It’s just that I’ve been gone all day. Doing things like rehearsing the piece that premieres in less than two weeks, and then having a meeting to plan doing a better job of writing on the internet. Good things – things that I really like. But things that still take it out of me. My brain is fried to the point that I doubt my ability to properly read a recipe. Dinner is going to be dicey.
And I love the babysitter. She’s my favorite. But when I get home she tells me that Ida had a hard time today –- was missing me a lot. I awkwardly fork over a handful of cash to the beloved babysitter, feeling a little bad for her because I’ve been there. I’ve been in charge of a kid who just wanted to be with her parents before and it’s hard. I’ve been the kid who wanted to be with her parents before too. Now I’m the mother who was missed, and who will pay. Maybe just cash this time, maybe more. I know this thing inside and out. It’s hard.
It’s hard that the second beloved babysitter is out the door, Ida, having reached her edge, throws a magnum fit. It’s hard when someone who was allegedly desperate for you punches you in the face. It’s hard to know how to parent desperation. It’s hard to be the parent you want to be in the face of biological freak-out. It’s moments like this when the terror of “forever, no matter what” sets in. A full-on mother-daughter double freak-out where all psychic bases are covered (but it just looks like any other hug, really). It’s like a way less fun, somehow even more insane Laser Floyd show in your brain. Except it’s your life. And now the skunkweed smell from your neighbors pertains to the dudes that live upstairs, is permanent, and gives you a headache rather than the giggles. You know you won’t always feel this way. You know she won’t either. But that awareness is like a fart in a whirlwind when you’re both feeling so decimated.
Sometimes all I can think to say to Ida when we reach this point of meltdown is, “It’s hard to be three. It’s hard to be a mother. We’re having a hard time” Sometimes this is what it looks like to do our best. When there is no “out” and only “through”, telling the truth of our stripped-down reality is the best I can do. Sometimes we are having a hard time.
Today I woke up dreading telling Ida that it was another babysitter day – that I’d be gone a lot again. I thought about skipping my class (and thereby having to drop out of the program I’m in, which in that moment felt like equal parts failure and sweet relief – you know, the usual). But as I walked in my bare feet, being very quiet as I walked past Ida’s closed bedroom door on my way to the bathroom, I overheard her talking to her stuffed sheep. “Sheep, I know it’s hard to be Sheep. I always come back, Sheep. I have projects to do like school and dancing and going to Pump It Up.” And for whatever weird reason, it got a little easier then. Somehow knowing that Ida had an understanding (weird, and Sheep-specific as it may be) of my being gone – of how it feels to be me – was a huge comfort. And then of course came the awesome realization that I gave that to her. Just by saying “sometimes it’s hard to be 3” she knew that I care about how it feels to be her.
We’re really doing it. We’re a family. Hard as it can be in all these small ways sometimes.