Parenting is not like riding a bike. It’s not one of those things that you can not do for a long time and then jump right back in and do it as though no time has passed.
Recently I had a week where I was 100% over committed, and my son C was the thing that fell off the schedule. No doubt he was well cared for, but I was not around, pretty much at all. At the end of the week I counted up the amount of time I spent with C that week. It was 3 hours 40 minutes. Cumulative. I’d see him in the mornings, and there was one evening that week when I was home in time for his dinner and bedtime, but that was it. I committed to spend the whole weekend with him, and then the week after, I made him a priority.
Normally I like spending time with my son. But the days after the absent parenting week were really hard. We were not in sync. In fact his ‘sync’ had changed a little. He’d done lots of stuff that week, some of his habits had changed, some of his abilities had improved, and he didn’t understand why I didn’t know everything already, why he had to explain things. I didn’t understand why he would whine “why” when I asked him to do something. My simple “take off your jammies and put on your pants, please,” led to five minutes of “whyyy? but I caaaan’t. Nooo mooommy.” And I nearly lost it.
C’s ‘sync’ wasn’t the only thing that had changed. Mine had too. I’d been on my own schedule, responsible for the people and places where I’d committed, but I only had myself to worrry about. I didn’t have to pack snacks and toys, or worry about how to get a 4 year old up the subway stairs at rush hour. I remembered the old feeling of filling my life with myself, and I liked it. While C was looking at me wondering why I was being so un-mommy-like, I was looking at him wondering why he was expecting me to be someone I didn’t feel like being.
There are the obvious disclaimers, I love my kid, I wouldn’t change anything, loving him has made my heart bigger, and has given me a greater understanding of life and its potentiality. But I can see why people opt out. Specifically I can see why women opt out. The mom gig is a real big gig. When you’re not in the mood, you’re still the mom. Unless you ditch, and that seems worse, psychologically, than just sticking it out, forcing yourself to have a perspective adjustment.
Growing up I saw my mom on some weekends, school breaks, summer vacation. It was painful for me, this coming together and coming apart again, but I didn’t know until recently how painful it was for her as well. She was crashing from self into we and then back out again. She says it was easier in between times, the hardest was at the beginning of our time together, and at the end.
Crashing back into momness last week was also starting a new round of medical stuff for C. He walks on his toes, and has for a while. We started a course of treatment for this over a year ago, but didn’t take it as seriously as we probably should have. After his early surgeries, I think we were so glad to be finished with the medical field, that after some initial physical therapy, we just let it go. Now the situation has to be dealt with. The problem with toe walking is the tightness of his leg muscles, the affect of that tightness and limited range of motion on his hips, and the potential physical implications of those things.
Physical therapy led to a recommendation for leg braces, there is an imminent trip to a pediatric orthopedist to asses C’s hips, and a pediatric neurologist to have a look at C’s brain receptors as regards leg muscles. There’s a pervasive feeling that these physical difficulties, the tightness, etc., is symptomatic of the earlier craniosynostosis diagnosis. Much of the current process is at home stuff, verbal cues to tell C to get onto his heels, to not sit W style, doing stretching exercises a few times a day, talking to him about why it’s so important. The first person to recommend surgery gets a punch in the mouth.
When I was pregnant I remember thinking that whatever happened, I didn’t want C to have a cognitive problem. I knew that if I could talk reasonably to him, everything else would be manageable. I thought of physical disabilities in gross terms, massive deformities, paralysis, things like that. I didn’t know about these seemingly small things, the amount of effort involved, the way I would need to make them a priority, the way that making something other than myself a top priority would be anathema to my very being. But I’m doing it. We’re doing it. And I wouldn’t change him for anything.