I have been clenching and un-clenching my jaw all day. I am so unspeakably angry. I sit here punching keys to voice my overwhelming anger. I am not often at a loss for words but today I am.
I look at my kids and I love them so much it is physically painful. Even when they are not with me I can feel the weight of their warm little bodies curled up on me.
I worry about them every day. I wonder how I am going to protect them and keep all three of them safe, keep them from becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol, protect them from stress, anxiety, depression and heartbreak. To a certain extent I have made peace with the fact that I can only do my best and that I can’t keep them in a bubble. But on a day like today… I feel so small. I feel so lost, desperate and helpless.
There are things in this world that I cannot predict. There are things I cannot stop. None of us can. But can there be some measure of security? Can I send my children safely to school? Can I send them to the mall to pick out stocking stuffers with their Dad? Can I expect that they will be here to wake up on Christmas morning with joy and excitement in their eyes? Can I anticipate them creeping into my bedroom tonight to tuck their cold feet under my legs?
If only we had the power to follow someone into death and drag him back to face the destruction he has left. Senseless. Cowardice. I am so tired of these men who believe that the only way to be recognized is by killing innocent people… and children! Then they kill themselves. Too cowardly to even face up to what they have done. Too cowardly to face the hurt and the anger. They have their “moment of glory”. To be remembered. At what cost?
It would be easy to sit here at my keyboard and remove myself, to let my head say, “It was not my child”. But it was somebody’s child. Some mother out there tonight will not feel the weight of that warm little body curled up next to her like I will when I go home at the end of the day. For that mother I ache.
In another life, I was an Olympic Athlete. I spent my time working out and traveling the world. I owned a pair of red faux snakeskin boots. I had a pair of red leather pants. I went to a Sports Illustrated party that ended at 7 am. I drank Red Bull and vodka before I knew it may cause serious health risks. I had an orange faux fur coat that I bought in New York City. I once had hot pink hair another time red hair and another time bleach blonde streaks. I was healthy and thin. I was young. I had no attachments.
These days my clothes are well-worn business casual usually in need of ironing or dry cleaning. Often there is milk, yogurt, dog hair or even maple syrup on them. On the weekends I wear old stained maternity pants, my husband’s old t-shirts and various raggedy slippers or flip flops depending on the season. I haven’t been out of the country in five years. I have barely been out of state. I can’t remember the last time I attended a party let alone one that lasted until 7am. An orange faux fur coat would just look silly at this point. The only streaks I have these days are gray ones.
By comparison to my life now that previous life seems glittery and glamorous, although that would be a stretch of the imagination by any means. There are days when I could look back to those times with longing. But I don’t. There are days when I could blink my eyes and wish to go back in time. But I don’t.
My husband once showed the DVD of me competing in the Olympics to a group of friends and a friend turned to me and said, “Is that just the hardest thing you have ever done?” Without missing a beat I said, “No, being a parent is.” But I can tell you from experience that I would rather dance for 10 minutes in an old pair of maternity pants any day with my kids than dance all night in a pair of red leather pants.
I have always been a person who has preferred to ease into the water rather than hold my breath and jump. When I was a kid I would always convince my little sister to go in first and test the waters before I would tentatively dip my toes in. That being said, I have been known to take a few risks in my time.
As I got older and especially after I had kids I started to take risks less and less. Until it got to the point where I wasn’t even bothering to ease into the water anymore. I was just sitting back on the shore watching everyone else.
Parenthood is an incredibly rugged and scenic journey. It is not for the faint of heart. There are so many joyous moments and so many…. Not so joyous moments. It is a constant up and down. I have spent my time as a fledgling parent focused on memories of my children, their milestones and their stages of development. All those little things I treasure and don’t want to forget as they grow and get older. What is easy to forget is that parenthood is also a stage in my development and that I took a big risk in becoming a parent. I imagine the day when I will look over baby books with my grown children and I will tell them about their first tooth and their first words. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could also tell them “This is what it was like for me to become your mom. It was a time of learning and growth for me too.”
The idea to start writing about my experience as a parent came to me quite a while ago. But it was hard to take the time out of my chaotic schedule to find an outlet for the stories I had floating around in my head. Then actually letting these stories out into the world was a really big leap, one I was not entirely sure I could take.
So this idea sprouted in my mind and its potential grew. I wrote when I had the time while babies napped or slept in the next room and I collected my thoughts. Every couple of months I would shimmy out and put my toes over edge. I would look down at the water, dizzyingly far below. Then I would shuffle back away with a sinking feeling in my stomach.
So here I am, once again, standing on that familiar ledge trying to decide whether or not to jump. I guess sometimes you just have to close your eyes, hold your breath and take that leap.