedly (and guilty) SAVOUR the daily TV time aka “mom and dad break” that we’ve been having from 4:30-6PM…. These and so much more are things we are very much still learning.
(Truth be told, these are things that we may never learn, or may not HAVE to learn. But, I digress.)
When O is at childcare during the week, I can re-replicate the ease of what it once was to just have one kid. I can breathe. It is a blessing, but, it is also a curse. It’s inadvertently made us be able to deny and delay the demanding, draining reality that comes with having more than one child.
There’s no choice.
Much like winter break, we’ve recently been given no choice but to face this reality head on.
There is much I could say about how it went, but I’ll simply say this: it’s been exhausting, bonding, raw-rubbing, relationship building, HARD-yet-meaningful work.
And while before all of this I may have quite rudely guffawed at the following positivity that I am going to type, I’ll do it anyway. We have been made all the better as a family for it. Yawning, laughing, grumbling, smiling, still learning and all.