How to Escape Parenting Loneliness

No one tells you when you have a baby that your circle of friends might change. It might grow or shrink, but regardless of how it morphs, it comes as a surprise. There are several people with whom I spent my childless evenings and weekends who I haven’t seen in a couple of years. There are also people who swoop in and become your saviors, bearing coffee and an extra set of arms. But after the infant stage is over, you can bet that at some point the loneliness is going to set in-that is, until you find your “people”.

My baby just turned two yesterday. First of all, I can’t believe it has been two years since she came into this world. Second, I am blessed for so many reasons to have her in my life. It was definitely a day to celebrate. We had a small party for her-some of her preschool friends were there, and since they can’t drive yet, their parents came too. Just kidding. The fact of the matter is that not only does Ella have some awesome little pals, but her friends’ parents are also amazing people.

These fellow parents are people I see all the time. We chat at preschool drop off and pick up, we all go to the gym at the same time, we run into each other at the coffee shop and the bank, and there is always a play date at the playground in case we haven’t had enough of each other.

These are the people who will ask if you’ve got an extra diaper in your bag because they forgot a spare. They’re the ones who will wipe your kid’s nose if you have your hands full. Somebody needs a snack? One of us always has enough goldfish crackers to go around. Nobody ever had to sit down and say, “OK, which one of us will always have baby wipes?”, or “Someone needs to be really good at teaching the kids to share.” It just happened. When they say it takes a village, that’s no joke. But what they don’t say is where you find that village, or how those people come together.

You find that out one day as you and a fellow parent are sitting at the gym lacing up your sneakers that she, too, is perplexed by the severity of temper tantrums that her three year old has. Or maybe, you take a poll from these moms and dads to see who else lets their two year old use a pacifier. Of course, you find out it’s not just you. At some point, it comes up among a few of you how lonely staying at home can be, even if pint-sized people are yelling your name all day long and you can’t even pee by yourself. Then you laugh so hard you cry and maybe pee your pants a little because one of your fellow comrades reenacts her child’s outrage at losing one raisin on the floor of the car. After that, you head back to your minivan with a little spring in your step and a smile on your face. The point is, once you can come to terms with the reality that parenting is messy and imperfect, you open yourself up to other parents who have come to the same realization. You will fill in each other’s gaps. Together, you will make this big world safe for your little kids.

So, when you get that lonely twinge-and you will; take a minute to look around at the other parents of children that your kids interact with. I promise that no matter what any Facebook meme says, they’re not judging you. They’re looking for you. Look back. Smile. Share some goldfish crackers. Laugh when your kid eats hers off the playground asphalt. And with that, simply by being real and imperfect, and embracing the imperfection that is parenting, the path to friendship will be formed.

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because sometimes you need someone else to read to your kid…even if it’s a book about a farting dog.

Unconditional.

I might lose my mind. I have been stranded in a torrent of temper tantrums from one kid and unintelligible demands from the other one. Harrison has been sick so everything is wrong, all the time. Ella has discovered that words get her what she wants, but she doesn’t know enough words to actually ask for anything. Therefore, she just yells, “Maaaammmeeee” at the top of her lungs and points to things. This leaves me feeling like I can do nothing right because I have two children screaming at two different octaves all.day.long.

I think the hardest part with Ella is that she can’t exactly HAVE everything she wants. It must be so frustrating to think you’re doing all the right things to ask for what you want, only to be told, “No”.
No, you may not have that glass full of water on the table.

No, you may not have a third bottle of milk.

No, you may not have Mommy’s necklace, right off of her neck.

No, you may not take your brother’s blanket.

No, you may not jump on the bed.

Harrison’s temper tantrums have escalated to new heights. As I heard the last one take off, I feared that either: A) Aliens had come to abduct him and take him to their mother ship, or B) He had become possessed and it was time to call the neighborhood exorcist. I honestly didn’t know how much more I could take.

And then I found out. It was nap time. It was waaay past nap time. He wanted me to lay down with him, but that wasn’t good enough. He wanted me to remake his bed. But then he unmade it. He wanted me to get him more water. But it wasn’t cold enough. And all the while, he was whining this obnoxious, intolerable whine that I have been listening to for SOO long now. And I snapped.
Right in his face, there in his little Lightning McQueen bed, I screamed in a voice I don’t recognize, “STOP IT. STOP THE WHINING. CUT IT OUT.” I could taste his breath. I could feel his skin. I was that close and I was that loud.

He didn’t stop. The whining continued. I tried to leave, but he kept going on and on. I was afraid he’d wake his sister, so I lay back down and told him he had one more chance before I left the room again.

I watched him then. I was overwhelmed with guilt at yelling at him. I watched him suck water from his sippy cup. I watched his extra long eyelashes slow their blinks. They reminded me of a duck’s beak, opening and closing, slower and slower, eventually satiated from their hunger. I looked at his doughy wrists, and his dimpled hands rubbing his security blanket. Tucked into my body was his knobby little shoulder, a little too scrawny after a week’s worth of sickness.

“I’m sorry for yelling at you, baby,” I whispered to him.

“That’s ok Mommy. But when did you yell at me? You didn’t yell at me.”

Had he forgotten? It had been but minutes before that I was at my wit’s end, screaming at him to stop screaming. Or did he just not remember? Or, did he just…not care?

As I watched his ice blue irises slip behind his inky eyelashes into a deep sleep, I saw it. I saw the attachment. I saw the love. I saw the infinite connection that my baby and I had to one another. I may get angry. He may cause me to lose my mind. But my boy taught me a lesson in his dismissive nature when I just couldn’t handle his irrationality any more. He barely recognized my falter. I was still there. I was still snuggling. I hadn’t left his side. And, apparently, that’s all he needed. For now.