Last week, I missed my children.
I know that for some of you, that translated into “Blah, blah, blah…” Parents miss their children, that’s the way it’s meant to be. It’s quite likely a biological thing… if you didn’t miss them, you may just leave and never come back. You don’t miss them immediately, and most mums and dads I know thoroughly enjoy their time off… but not being with them pangs your heart, just a little, when you think of what they might be doing right now.
I think that’s the way it works, anyway. I vaguely remember it working that way. But that was in the Before.
Now, in the After, things are… different. read this with the knowledge that I know- I know how I would have felt, reading this as Before-Lori. Understanding and empathetic, but with the slightest hint of distaste and disbelief. It’s an ugly truth. But the love I feel for my children now is buried beneath my ability to cope. I love them, most definitely, that is a fact. I would die for them, throw myself in front of a moving car for them, give them whatever they needed to be nourished to live.
But that deep intensity, that pang of adoration that I think most parents still get, it’s no longer the driving factor in my parenting. It’s still there, that passion for them, it’s just sealed, protected, iced over and stored in the bottom chambers of my soul. I love my kids fiercely… but it’s driven more by that biological urge than the overwhelming love for their tiny selves that emerged with them, screaming it’s way into the world as they were born.
I am a good mum, still, I know I am, most of the time, and it’s the “most of the time” that’s important. My shrink tells me, when it comes to parenting, optimum is near impossible. No one is the perfect parent, it just isn’t a logistically workable concept.
When it comes to parenting, ‘good enough’ really is good enough. Psychologists have even put a number on it- 70 percent. If you are a good parent for at least seventy percent of the time, then your kids are going to be fine. It seems ridiculous to put an arbitrary number on something so immeasurable… but it helps.
My shrink tells me it’s OK, ‘normal’, expected to feel the way I do. I still love my children, I still find occasional enjoyment in their company, their activity, their presence… but I feel no joy. That concept, that emotional touchstone, it’s been eroded by grief and trauma and just the too-muchness of it all.
I love my kids, I live for them, I parent them as best I can. I’m not naive enough to think that they don’t know, somewhere in the part of their mind that is far too adult for them to access yet, the fact that that joy is no longer the unquenchable continual commodity it once was. But I know they feel it when it does exist, infrequently but often enough to reassure me that that warmth I once had is, slowly, thawing. Slowly.
And this weekend, I missed them. I couldn’t wait to be with them, just sloth with them and play with, relish every tiny laugh, every hug, every hair and tiny fingernail, to immerse myself in their company for the day.
And,of course, they acted like absolute little ferals; screaming, fighting, and just generally being revolting. In reverence to the rarity of missing them, I ignored most of it and coped with anything really irritating with good grace and patience for as long as I absolutely could… only to yell at them just on bathtime.
Two minutes after I’ve done my “Right, you two!! I’ve had eee-nuff!!!” act, the Chop and the Bump have forgotten it’s happened, and returned to smacking each other with soft toys. They are bathed, dressed, read to, kissed goodnight; and that awful mum-guilt follows me from room to room as I tuck them in, warm and safe.
That guilt, over losing my temper and yelling at them, watching their eyes, big and blue like mine, suddenly drop a shutter of hurt in themselves.. it haunts me as I tidy the house, settle it into darkness. I steal into their rooms, pausing as they stir, to kiss them on their soft, velvety foreheads and whisper “I love you, so, so much”.
The ritual of it alleviates, just by a tiny bit, that lingering sense of how I really should have done better.
And that’s freaking awesome.
Do you know the gravity of that, do you know what that means…? I missed my kids. I yelled at them. I crept into their rooms to say sorry and kiss them goodnight. I felt that pang, that passion, some kind of deep emotion for them.
Just the way I used to do. That ice, it’s melting.