The whining from the back seat did me in. It was on and on and on, about nothing and everything to him. He was so tired and I was so tired and Seriously? You're still arguing with me?!
STOP, I yelled, and then immediately regretted it. I caught his brother's eyes in the rearview mirror; saw the instant they changed from alert to startled. They were both stung, these brothers.
I tried to take a deep breath, to get ready to apologize, to start again. But then he started to do the very thing I said not to do. I had had enough and I turned the van around and headed for home. Well, you just lost your chance, we're not doing anything fun, we're going home! And everyone started to wail, like it was the end of all things, and I can't breathe.
All they need is love. This is enough; people say it all the time. Wise mothers with grown children encourage me to go easier on myself, let it go, remove the pressure of perfectionistic parenting. They mean well, but I still struggle. Mothering, parenting, there is no perfect way to do this. I think I struggle because deep down in my maternal instinct intuitive core, I know it isn't true.
Love is not all they need.
As a mother of three, I have way too much power, and it terrifies me.
I can make them or break them or do a little of both all at once and I'm just me. Just one me.
Sometimes I can't. I'm prone to anxiety in the first place, and when I start to over-think motherhood, I realize I've been holding my breath. So I stop and take those deep and cleansing inhale-exhale reminder gasps, but moments later my breathing is shallow and short again, while I remind and correct and discipline and stir, lift, bathe, drop off, pick up, return the call, fill out the form, direct, hug and kiss and tuck and explain why.
Love is not enough because there is love with no time for nurturing, and there is love overcome with addiction, and there is love with too much selfishness and distraction, and there is love with a lack of time in the year 2013 and its frenetic online pace and isolated parenting.
The truth hurts. Love is not all they need. Anytime I've ever been reassured with those words, I've wanted them to be a balm, but my gut was crying, COP OUT!
I sat with some mother friends recently and I vented all of this. I talked about this pace of life and the ways I struggle. And how on top of that, obviously, each of my children are different little beings with different needs and personalities and so I feel split in the ways of responding to them. I just feel so set up to fail, I said.
Yeah, but Heather, my friend said. That's just it. No matter what you do well, you'll also always be doing something wrong too. That's just the way it is, it can be no other way.
Somehow this hard truth became a deep breath of fresh air. Inhale.
Putting it that way took some of the pressure off. It's like expecting my writing, in whatever form, to be entirely 100% perfect. I could rewrite and edit forever and perfection would still escape. There would be another way to say that one thing just a little bit more succinctly, making it pack a better punch. There would be a misplaced comma and an unnecessary hyphen. There would be parts I should have left in and parts that made the whole thing redundant.
These children of mine are works of art, and part of the beauty of art is its mess. Life is imperfection, and that's why love isn't all you need, while it is.