Tonight, my daughter almost went to bed without dinner. As I struggled to carry her writhing body up the stairs while she sobbed uncontrollably, I reasoned that two bowls of popcorn and a chocolate cookie were sustenance enough.
Meanwhile, my son was hollering from downstairs as I wrestled Ella into some mismatched pajamas, reminding me that I had not snuggled him enough yet today.
“Fifteen minutes, I thought to myself. “Fifteen minutes.” A colleague of mine told me just this morning that she read somewhere about how it was necessary to snuggle your children for at least fifteen minutes a day. In her case, she had attempted to spend fifteen minutes of quality time with her teenager while he watched the Red Sox game. She gave up a few minutes early because he was getting frustrated that she was clueless about that particular sport and kept asking questions. I’d get that fifteen minutes in, and more, I promised myself, as soon as I calmed Ella down. And that will be enough.
Back upstairs, I coerced Ella into snuggling with me for a few minutes. We lay there, heartbeat to heartbeat, just like when she was an infant. When I can feel our hearts beating together I always immediately calm down, and thus, so does she. She had been upset and tired, and I knew she wasn’t feeling that great. My husband, who is suffering at this very moment from a man cold, came home tired as well and did not have the patience for Ella’s antics. I knew if I could get her alone and quiet and feel our hearts beat, she might have a chance at staying up long enough to eat a real dinner. Like, one without baked goods in it.
We retreated downstairs and I managed to get my snuggles in with Harrison right before the debacle that we will call dinner. Harrison has this inability to chew with his mouth shut, and he can only take so much gentle redirection before he announces that we hate him and that we are very mean parents. The very mean parents also required that all carrots on the plate be eaten tonight.
That was just about all the fun anyone in the household could handle, but to keep life interesting, Harrison decided that tonight would be the night that he would learn to clip his own nails. This is a task that I abhor, as he always acts as though I am pulling out his nails from the nail bed in a very tortuous manner. Therefore, I was delighted that he would now be taking this on himself until twenty five minutes passed and I was still waiting for him to come upstairs to bed. Once he finally arrived, he was in utter shock that I did not bring up a treat for him for doing this new thing on his own, albeit, very slowly. I explained that he had earned my undying love and admiration, and that should be enough, but he disagreed. For the first time in his six years, my first-born child informed me that he had had enough here and was going to move out. I can’t lie, that hurts the first time around.
As I decompressed while folding the laundry, I recalled an acquaintance posting her concerns online that her son isn’t getting enough from her. In her case, it was reading time, as he seemed to be lagging a bit behind his classmates. In the comments, it became clear that this fellow mama also felt like she was coming up short in her house cleaning, her meal prep, and her quality time with her son. I kept folding the clothes, which had piled up from four days of neglect, and wondered to myself: Are we all feeling this way? Like we’re not enough? So many moms had answered her with empathy and advice. Yesterday I, too, responded to that desperate mama who was looking for answers. I was confident that she’d find a way. I told her she was doing great.
And tonight, a mere twenty four hours later, here I am, left with a handful of socks that can’t even keep their partners from laundry basket to washer to dryer, wondering how I can ever be enough. Who am I to be doling out advice or cheering her on? I know, deep down, I am confident that I’m doing the best I can. That there were enough snuggles. That she would have survived without a real meal if she needed sleep more than food. That my six year old isn’t actually going to leave home and embark on an independent journey. But today, even my laundry pile isn’t enough to form a matching pair of socks.
I am hoping that these conversations continue though. I hope my colleague knows she’s not the only mom of a teenage boy who doesn’t know how to make conversation about sports. And that my friend whose son is struggling in reading knows that he’ll get there. And most of all, I hope that even though I doubt myself, I’ll find the faith to know that I’m enough for my kids, too.