I am going to come right out and say it. Having one kid is heaven, and having a toddler plus a baby is a true exercise in two very important things. One, is mothering your kid in a way that is loving and beneficial. The other is reminding yourself daily that you aren't going to fuck up your kid because your personal flaws become so horrifyingly apparent.
Lately I have been thinking back a lot to the writer I named Olivia Simone after, and how the books I read of hers in the months before becoming pregnant (unknowingly) would now tie back into my life over three years later.
It's frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself... It seems unfair. You can't assume the responsibility for everything you do — or don't do.
-Simone de Beauvoir, Les Belles Images (1966), Ch. 3
I recall reading these very words, tucked into an uncomfortable Ikea couch with a purring cat nestled under my legs. They sort of embedded themselves as soon as my eyes scanned them, I thought to myself: My children will be different, thinkers. They'll be cute and quirky, never bratty. I will never lose myself in them.
And now you fast forward and there is a yellow-haired hurricane sleeping in the next room. She breathes heavily even in her sleep, her cheeks always rosy no matter what. I wonder what she dreams of. So intense, always. I disliked the term "terrible twos" but we are in the throes of that perfectly coined term. It's a constant struggle. Sure, it's sprinkled with triumphs, great conversations, and belly laughs but it's surely tough. And tiring. It's brought some negative thoughts.
Today I wondered, as I wrangled her into the bathtub after she spilled her potty in a defiant attempt to empty it herself, what my life would be like now if she hadn't come along. I'd have time, my patience stores would be full, and I would be a lot more relaxed. The bad was fleeting. It quickly became mushy and I almost felt the back of my eyes tighten. Those knobby knees! wild eyes! neck hugs! I would not know those?! It shocked my feminist literature loving side- My daughter showed me who I am. My individuality is caught somewhere between where she starts and who I am now.
Now that I analyze this more consciously I am aware of what I want to change within myself so that I can be a better person for the girls. Examples: I (finally) stopped my disgusting habit of picking my nails and Olivia stopped biting hers. My borrowed "whisper when you want to raise your voice" trick makes Olivia actually stop and look at me, and when I just really need a breather I send my husband a frantic text to SOS, COME HOME ASAP. Every single day Olivia challenges my flawed, selfish nature and every single day I fight my errors. I guess this mothering thing is one of two teachers- the mother and child. I am hoping that my earnest efforts will help cancel out my imperfections.
And if all other desperate attempts at sanity fail, there is always the after bedtime cocktail.