The End of An Era

I signed my baby up for kindergarten today. How wild is that? I know everyone says it, but it’s true. It literally feels like she was this little two year old with the sweetest voice and the biggest laugh, and now she’s four and a half and I’m trying to decide between Francophone school or French Immersion. How did that happen? It feels like I missed a step somewhere in there or something. Some transition from my little tornado to this big kid whose emotions I can’t always understand and whose needs are way more complex than snuggles and sunshine and cartoons and Kraft Dinner. Someone that I always seem to say the wrong thing to, or do the wrong thing, or react the wrong way to. She’s not my little partner in crime any more, and I think we are both missing that. It doesn’t help that her brother is the age I remember her best, and its tough to watch him and not see the changes in her, to see how she’s grown and changed. It’s not always a bad thing, she’s funny as hell, and so helpful, and very sweet. There’s just some things that are… less pleasant. The fibbing. The attitude. Constantly repeating herself until she gets what she wants. Things that make me want to tear my hair out and things that make me lose my temper and my cool and yell, which makes her withdraw and then my heart breaks because I never used to yell at her ever. Even when she pushed my patience, I never yelled. And now she’s big enough for kindergarten and I already see her growing more distant with me almost.

I don’t want that.

I want my partner in crime back. I want my little bestie back. This means some changes for me. Making time with her more of a priority, and less time zoning out. I need to draw a line and make more time to focus on her, to be more present, to take advantage of what little time I have left before she goes to school and the world claims her as its own. She needs to know she’s still mine even when she isn’t anymore. I don’t want her to have the relationship I had with my mother, where I was scared to ask for anything, where I couldn’t openly talk to her about anything. It’s only recently that we’ve been communicating better, and even still I don’t share a lot of what’s going on in my personal life with. There’s been way too much judgement in the past. I can’t be fully open about my life and my struggles. It just doesn’t feel like she’s fully there for me in a way that I need her to be. That’s my fear for G. I don’t want that for us. I want us to be open about stuff. I want her to talk to me, to spend time with me. I don’t want her to be scared to communicate with me, or withdraw from me. That would be the ultimate heart break. Then I wonder if my own mother has these feelings. If she felt the same building disconnect, if she was heart broken too, or if she was just so busy with all of us kids that she was just trying to survive the day, and didn’t have time to worry about our relationships.

I talk about these kinds of things with my therapist. I talk motherhood, I talk about feeling like I’m failing at meeting some unknown standard of motherhood. I watch a friend share posts that paint her as the perfect stay at home mom – Don’t be scared of the mess! Even if you yelled you’re still a good mom! Look at all these activities your children should be doing! Look how my 3 year old is writing! – and even though I know better, it still feels like “I have the same, if not more education that you. I have much much much more experience on the floor than you. I have the same amount of kids as you, our husbands are gone the same amount of time (except not anymore, since her husband now works from home so she isn’t flying solo anymore) why are you able to pull this together and I’m not?”
Then I remember. I have postpartum depression and anxiety issues, and you do not. You will never know what it feels like to have the world go dark because you’re just so angry that your three year old won’t sleep. You will never yell at your child because you just want 5 minutes to look at your phone and zone out but in reality it’s been over an hour and your children have just been watching cartoons while being completely ignored. You’ve never had to hide your car keys because you were scared that you would just walk out one night and drive away. So there are added barriers to what I can and cannot reasonably accomplish in my day. Every day that I don’t yell is a good day.

And therein lies my sadness. That this is how G. grew up. This is the mother that she remembers. She doesn’t remember the happy mama, the one that splashed in puddles with her and played in the snow and built lego and played dolls. She just knows the mama that’s unpredictable. The one that loses her temper and snaps and doesn’t want to play much anymore. And that shit stings. So now I’m registering my baby for kindergarten and all I can think is do we have enough time left? Is there enough time to fix the damage I’ve done to us? Will I be able to love you enough before you’re off and in the wide world?

Balance

I made the choice a few months ago to return to grad school. I work in Early Learning, and after 11 years being on the floor, directly playing with children, I feel like my brain is turning to mush. How many times can you sing Row Row Row Your Boat? How many diapers can you change? How many times can you say “We don’t bite our friends” and “Gentle hands please” or “For the love of God, stop climbing the fucking shelves!”? (That last one might just be in my head).

So, I decided I would go back to school. I love to learn, I love the theory and the discourse behind what I do, so it was an easy decision. It started with a course on our provincial Early Learning Curriculum. Not bad, I thought. A few hours a week, I thought. I work early in the mornings, the kids go to bed early, I have my whole evenings. I can do that.

Goddamn.

I have a whole new fucking respect for parents who are currently working from home. This shit sucks. Attempting to get anything done with kids around is like shovelling your driveway in a snow storm. With a teaspoon. Trying to find time to do the readings, participate in the online discussions, make time for the Zoom classes, research and write the assignments. This is in addition to:

-Get up at 4am to get me and two children (none of which are morning people) ready for a full day at daycare.

-Work a full day in a room with 17 2.5-3 year olds.

-Come home, feed, bathe, and put to bed two little gremlins, who have been up since 4am (see above).

-Yoga/Run/Some form of physical movement.

-Spending time with my severely neglected husband.

-Go to bed at a decent hour so that I’m not a monster the next day.

Just, like, a little bit of exhaustion at this point. My weekends are my saving grace, I can catch up on some work during nap time, get some reading done while the kids play or run while they watch TV. Poor G. though. I feel like I’m neglecting and ignoring her, while she’s living her best life playing on her tablet the whole time. L., on the other hand, goes back and forth between just doing his own thing and desperately needing to cling to me like I’m vanishing into thin air. My little quarantine baby can’t handle being away from Mama too long. He’s a lot better at playing alone than his sister ever was, so he’s surviving just fine.

And this is just one course.

So I’m working on balance. When they said “Find time for yourself, make yourself a priority, you can’t pour from an empty cup, blah blah blah”, where exactly did they want me to take that time from? My precious sleeping time?! I already feel like I’m neglecting my kids for school and neglecting school for my kids. It’s tricky. However, I know it’s for the best in the long run, I’ll be happier, they’ll be happier. They have to learn to be independent at some point right? They have to be able to spend time with themselves at some point. I just hate that I feel guilt that I’m not with them at all times. Then I wonder, my mom kicked us out of the house to play as soon as breakfast was done and didn’t let us back in – unless it was to pee – until lunch. Did she ever feel guilt about it? Or did she just revel in her actual clean house? (That’s the dream, isn’t it)

So that’s where things are at. My brain is tired. My body is tired. My tired is tired. However, the personal satisfaction is worth it, my kids are developing some independence, it’s all good. Right?

I’m fucked.