By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann. Written on January 11, 2017.
11 years ago today, I was heading back to school, to community two weeks after my mom died.
9 years ago today, I was getting off a plane from France having just met the love of my life.
8 years ago today, I was in Washington DC protesting Guantanamo as Obama prepared to take office.
2 years ago today, I was working on a Word and World school in Detroit on Environmental Justice.
1 year ago today, after a labor that was cooped by the medical industry, I gave birth to Cedar.
Today I lost the battle to get Isaac to school. I couldn’t get him out the door. Knowing that I couldn’t let him just stay home and have fun if I wanted him to go next week, I told him that I could not play or engage. That this was my working time. I set a timer for when school would end. Told him I loved him and I would talk to him when the timer went off (a mantra I would repeat a hundred times over the next two hours). I handed him a yogurt stick and a box of blueberries and left him alone. After some protesting, he got quiet…so I peaked in. There he was in the living room, using his yogurt stick to make twenty yogurt circles on the floor and carefully putting one blueberry on top of each pile. When his work was finished, he yelled “Mommy!” He was good at this game. He wasn’t going to let us not engage for two whole hours. He was ready to destroy the house if need be. I took a deep breath and told him I would talk to him after the timer.
And that was just this morning. The night before he sobbed for twenty minutes because his pea soup looked yellow. Only to follow up with a meltdown when once he took a bite of his cookie, it was no longer a circle and he could only eat a cookie that was a full circle.
These stories may seem funny or small or insignificant, but they are my every day. They are every day, all day. I haven’t written a Learning from Laughter parenting blog since April. It’s not because I’ve stopped learning or that my kids aren’t doing amazing things, but simply because we stopped sending Isaac to Day Care two days a week. By the time Erinn gets home, we eat, get the kids to bed, and if by some miracle they stay in bed, my brain is too exhausted to attempt writing.
At Isaac’s co-op pre-school, I often hear the moms say “I’m so lucky to be a stay at home mom.” I suppose I am lucky, but it’s also damn hard work. And how did I become a stay at home mom? I’m not writing. I’m not working. I’m not organizing. I’m rarely even getting my kids into the streets. And that can play funny games on your understanding of identity and worth.
In fact the only one doing resistance around our house these days is Isaac. And he’s damn good at it. He refused to get dressed and wore his night gown for two weeks. He refuses to leave the house because he would rather play trains. He is powerful. Frighteningly so. It is a learning curve when you realize that your children can be more powerful than you. And I suppose, I should delight in it. Delight that he is experimenting with the power of his will, the strength of his own decisions, the ability to resist. Maybe one day he will link arms and sit down somewhere and refuse to move. And I will think back to these three year old days grateful that he knows his voice and desires and knows that it’s ok to say no. That sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and that we still love each other no matter what.
And even though I know that in my brain… I know that this work is important and undervalued, that raising kids has everything to do with what the future will look like, that sometimes life is small and simple yet beautiful… Even though I know that, the questions still roll through my head about whether there is meaning in the piles of yogurt and blueberries, or whether I have anything important to say, or if all of this is part of something bigger? I am tired, craving a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. I am lonely, craving intentional community and other parents to walk these years with. We need each other. We need to remind each other to laugh, to delight, to learn, that this too will pass, and to tell each other again and again how beautiful and valuable we are.
I was trying to think of a story to end with. Something miraculous one of my kids said or did (and there are many!) that would seem to show that all of this is worth it. But, I don’t think this is the kind of piece that gets tied up with a pretty bow. Instead, I think I should go mop the bathroom floor because that is how all three year old bath times end.