Monday, December 01, 2008


Munchkin, it's not you, it's me.

Tonight, I picked you up from daycare, a surprise. My heart filled right up to the top as I saw your eyes light up when you saw me, when you came running to jump into my arms, buried your head in my shoulder. I whispered my plan to you: let's go home and eat a fast supper, and then you can make Christmas cookies with Mom. You and me.

You had been asking to make cookies for days. I'm not sure how you got the idea in your head but you did, and so this afternoon I went out for butter, and walnuts, and icing sugar so we could have this treat, this fun together, unexpected.

You were very happy. We dashed home and I tried to extricate myself from your enthusiastic embrace to get supper together so that we could all eat quickly. And you got mad, and I tried to pull my legs away from your grabbing and we were both frustrated: this is where it starts, our trouble, today. Sometimes, your physical need for me and my need to care for you conflict: you're clinging because you're hungry and crabby, but we can't eat until you let me go. Push. Pull.

Finally, you went to watch Caillou with Daddy for 10 minutes. We ate a big, happy supper, laughing and singing and dancing. As you ate the dribs and drabs left on your plate I dashed into and out of the kitchen, arranging bowls and spoons and ingredients, getting out your stool. You hollered anxiously for me to come back to you, for Daddy to go away, for MommyMommyMommy to sit with you, to wipe your hands, to get your milk, to do it all and do it now. Sweetheart, I can't sit beside AND get your milk AND clean your hands at the same time. I can't. And when you layer your demands on me like that, I get frustrated. I'm sorry.

We finished dinner. You were a perfect cookie helper: you put the butter in the bowl; you set the microwave going; you measured flour and sugar and walnuts; you stirred the ingredients together. While I rolled dough into little balls you gathered your 'friends' into the kitchen for a picnic. While the cookies baked, you looked in through the glass, and we danced to Christmas songs. You held my hands and we twirled and twirled.

When the cookies came out of the oven you were, of course, impatient to eat them right away. But they were too hot, and somehow you managed to wait until we got you back in your high chair for a treat. How proud you looked to eat that cookie that you helped to make! I was proud too. It's a moment I will cherish and remember.

But afterward. I'm sorry I was impatient with you when you threw a tantrum about going upstairs for bedtime, about getting your doudou from the landing where you had thrown it, about exchanging one cup of milk for the preferred 'pink cup'. I shouldn't have been so short. But with each test passed, you launched into a new one: demanding an open door, demanding to get another toy, refusing to snuggle quietly, kicking off all your blankets.

We were not, finally, on our best behaviour, you and I.

I love you so much--as soon as you were settled in bed, kissed, and tucked in, I called Grandma to brag about what a good cookie maker you are. Why am I so short-tempered with you, then? I'm not sure. Your overwhelming preference for me, lately, reminds me of those months and months of breastfeeding with no bottle backup: a sense of never catching my breath, of being deeply in love but of needing to just get away. Infatuation and irritation all together. Push. Pull.

You are two; it is in your nature to prefer me, to cling to me with all your might, just as it is in your nature to push my buttons, push your limits, and generally assert your will wherever you are able. You are doing what needs doing. Sometimes, though, I still get frustrated--a little sharp, a little short. I'm sorry. I pry your arms and legs from me, so that I can sit on the toilet alone, brush my teeth, have a shower. Alone. At the same time, I see how fast you are growing and changing, and I want to hold you tighter to me, cling to this rapidly elapsing toddlerhood, a time I really and truly am enjoying. I wrap my arms around you, feel your chest rising and falling against mine. Together. Push. Pull.

I want you to know this: even as I walk away to cool my temper, it breaks my heart to leave you. Even as I steel my expression against laughter during your bed-avoidance silliness onslaught, you melt the years from my heart. Yes, sometimes when I am with you, I want to get away--but always know that when you are far from me, I always want you closer.


Omaha Mama said...

This post makes my heart ache. Really. It describes it so perfectly. The push-pull, up-down, smile-frown balance that is parenting.
Your words here have touched me, I know exactly where you are coming from. I've got one upstairs right now that would rather I lay with him all night. When all I can do is rush him off to bed for a stolen few moments of my own.
I so get it.

alejna said...

I second what Omaha Mama said. It makes my heart ache. I know so well what you describe, and you captured it so beautifully. This post really spoke to me.

Every day I want to hold on to this fleeting time, and then moments later I want to hurry things along so that I can have more of myself back.

hoppytoddle said...

Oh, Mimi! How I wish I could be as calm as you! I have been slowly losing my mind the past week!

Yes, you do describe it so very well. I love that you say 'layering demands'. I get it from MiniMe & husband at the same time & then they are both looking at me with their heads cocked & asking, 'What?!' I am going to use that description the next time husband & I are awake alone in the same room. Thanks.

Kyla said...

The was so well-written. That is exactly it, isn't it?

Cloud said...

We're several months behind you, just coming into this wonderful but frustrating age. I often wonder how I can want to hug her close to me and want to run away for a few minutes alone at the same time!

We've had a couple spectacularly public tantrums here lately, combined with not so spectacular mommying on my part, which has left me a bit drained and annoyed. But then she learns some new word (Walrus! She knows walrus now!) or does something cute, and I vow to find the reserves to do better. You capture that dichotomy really well.

Patti said...

So beautiful. Thanks for this. I needed it!

Jenifer said...

Yes, yes, I understand completely. And having done this for a few more years, it really applies even still.

Wonderful post.

ewe are here said...

A beautiful post.... the pushing, the pulling... exactly.

No Mother Earth said...

OH, I get this. I will add, however, that it is equally hard to be in the other parent's position - wanting to help, to cuddle, to soothe, and only hearing "No, daddy do it!". I've been both places, and both can get ugly. Good luck.

Jessica said...

If I had stumbled upon your blog when it was originally published, I don't know that I would have 'gotten it'.

It's funny how quickly things change. Just five simple months later, I understand exactly what you mean. That is, in large part, because you captured it so eloquently.