Before I had two children many times people said to me, “Two is so hard.” These mothers (and fathers) who tried to warn me would do it with the most serious, I’ve-been-through-hell-and-back-face. Their expressions always clearly indicated, “I am alive. Yes. But I DON’T recommend it— not so close in age.” Being, at that time the mother of one, (and also pregnant) though I registered their sincerity, there was no way I could truly understand on a cellular level what they meant. But eventually, I got the message. 🙂
Some days I’ve thought to myself, “Why is there no button somewhere on the human body that would make the sound of incessant whining and crying okay? This seems like a serious design flaw!” Then at least I would know that even if the next five hours were exactly like the previous five, I could still count on the ability to smile.
On days like that and other equally challenging ones I have been seriously dumbfounded that life continues to perpetuate itself. I can only think that at least in the human race, it comes down to what one woman so brilliantly dubbed for me as the movie-montage-amnesia syndrome. Simply put, you forget. After a while all that are left in your mind are those most beloved memories like when your two-year-old would throw one arm around his giant bear and reach out to hold your hand with the other as he was going to sleep. Or the funny dances he would do and the cute things he would say, and all the hours you spent laughing together.
I’ve noticed that there are two types of adults with older children. The ones in whom the amnesia is complete. And the ones who have still retained some general sense of what the experience was like. They look you in the eye and say, “I’m sorry for what you are experiencing right now. But it does get easier.”
I remember once not long after I had my second child my neighbor and good friend walked in on me sitting on the couch trying to nurse my daughter and bawling. “What’s wrong?!” she said, totally alarmed.
And the only thing I could think to say that truly encompassed the whole of it was to sob out, “I have a baby!”
She took another keen look at me and said simply, “I forgot. I forgot how intense this period is.”
She belongs in the amnesia category. Although I find that place fascinating, I don’t mind being in the other either. It allows me to truly understand with compassion texts like the one I got this morning from a good friend who just entered into life with two children.
The text amounted to this simple truth: “HOLY SHIT! THIS IS NO JOKE! TWO IS FUCKING HARD!”
And it is. No matter who you are and how conscious and loving and centered and (insert any other healthy positive word here) you are, two is f—ing hard. (At least at first.) It’s the most raw human experience possible. You are pushed well beyond any normal human limits (especially if you’re the mamma) and there is no route for escape, you must push on through. Perhaps you are crying when you do this, or swearing, but the good and most important news is you are always moving forward—ever forward toward the time where it gets easier. Moment by moment (excruciating or ecstatic as that moment may be) you are moving toward the time when the intensity lifts.
I remember once during the time period when my daughter was under one-year-old and my son was under three-years-old, thinking of one of my favorite quotes by Eckhart Tolle:
“Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment.
What could be more futile, more insane,
than to create inner resistance to something that already is?”
And then I thought, “I’ll tell you what could be more insane Eckhart. A toddler boy running full throttle down the hallway before you can catch him, throwing open the bedroom door and screaming at the top of his lungs in his sleeping sister’s face. Eckhart, have you had children? I could give you lots of examples of how the present moment is more insane than resistance to it. Likely, most mothers can.”
During this period I was with one of my aunts who had eight children, all of whom are now grown. My cousin (her oldest) and I were discussing the extreme difficulties of having two children so young in age when it dawned on us to ask my aunt how she coped?
When we put the question to her—how was she able to get through the hard parts? In a nonchalant way she replied, “Oh, I lost it, just like every other parent.”
The motto of the story for me is this: It’s rough. These moments will push you beyond anything you’ve ever known and if you can have only one thing in your back pocket it should be this: forgiveness. High on the list of things required for being a good parent is bucket loads of forgiveness. Yes, of course for the little people who sometimes don’t even know they are causing you stress. And of course, who also sometimes do it on purpose. But largely also for yourself— for the moments in which, though you are no longer two-years-old, you throw your own temper tantrum. Or for the myriad of other moments when as a parent, and supposed example for your little ones, you act in way that embarrasses you later, even when you are the only one who knows.
So here it is Mammas and Pappas. May we each find in ourselves the place of compassion that helps us look back on the moments where we went over our edge, to apologize to ourselves and each other and then turn again and look at ourselves in awe and wonder. Growing human beings is a serious and spectacular job, but like any other job, not one that happens without mistakes. It’s human. We’re human. So for all human parents out there– wishing for us all a secret back pocket full of forgiveness, for the moments when it’s just the balm that would help.