You are not alone
A mom’s life is never easy. Not only does your heart walk around outside your body but often it also tries to run as far away from you as possible. But I have been doing some running of my own and have found that when I return to my starting point (our home) after a 10km morning run (or even just 5) I often feel much better equipped to deal with the daily challenges of motherhood (also I feel less guilty about all the wine).
But this morning, as I passed a local pre-school on my normal route through Pretoria’s beautiful tree-lined streets, I heard a strange sound. At first I thought a puppy or maybe a kitten was stuck in a fence somewhere. It was a heartbreaking sound and obviously a baby animal somewhere was in distress. I slacked down a bit and looked around. Something was in agony. And then I saw her from the corner of my eye. As I passed between the pre-school and the area on the pavement where the parents park, my eye caught a mom behind her steering wheel. Her car door was still open and she was bawling her eyes out. Her whole body was shaking with sobs. My heart skipped a beat and I immediately knew what was wrong. After all, I have been there many a morning myself. In fact, I had been there myself about an hour earlier when I dropped my kids off. Although they were okay that specific morning I knew the feeling of helplessness and incompetency all too well. You want to spend all day cuddling with your little ones but SOMEONE needs to bring home the bacon. You know the socialising and learning is good for them but when those little arms lock around your neck and refuse to go to the teacher there is nothing more mind-numbing than pulling them off you and handing them over against their will.
My heart went out to the mom and I wanted to stop and console her but I was sweaty and wheezing and then it was too late anyway because my breath caught in my throat and I was crying too.
I was crying for my 3-year-old boy who walked into his pre-school that morning with his zebra backpack and the weight of the world on his little shoulders. Every morning that week as he got out of the car he asked me with big blue teary eyes if I would please wait for him. The only way he could get through his day was by believing that mommy is sitting outside in the car waiting for 4 o’clock to take him home again. I knew from experience that next week (or the week after) he will be fine again and run through the door without even a backward glance but that week this knowledge was of little consolation. I was crying for him because he is so perfect and the world is a crazy insane place. And I was crying for me because he is our youngest and all his firsts are also my lasts.
I was crying for my 7-year-old who is growing up way too fast and is currently finding it difficult to build her own identity. She is my sparkly-innocent baby-girl but every single day another small splinter of that beautiful innocence is chipped away. I can literally see her inner turmoil when her natural inclination to please everybody comes in conflict with the knowledge that she needs to be more assertive. I think it’s mostly because she sees her sister being quite firm and she is trying to be more like her. As adults we are not making it any easier either because one moment we tell them to be kind and the next we tell them to stand up for themselves. She already knows that there are no fairies and I know this is probably the last year that she will be putting out cheese for a mystical mouse who collects her baby-teeth at night. I want so badly to give her the skills to be an amazing grown-up but I also just want to freeze the bounce in her curls and the sparkle in her blue eyes in time and keep it locked away in a little box forever.
But most of all I was crying for my 9-year-old eldest daughter who couldn’t wait to get out of the car that morning. My smart beautiful princess who came along almost a decade ago and completely changed who I am and what I aspire to achieve in life. My stubborn little angel who challenges me every single day in every possible way. Some days I feel like I can do absolutely nothing right and then I remember it’s not about me and my ego and making me feel like I am a good mom. It’s all about her. And because it’s all about her I also have to teach her that the world does not revolve around her and her needs. Although, to me it clearly does. I was crying for all the times we fight and for all the times she feels she shouldn’t have to share the love and the hugs and the candy with her brother and sister. I was crying for every time she pulls herself to her full height and storms away and especially for every time she stoops down to be as small as possible so she can fit in my lap.
Somehow through the snot and the tears I eventually got home. Exhausted but somehow less weary. My legs were tired but my head felt a little bit lighter than it had all week. Standing under the scalding hot shower I realised this is all part of the journey. And while I wanted to remember every single moment of their boyhood and girlhood, I also couldn’t wait to see what type of men and women they would become.
I never told that mom what I wanted to tell her. But every morning when I run that route I look out for a woman getting into her car. I really want to see her giving her little one a happy wave and driving off with a smile. I really want to tell her she is not alone.
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