I burst tonight in the bad, yelly way. While holding my infant, I yelled at my son who in one half-hour, refused to listen, would not apologize to his big sister for pushing her, told me he didn't like me or my face, and NO, he wasn't going to eat dinner or pick up the piece of sweet potato he dropped. I am calm. I have love and call to him with a clear voice, but he has just stepped on my laptop.
What did I do? I yelled. Of course, I yelled. Tonight and much of this week, I am stretched, stretched, stretched. I am that balloon blown up to the point where we almost cringe, waiting for the pop.
This is pregnancy, isn't it? Wondering how far our mind and our belly can stretch, or how taut, as our bodies create a secure environment for our babe. We imagine this new life as we slather on more cocoa butter.
Many days, I parent solo. Without the benefit of my husband's presence and parenting (he tends to work long hours), I am both stronger for it and more vulnerable. Just last night, I facilitated bread-making. We did literacy with imaginative books, reviewing "ou" and "ow". We wrote the beginning of a story. They washed and chopped four kinds of veggies. We cleaned up and put away laundry, but (and I cringe here) I also yelled. I threatened with consequences I’d have to follow-up on. I frowned and muttered. Later, when they were asleep, I confided about recent parenting challenges to a friend and bought a parenting book. I brainstormed new ideas of how to reach my son.
In one evening, I burst in seven ways, mostly good, some bad. My kids certainly see this. I am my best and yet, I can also belly-flop to my worst, all in one evening.
I am sensitive to noise. I like a healthy buzz, laughter and music, but it must bounce around with peace. When things go awry, when the kids fight, or the dogs bark, my mommy ears want the house on some silent-reading lock-down. When my amped-up mind receives too much input, I know to use humor to douse the tension and quell the sting of kids not listening. But boy, I can burst into screaming over the din, suddenly when it is too much, and in that moment when all of the not listening has built up. It's that last pheeeooowup into a balloon already crammed with air. A sudden burst and it's all been too much.
What makes you burst, my dear? What makes your heart swell? How quick our emotions can change--from one moment, looking on at our sweet children, wanting to inhale their sweetness and nuzzle their soft ears, to a frustration and praying for our better response.
But really. Our central nervous system with the thoughts and feelings that come together and inform our body, we must be on overtime, double shifts, and no lunch breaks. What flexible thinkers we are, to go from peaceful, loving interactions, to feeling scared or apprehensive when they approach a hill on their bike or climb to a high place.
Mothering children is like that, in my case, times three. I can tenderly caress my five-month-old daughter's squishy cheek and twirl her chestnut ringlet and fuzzy hair, and then holler up one floor, "WARNING!" to a quarreling big brother and sister. I bounce back and forth trying to create a peaceful homeostasis, but also vacillating on, around, and through quite possibly every emotion.
We women swell with pride, too. We burst in so many ways, with pride, but in joy, also. This week, my daughter emerged from her room in ballet wear, requesting classical music. She brought out the long-out-of-season Mary Kay shadow, and requested blue. That girl danced to Gavotte and Waltz of the Snowflakes, with the dimmed living room lights casting long shadows. She left to help her brother find something to dance in, too, and came back with clear signs she delved back into that shadow. More glimmery blue definition and it looked like she ate a blue crayon. I could not stop smiling. She looked like she felt so beautiful and danced with head high on her neck, total elegance. My son came out with a tutu and soccer shirt. He danced high on giggles.
Go ahead, set the kitchen timer for five minutes. Chart every feeling. Those 300 seconds would probably leave many men gasping. We peel through so many thoughts and emotions.
All through the day, there are various forms of bursting, escalating, and deescalating stress. Enough deep breaths to confuse any set of lungs, and enough stretching to wonder if this is how life will always be - a swim through nine kinds of waters: shallow, murky, brine, and all before noon. I promise I am on solid ground, but it's the mommy guilt that might try to cling to us! The desire to get out and do something by ourselves! Absolute love for our kids and sometimes a battle with feeling critical over our parenting, assessing our home, and the learning environment.
I told my employer, the school where I work, that I will resume teaching this January. This is two months away, which is quickly approaching. It's a hiccup away, countable weekends in which I must mentally and physically prepare to leave my baby. My emotions and my nursing breasts may absolutely burst. Maybe in preparation, I am doing extra feeling? Maybe I’m aware of the overwhelm that may try to grip me? Either way, I want the bursting to be from pride. I am proud of the way my body and mind grow to take care of my babies, and I am okay with growing pains.
Motherhood is the physical and emotional tied, intricately wrapped, tied, and tangled. It is a swirl of two composites, a delicate dance between the internal and external. It is sometimes trying not to utterly tear at the seams but also learning again and again that love is the thing holding us together. Love is our cocoa butter, the salve of laughter. It is the balloon we blow up and release again.
Journalist: Melissa Uchiyama