Being a parent is entirely overwhelming. Yes I know, we hold it together about 99.9% of the time, but there are these little windows where our fractures are evident. Or where our Mama/Papa-Achilles is wide open, taught and stretched. Or the beats of time where we get to let our knees buckle beneath the weight of our world. Where we give into the love we feel, the desperation of certain moments, the lack of control over things, and the slipping moments that occur each and every day as our children grow–where we feel we lose parts of them, and then simultaneously gain bits and pieces of who they become.
A pediatric partner of mine once told me that she felt the toddler and preschool years were the most intimate time of parenthood. I think about it all the time. It actually haunts me on some level, as if I’ll lose this proximity with my boys as time marches forward. That I won’t have this utter closeness. That the kisses at the cubby really will come to an end.
Last night, I buckled a little bit. I was also reminded that my pediatrician partner may be wrong.
Before bed, O (he’s 2 1/2 now) and I somehow migrated into his bedroom alone. Usually we read books together with his brother, but last night it was just the two of us while the husband read to F. He reached for a dreaded book and handed it to me. I wanted to shake my head. It was clear: he insisted. Of course I consented to read it but as I opened the cover, my stomach flipped. I knew I was in for a doozy. It had been a tiring day and I was weak in the knees with love for my boys. The book:
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw. A total killer. I actually spent time last night thinking about why it must have been written. To help us savor the days? Torture? To remind us of our enduring love? Have you read it?
There are some books I can hardly bear. Being a parent is more emotional than anything I’ve ever done. And recently the complexities of being a person have been, too. The generational sandwich has me in its teeth again: caring for my children, caring for my mom, caring for my patients, caring for my extended family, and caring for my friends. It’s not just medical advice, prepping dinner, or driving to the hospital. That’s not entirely what I mean. It’s the caring that occurs in the heart. It tugs and tugs and tugs. Patient stories linger, parents cry, my loved ones hurt, the boys eat and eat and eat. And I witness suffering in little bits all over the place. Being a physician allows me a wide open window. So does being a Mom.
These kinds of books like Love You Forever (about love, connection, time, and renewal) allow the tug on my heart to bubble up. So yes, parenthood is entirely overwhelming. Fortunately, our children provide a scaffolding of stability. My emotion didn’t seem to faze O last night even when my voice cracked, tears streamed down my face, or when I faltered and paused at points in the story. He sat erect and snuggled up right next to me in the rocking chair. A tight grasp with his little fingers over my forearm and his eyes squarely on the page waiting for each next. When we finished he asked that I read it again. This is where I drew the line….But,
I think on some level he really understood, that as long as I’m living, forever my baby he’ll be.
(Thanks to Kelsey at Janet Klinger Photography for the beautiful photo)