#101522: So I said to myself, give me what I want
Thoughts on being a mom
People will often say that becoming a parent is among the most humbling human experiences and they say that because it is true but it’s so hard to understand what they mean until you go on to become a parent yourself.
Or, you know what, it’s not that hard to understand, but only when you’re not actually a parent. Intellectually, it’s a simple equation, but when the physical sensation accompanies the understanding, that’s when the alarm clock sounds.
And the reason it’s so humbling is partially because humility and humiliation are so interwoven that I’m not even actually sure they’re different. Like maybe the difference between the two has nothing to do with the sensation; maybe it’s all about how they-who-receive-it internalize the sensation.
Because at every juncture you can possibly imagine and even at the ones you didn’t expect to encounter, there is a sleepy truth laying dormant, that is either about to wake up and fly free or wreak havoc on you, the parent, as you try to squash it.
And when it wreaks havoc — like a bat newly out of its cave, into the brightly lit home of your accepted selfhood, it can become so distracting that it overtakes you completely. Like you chase it around, trying to kill it, but the chasing just makes it worse, so in the end, you either get really tired and kind of give up the chase or you bypass exhaustion and make a decision to save the energy and wait — eventually, the bat finds its way back to you.
Sometimes it’ll be like, “Can I go back to sleep now?” And if you can find a way to put it to sleep, to tuck it in gently and kiss it good night and resolve in cahoots that when it wakes up (because it always does), you’ll both be wiser: you’ll cut to the chase by cutting the chase, that could be life-changing.
I’ve experienced it for myself through tiny windows of relief but I do still come up against new bats all the time and most recently there’s one that I have been trying to chase down so hard, I’m not even sure who’s running after who.
Earlier this week, I called my mom to complain about the wild bat chase. And I said so and so and this and that and my daughter is giving me such a hard time. She won’t listen, she wants to write her own rulebook. I can’t take it, I’m losing my mind.
Then I got off the phone and I thought for a sec and felt even worse than before — so I took to my phone and wrote to rephrase: I’m having a hard time giving my child what she is asking for.
And then for the first time that day I felt kind of settled, like the wild chase ceased for a minute so I went on trying to follow the feeling, sustain the settle by speaking what’s true:
I come up against emotional resistance whenever my child asks for something.
I’m having trouble giving my child what she wants even though I can do it.
I come up against emotional resistance whenever my daughter wants something.
And in this moment, while I’m trying on phrases, I start to feel so damn thirsty. So I go to the kitchen and get some
Then I eat it and still I am thirsty.
Why won’t I give my girl what she wants, an emblem of something she needs?
I go back to the kitchen, this time I get fruit and this goes on for three or four times and then I realize as I’m writing this out a great irony that makes me laugh: I’m thirsty but I won’t get water.
Why won’t I just give myself what I want? Then I realize I don’t want water — like I’m dancing around what I need, trying to get it some other way. So then I think, am I so far away, so out of touch with what I need that I don’t even know what I want? Not always, with everything, but here with this.
The thing about the bats and when they wake up and why being a mom, but really a woman, can feel so damn humbling is that the bats don’t hear it when we cry for them because we’ve built master systems to keep them asleep, but when our kids or our partners or friends who we love (and even those we don’t) cry and profess this need or that, they — the bats — can’t help but wake up, much to our surprise and our horror.
The months keep passing and I keep pushing through this emotional mud that will often possess me, exhaust me, enrage me at worst and position my kids to carry the brunt of that fury — and every time I come out on dry land (which I always do) and start walking a few steps through here and there, I think to myself that I’ve finally got it: I know how to stay on dry land now.
Finally, I think I am realizing that emotional mud puddles loiter dependably at the threshold of every new step, on the staircase of growing up. That my age-old bats will keep coming out of the caves I have built to conceal them.
And when they do, I will be humbled. Either full with humility or humiliation. Can either try to chase them, making the havoc wreaked worse or trust that if I just let them fly, they’ll come back and might even ask, “Can I go back to sleep now?”
When they don’t ask, I think what you find is that they were butterflies all along. Just had to let them out so you could see it.
The Cereal Aisle by Leandra Medine Cohen is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.