I’m sitting on the floor of my living room on a rainy Wednesday, holding my son in my lap as he reclines against my chest chewing on a silicone toy shaped like a cactus. We’ve been sitting like this for a while now, longer than I can ever remember him sitting this idlily.
The past month or so has been trying. He’s five months old now and so much more aware of the world and of me. With this awareness has come a higher expectation of me in the form of entertainment, affection, and love. It’s made me watch those old videos of him on my cell phone, so young, small and docile. I ask myself, “What was so hard about him then?” Why can’t I even remember what it was? I only remember that it was hard and that – like now – I had no energy.
I’m sitting here with him watching the show “This Is Us.” It is an especially gut-wrenching episode involving family therapy and I can’t help but look down at my sweet boy and wonder all the ways I too am going to mess things up.
What will be the thing he throws in my face 30 years later that is all too true or hurtful but that I can in no way prevent? I don’t even know how to put him down to sleep longer than two hours at a time without feeling like I might be screwing with him. What about when he wants to play soccer? Will I push too hard or be too passive when he wants to quit after losing his first game?
I’ve been extra short with my husband lately and our son has been witness to it. More guilt. Another gem for therapy.
Is this considered screen time? Television show characters have been my window to the outside world, but he shouldn’t even be watching television at this age. Does this mean I’m setting him up to have a short attention span in school?
Seriously. These thoughts flood me in a single moment.
Will I be better in the future?
I’m holding him, thinking these thoughts, and they can be enough to cause a slew of mini panic attacks. I stop though. At some point, I remind myself to slow down, that the worry is part of what makes these missteps happen.
You see, in the whole time I sat with my racing thoughts, I hadn’t even realized that my son, the one who lately whines like no other unless I’m doing a song and dance for him, is sitting content in my lap chewing away on that cactus.
I stop. Savor the moment. It’s a victory. One of those little victories I like to record because it was so effortless and almost went unnoticed.
I can imagine that, in order to parent, each person comes to a point of acceptance that they are going to do something wrong. They are going to make monumental errors and some minor missteps. These will be sprinkled in between, next to, and straight up overshadow the victories, little and grand, throughout our lives.
I can’t avoid that. Maybe a select few Super Parents have found a way. But I don’t think I’m alone.
Moments like these though can bring me back to that acceptance. And that can help prevent me from snapping at my husband for leaving a dirty dish out. It can remind me to put down my cell phone, turn off the television, and talk to my baby, take him outside and explore. It will encourage me when I’m up for the fifth time in a single night to take a few extra deep breaths…or, you know, punch the mattress a few times (don’t judge me, it happened last night).
I think in therapy the step after acceptance might be forgiveness. If not, it still makes logical sense. After accepting my faults along the way, I can forgive myself for them. We all should.
In between these realizations, we also need to continue to celebrate. Celebrate the little victories, and also the errors. They each help us evolve into the fully formed parents (if such a thing exists) we are becoming.