Read somewhere that sometimes, raising up these little ones is like raising wild animals.
I noticed that after the BEST days, whether it be a sunny, gorgeous day at the zoo with friends or exploring Manhattan, admiring the display of giant Faberge Easter eggs (more Mama’s thang than the boys’), I am not quite able to exhale, even hours later when Daddy got next.
I wondered why this was the case since I much prefer these adventurous days outdoors to the cooped up house arrest days of yesterweek’s polar vortex.
It is due to the perpetual heightened alert. You really have to have eyes in the back of your head, or at least on the side of yo face, like other animals.
When I was single, in my 20s, I remember attending a small church plant at someone’s house. There was a mom who visited with her baby / toddler and as soon as she entered the house, she would NEVER watch after her own kid. Of course, I don’t know her story, maybe overtired, maybe had zero support, but also it’s a personality thing to be able to relax so much that you leave it to the crowds to watch your child while you’re having a grand ol’ time.
As a person who was generally on heightened alert even before I had kids – too much alert, just noticing everyone’s energy at a gathering or noonchee-bah’ing (reading people’s micro-expressions) at any given time, I couldn’t FATHOM how a mama could just Be On Break (at least without asking someone to please watch her child for a moment) and assume that OTHERS, mere acquaintances, would keep her child from playing with knives.
While I am proud to be an attentive parent, too much alert isn’t good for my health either. I’m sure it adds to irritability and exasperation but it is SO very hard to turn off.
Even when hanging out in our small home, my attena is up – ears tuned in to pick up cries of pain from the other room, like the boys fighting after their hug fests go awry or worse, SILENCE. Silence followed by hysterics from falling off the desk that Ellis had climbed this morning before we headed out for the subway.
[Of course, I’m learning to let them fight it out instead of hovering or rushing to their aid for everything, but they are still so little, especially the second one.]
Outside, heightened alert is cranked up a couple notches. We are not contained. They are not contained.
Possibility for more fun, and we ARE fun-seekers, but always the behind-the-scenes energy spent on heightened alert.
This energy is not captured in the picture-perfect moments displayed on Facebook. I think this energy is a type of at-home parent stress. Working parents have plenty of different stressors, the stress of juggling, spending enough time with their little ones, entrusting them in others’ care, but definitely different from this heightened alert for most of the day.
Chatting with a mama-friend while our boys are climbing a jaggedy boulder. Chatting but ever-aware. Chatting but making sure the younger ones won’t fall and bust their lips open. Chatting but making sure the big ones aren’t grabbing the thorny plant as they talk about dinosaurs.
Laughing but keeping one eye on the child who is about to cozy up against the couch right by friend’s window with no child-protective bars. Catching up with Kevin’s co-worker but making one son stop using my purse as a swing.
This is why chatting with some mamas with similar-aged kids is so easy, like water flow. Actually, water flowing intermittently.
We understand that we will be interrupted 18 times before finishing one story: “So what was I saying?”
“I’m not sure but two tangents ago we were talking about expectations and then you were about to tell me…wait…ELLIS! ELLIS! CLIMB DOWN NOW! You are NOT a big boy!”
Today we took an impromptu subway ride into Manhattan to enjoy the weather before the rain hits tonight and Micah goes back to school tomorrow. I tried to take lots of pictures but always on heightened alert. Making sure the newly fearless Ellis doesn’t nosedive into the fountains on 6th Avenue or moshpit himself into a bed of lilies by Rock Center, beaming and proud.
Even when I start to decompress, due to my bat hearing and sensitive constitution, it takes me a good long while to get my groove back, especially when I hear other babies’ cries from all the different floors of our co-op building, not exactly a Calgon vibe. This is why exercise is key! Easier said than done but when I get a workout in, I can shake that nervous stress off.
Speaking of sounds, I’m hearing raccoon-rummaging sounds from the boys’ room. Sounds like Ellis never succumbed to a real nap today due to sensory overload: subway, Rock Center Plaza, giant Easter eggs, Daddy’s office, more subway.
Time for heightened alert at the playground. Be well.