My 2nd grader’s class adopted a class pet a few weeks ago. A chinchilla named Salem that my 8 year old is completely smitten with. He is my animal lover, bug lover, people lover, everything lover. He loves a LOT. His day has been completely ruined before because this chinchilla would rub his nose on everyone’s finger but his. “EVERYONE’S!” he swore to me. He has been begging me to come see this new love of his life so yesterday I ate lunch with him and followed him up to the classroom to meet Salem. Chinchillas are much bigger than I thought, but super adorable and I have a feeling I know what will be on Carter’s birthday list. And I have a feeling I know what his father’s answer will be to that one.
Last night we were discussing this chinchilla and I told Carter and Weston the only way I know about chinchillas was because there was a Diego episode about it. I was met with blank stares so I said “Go, Diego, Go. You know, Dora’s cousin.” More blank stares. Weston said “was he the monkey?” “No! That was Boots!” I told him, trying to hide my scolding tone. How could they not remember? Then there were a few minutes better forgotten while I tried to sing the theme songs to both shows. They didn’t remember them. So I asked Weston if he remembered the intro song to Paw Patrol. It took him a few minutes, but it came back to him. Then I made the mistake of asking Carter to sing the intro song to Thomas and Friends, assuming that, of course, he remembered it. He did not. My heart broke. Thomas was his life since before he could walk. He (and therefore me) heard that song daily for years and years. If there was a soundtrack to our life from 2007-2015, that song would be on side A, first song. I asked Alexa to play the song. Alexa remembered it, she’s always there for me. Carter ran and hid, embarrassed by the song that used to bring him so much joy. He’s too big for Thomas now and while I’ve known that for a while now, there was a sharp pang of a life that seems a lifetime ago now. A life of building train tracks and little brothers destroying them. A life of highchairs, park playdates and nap schedules. Restless days at home because going outside our walls was too exhausting. Exhausting days out of the house because being contained in our walls was too restless. A life when all I wanted was a break and when I did get that break there was no guilt because I knew in my bones I had given everything of myself to my kids. They just needed me all the time and I had to physically get away from them for a little while to breath.
They are older now, 7, 8 and 11, and I can breath perfectly fine around them. They need me less and I have mixed emotions about that. My 11 year old won’t let me touch him in public now. If I’m lucky, he’ll let me talk to him. Briefly. If none of his friends are around. I’m learning to handle this new phase and soak up all the hugs and conversations at home that I can. My 8 year old never needs me to help him with his homework. I should be grateful for this, and I am, but it’s an odd feeling. My 7 year old has always been Mr Independent, except when it comes to tying his shoes. I cave every morning and do it for him, even though I know if push came to shove he could do it. I feel myself hanging onto that last bit of him needing me. I feel it all slipping through my fingers at lightning fast speed.
In those early years I felt suffocated from being needed so much. Now I feel suffocated by the constant thoughts of how I’m not needed nearly as much now. For the last eleven and a half years, my identity has been in my children and that’s not a healthy place to lay your identity. I’m trying to figure out who I am apart from my kids. My therapist asked me a few weeks ago to list positive things I saw in myself. I sat there dumbfounded for what felt like minutes and then said “I’m a good mom.” And that’s all I could find to say. She assured me there was more than that and forced me to talk to her about it for 45 more minutes. I feel like I’m spending all my time thinking about how I SHOULD be spending my time instead of enjoying this time that I have and actually doing something with it. (side note, my therapist throws a foam ball at me every time I say “should.”)
I follow a family (the.small.folk) on Instagram that just lost their 3 year old son last month because he choked on a bouncy ball. It has hit me particularly hard because Weston was 3 when he swallowed that quarter and I’m just reminded of how differently that day could have gone for our family. She posted a picture this morning of her son that passed away playing with his little brother with the following caption:
“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.
Let me learn from you, love you and bless you before you depart.
Let me not pass you by in a quest of some rare or perfect tomorrow.
Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.
For one day, I shall dig my nails into the earth and bury my face in the pillow and raise my hands to the sky, and want, more than all the world, your return.”
I hope that I treasured those suffocating days of diapers and bottles and babies on both hips. I’m sure some days I did and some days I absolutely did not. But I do know that I treasure the memories of those days. I treasure the joys those days brought me. And one day I know I will look back at the days I’m in right now and treasure the joys. My prayer now is that I can treasure each day in the moment, before it departs.
(I just wanted to say that these blog posts are just a train of thought more than anything. I’m not trying to write anything fancy or share-worthy because that’s just not me. Also, my mind is just too jumbled and cluttered to produce anything more than this anyways. But I do thank you for reading, it is definitely helpful for me to write)