I am not the stuff the perfect parent is made of.
I am not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I am not ambitious. I follow people’s lead too often because I think about other people’s comfort too often. I don’t know how to come up with endless, light-hearted questions in a conversation that gently coax a person into opening up. I’m awkward. I hesitate constantly. I hesitate to ask someone to do something for me like open the door. I hesitate to ask what the millennials refer to as “the universe” for things like my path to become clear. I try to be slow and intentional but end up seeming lazy and soft most of the time. I am not brimming and I wonder often if I am passionate about anything other than looking, being there, taking it in. I smile when I don’t want to.
I began this as a way to say I am not the stuff the perfect parent is made of. I don’t yoga mama. I don’t effortlessly effervesce. I don’t breathe through it.
I hold my breath constantly.
I hold my breath in fear as my daughter crawls too close to the edge of the couch. In mourning because time is moving all too fast and I want to re-live that Halloween night when my 1 ½ year old was dressed as a bee who enthusiastically mmmmmmm-ed as she ate her first ever Reese’s peanut butter cup and who kept stopping so she could jump up and down with excitement. I mourn that these moments are temporary. I hold my breath when I mourn the loss of my time and space to write and be alone. I mourn the loss of time be silly and irresponsible. I mourn that my daughter is no longer that tiny four day old infant who only slept when we held her and so in the middle of the night I brought her downstairs and watched Tig Notaro and Louis C.K. with her swaddled on my lap. I fear terrible things that haven’t happened and shouldn’t happen to anyone. I fear my weaknesses. I hold my breath when I fear and mourn and mourn and fear which is a constant letting go when you aren’t yet ready.
So, I need something to hold onto. I hold my breath.
I started this because the litany of things that make me not the ideal parent is fucking long. The litany of things I struggle with as a parent is really, really fucking long. Yet, here I am, a parent.
I don’t have a way to smooth this over and feel good. The experience of being a parent just isn’t one of those bodies of water that is placid and flat enough to reflect the sky. It’s turbulent, wretchedly full of mystery that is sometimes cruel and sometimes majestic. It is always scary. Sometimes I’m ready to dive in. It’s good to know that holding my breath can be useful. Sometimes I’m not ready but I find myself submerged and not ok but I have to keep going. The only thing I know is not to belittle it, the ocean of being a parent. Don’t attempt to smooth over the rough waters. Don’t get cocky. Don’t brag. Enjoy the moment when somehow you glide, propelled forward by a mysterious buoyancy and force of tide. Say thank you when your head breaks the surface of the water. Say thank you when you dive deep into the murky places and, despite the stinging of salt, still open your eyes.