March 15, 2012

Not a Perfect Mother, But a Present Mother

Confession: I am not a perfect mom. I want to be and I try to be because I am a perfectionist and I love Wilder so SO much and I know he deserves the best from me. But I am not now nor will I ever be a perfect mother. I especially have not been the last couple of weeks. Wilder has been having sleep... issues. For a few weeks now, I think. I really can't give a specific timetable because while he's been having sleep issues, I've been having sleep and, therefore, brain issues. I've been in serious zombie mode, people. I started a load of laundry a week ago and, although I've managed to fold all the t-shirts/undies/etc. out of it by now, the permanent press stuff is still in the dryer and I keep restarting it to get the wrinkles out and then forgetting to hang it up. I'm pretty sure it's all shrunken a couple of sizes by now. Also by now? I have another couple of loads to wash, of course. Don't you hate it when your laundry laps you like that? (Tell me that doesn't just happen to me.)

Anyway, so a few weeks ago Wilder started getting some more teeth. He hasn't gotten a tooth since he was 9 months old and now all of a sudden he's gotten six at one time. That started the whole sleep boycott. He was sleeping fine at night for the most part but he adamantly refused his second nap every single day. We had such a good schedule going for a long time there -- I would nap during his first nap (Don't laugh, I need my sleep, folks! And not in an I'm a lazy, bored teenager kind of way, but in an I stay up late at night to get stuff done and also hang out with my husband who gets home late and I also get up early so I legit need a nap kind of way.) and during his second nap I would decompress/blog/do laundry/do dishes/etc. That was my hour, sometimes hour and a half, during the day that was MINE to not have to be in high-alert/entertain/feed/crisis-solve mode. And then, in a matter of a day or two, it was gone. Not only was he not taking an afternoon nap, he was getting up extra early in the mornings so his first nap was over by like 10 AM and then I had nine hours straight to be in high-alert mode.

If you have never been a mother of a toddler you will not understand this high-alert mode I speak of. I would take Wilder to the beach and then complain about how tired I was that night and Paul would be like Why? You spent all afternoon at the beach! Nonononono, back up, and let's get one thing straight. Going to the beach and going to the beach with a crazy, on-the-move, non-napping toddler (or really just any toddler in general) are two totally different things. I'm not going to the beach and laying out or floating on a float drinking a Corona; I'm going to the beach and making sure my child does not drown/throw sand/eat sand/take other kids' toys/wander off and also making sure he does have sunscreen on/keep his hat on/eat a snack/have fun. I am never sitting still (laying out? pssshh!); I am never having an uninterrupted conversation; and I am never looking at anything other than that small child I brought with me (scenery? pssshh!). 

Aaaanyway, so once we were almost out of the woods with the teething sleep-deprivation then began a whole new sleep-deprivation phase caused by some kind of random rash on his knee that requires a cortisone application at all hours of the night and also would not allow him to take an afternoon nap. So, like I said, I've been in zombie mode. I've just been going through the motions for weeks now. I've been taking him to the park, to the beach, to play dates, but I certainly haven't gone out of my way to come up with new, exciting things to entertain him/further his development. I've been grouchy. And sometimes I've even just laid on his floor while he played and jumped on me at random intervals. I also haven't been taking care of myself. I've been drinking too many Cokes and not enough water and unless we have leftovers from the night before I mostly haven't been bothering to make myself lunch. As a result, I've been getting headaches and just feeling weak, tired, and crappy in general. Like I said, not perfect by any means.

Last night, though, I had an epiphany while giving Wilder his bath. Really a whole slew of epiphanies and suddenly the exhaustion of the last few weeks just dissolved into a puddle of tears. As soon as I flipped the switch to drain the water, that child stood up, grabbed my hand to steady himself, and danced, kicked, splashed his little heart out until there wasn't a drop of water left in the tub. And I was reminded that this whole time that I've been pouting about being sleep-deprived, he has also been sleep-deprived on top of being in pain from teething and discomfort from his rash. But has he let that stop him from enjoying himself? Besides a couple of out-of-character tantrums, no. He has just rolled with the punches and kept having fun every day (and making his own fun when his mama was too tired to entertain him). I realized I could really take a lesson from his attitude and it made me so proud. I'm pretty sure my 15-month-old is already a better person than I am.

The next thing I realized is just symbolic but my years as an English major won't let me ignore the significance of it. Wilder danced his little heart out in that slowly draining water -- he was taking advantage of every bit of time he had left in his bath. Like that bath water, the days in our lives are steadily and surely draining out from under us. They definitely won't all be ideal days but they are OUR days and who really knows how many of them we'll have? We can either choose to complain and feel sorry for ourselves or we can choose to dance and enjoy them no matter what. That outlook on life is definitely something he got from his granddaddy and it fills my heart to overflowing every time I see some of my dad in Wilder. Even though he wears me flat out, I'm so thankful to have this little person in my life to remind me to savor every day. 

The last, and most reassuring, thing I realized while holding my chubby, naked toddler's hand and watching as he danced his little jig in the draining bath water was that he doesn't care if I'm the perfect mother. If I'm lying exhausted on the floor of his room he just takes it as a new game I'm playing and goes with it. He doesn't care if I'm reading or painting or building block towers with him... or not. What matters to him is that I'm there for him when he needs a leg to run and hide behind, when his random knee rash is bothering him in the middle of the night, or when he needs a hand to hold so he doesn't fall and crack his skull while dancing in the bath tub. And I may not be perfect, damnit, but I will be there. No matter what act of God or how much caffeine it takes to get me there. I will be present for him. Always.


  1. Love this Emily, you are a fabulous mom! I especially laughed when you described the whole how can you be tired, you've been "relaxing" at the beach. HA.

  2. Now you know how I felt when Rhea said, and told everyone that I had been sitting on the sofa in my tshirt, drinking beer and eating bonbons!!! I wanted to kill him!!! They just don['t get it.

  3. Love this! I think we all need a little reminder like this every now and then.

  4. Oh I don't miss those days! Of course now with teenagers, I'm up all night for a whole other host of reasons! Never feel guilty for napping when he does, you earned it!

  5. Emily, you are a terrific mom!! This entry was uplifting and reassuring for me (and it might be my hormones, but I was moved to tears). Since I've been pregnant with Adam, I've been feeling sooooo guilty, exhausted, etc. because I felt like Dean didn't have my full attention. But, you writing about your struggles with Wilder makes me feel better that I'm always here for Dean. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  6. I love this post! And oh how I can relate! I have been known to take cat naps in the playroom floor while Rory plays all around me and on me! Oh and I totally laughed so hard about the beach. Andy says that crap to me about going to the park etc. I'm like "dude! It'd be easier to stay home than go to the park!" haha! You are doing such a great job with Wilder. It's no small feat to live away from family and do it all on your own!


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