It's been a long time since I've let myself think it. Those words that parents don't like to admit run through their minds (maybe some more than others). Why did I have children?
Maybe those words aren't exactly representative of how I feel. I know why I chose to have kids, and I know why I'm happy I did. Maybe something more along the lines of I wish I could go back to being without children for a month. A week. A second.
Especially today. If only today.
I am literally begging my daughter as I type this to give me a minute. "Just a moment, hunny, please. Just five minutes. I'll color with you in five minutes, ok?" But she's three, which means the only things she hears are "playground", "snack", "balloon store", and a handful of other key phrases including "yes of course Violet, whatever you want, right at this second."
Of course, there's the television, and once the utter frustration of trying to conduct a task that does not involve playdough, blocks or washable markers supersedes the guilt from letting a screen assist, once again, in babysitting duties, I will inevitably hit the power button.
There's an utterly astonishing magic attached to parenthood. That magic lies in some biological or spiritual reaction to your own offspring's idiosyncrasies. They can assail you with whines, storm you with catapulted dinner utensils, blitzkrieg you with stomps and screams and ripped out hair, but one look with those massive, misty eyes and an, "I'm sorry Mommy, I won't do it again. I love you," and all those hours of combat dissolve into a vague, unsubstantial dream. All that's left is love, and gratitude.
Thankfully, because there are moments like these when the memory of lazy weeks on a beach in Indonesia is almost too much to bear.
Parenthood is hard. So hard, in fact, that life becomes inevitably part denial. I tell myself that once she's past three I'll be out of the red. I won't have to deal with screaming fits any more. She'll understand when I have to work and will play diligently by herself and respect my space. My husband and I will take vacations again without the weight of worry pressed so hard on my heart. But that worry doesn't go away, and the weight of being a mother will forever hold an iron grip.
I lean back in my chair, taking a minute to process these words. My eyes drift around my office and land on one of the photos I've put up around my desk. In the picture I am 25. My hair is bleached and my skin has a soft copper glow. I am squatting on a black rock pockmarked with holes - air pockets of when lava once met sea. Inches from my face is a marine iguana. A dinosaur from another time, another world. A fantasy.
Looking at this reminds me of one important truth; it is impossible to be truly aware and truly grateful for what is right in front of you. We view the world in dichotomies. We compare this to that and define things by what they are and what they aren't. Right now, my life is not full of freedom. But in that picture, I was as free as a bird. And yet, at the time, I was plagued by thoughts of melancholy. I missed my family. I was bored of the monotonous weather. I was isolated on an island in the middle of the ocean. I was lonely.
One day I will look back on this time, maybe even this exact moment, when I was wringing my hands, gulping back coffee, desperate for a break. And I'll want nothing more than to go back, to hold my little daughter in my arms and say "yes of course Violet, whatever you want, right at this second."
In fact, that is exactly what I'm going to do right now. The beach can wait. It is waiting, I know. Life is only partly denial.