I obsess about parenting like some people obsess about dieting or sports or shoe trends. It's constant, like most obsessions are, and simultaneously leaves me feeling both stimulated and diminished.
I am always on alert, studying my tone of voice like I'm a choral instructor checking for pitchiness. Too quick? Too short? Was there too much exasperation in that, "Whhhat?" even though it was the 87th "Mama, I need..." in the last 20 minutes? I panic that rushed mornings are scarring my children, that my desire for them to simply get in the car and shut the door so we can go already is going to make it into their adult therapy sessions.
Likewise, I worry that I'm setting them up for failure because I ask too little of them. That the reason they want me to do everything for them is because I do everything for them, and that they aren't learning important life skills because they aren't required to empty the dishwasher or fold the napkins.
I can't tell what's real and what isn't, if I'm actually, generally, the kind of mother that I want to be, or if I'm simply aware of my potential as a patient, appropriately attentive, supportive-in-the-right-ways parent.
And so this afternoon, I sat in my car and sobbed. Because I love them so goddamn much. And because I don't know how to be gentle with myself. And because this shit is just hard. I sat there, like so many of us do, heaving in the incubator of those four doors, grateful for the stillness and the containment. I sat there and cried and I wanted answers to wash over me. Things like this - like life - don't have them, I suspect.
Just relax I say, which is obviously an impossibility here. If I could just relax about the most important job I will ever do, I would, of course. Instead, I know that this obsession, which is really just tangible fear and uncertainty, will guide me somewhere good if I just keep paying attention.
But shit if this "being human" thing doesn't take you for one hell of a twisty ride.