I found myself driving aimlessly down San Pablo Ave. yesterday, a little sad or lonely or restless. I just couldn’t be alone in the house for one more second, so I put Nico in the car and drove. I watched other parents, better parents clearly, riding with their babies on the back of bicycles or walking their children in sport utility strollers, and I thought, what the heck am I doing in this car on San Pablo? and where am I going? and is this really going to make me feel better?
My friend Rebecca had a great line about parenthood today– something about how motherhood is all about looking bad in public. And we all laughed knowingly when she said it, like yes! We have looked so bad in public! Last weekend, Matt and I were those parents, the ones with the baby on the back of the bicycle and the adorable 4 year old pedaling next to us as we rode to the bagel shop. Except it didn’t look all perfect like those other people! It looked like me realizing Nico hadn’t had a nap and riding home as fast as I possibly could with Nico screaming on the back of my bike. Onlookers were watching me quizzically, actually glaring at me, not understanding why I was still pedaling.
Except that I knew he just needed sleep! and the sooner I got him home the better and stopping would only prolong the process. But then Nico fell asleep behind me and I panicked and thought he maybe passed out or was slumped over and was going to fall, so I reached behind me and shook him awake and that made him start sobbing again. This made me feel better only because I knew he was conscious, but then horrible again so I pedaled home as fast as I possibly could. Total mama disaster.
There’s a metaphor in here somewhere.
And I’m leaving these words and thoughts really messy because I think maybe that’s the point. That parenthood makes you look bad because it’s messy and unpredictable and did I mention messy?
I was with a friend a while ago who just had her first baby. We were on a park bench watching a mom of 3 toddlers try to wrangle them all into strollers. We couldn’t hear exactly what she said, but it was clear she was snapping at her kids and just generally losing it. We watched in silence, both our hearts aching. My friend said, “I can hardly stand watching this. It’s making my stomach hurt. I just want to yell at her.” And all I could say was, “My heart is aching too, but not for the kids. I’m aching for her.”
I think that’s why parenthood is so humbling. It’s messy… and our weaknesses, our flaws, our dark stuff is exposed. It’s all out there for ourselves, our partners, our children, the world to see.
That’s why we need to be sharing our stories with each other. Being alone with this stuff can be dangerous. Do you have a messy story to share? Parenting or otherwise? I’d love to hear it.