D turned five today.
I am always hesitant to write about my child, about motherhood, about parenting, because whenever I try to capture that experience in words, I find it is quite impossible to explain it in a way without romanticising the struggle, or downplaying it somehow.
When we do talk about how hard it is to be a parent, we find ourselves adding in the same breath what a privilege it is to be a parent. As if to talk about how hard it is is a little like betraying our child, or like gossiping about a best friend behind our back, or like bitching about God (if you believe in one).
But come to think of it, perhaps the truer reason is this: we do not talk or write about a difficult experience when we're in the thick of it. We express it in hindsight, by which time we've mostly calmed down and have had the opportunity to understand the situation more holistically, encompassing others' points of view too. And that narrative is not the entire truth. It's not false, but it's not the objective truth too.
Often in the reading of posts written by other parents about their own difficulties and struggles, I come away feeling guilty, rather than finding understanding and acceptance. Rather than feeling relieved that I'm not the only one to experience these highs and lows of parenting, I come away feeling I'm not doing enough, that I need to do more, do better.
It's hard. D has been in our lives for five years now, not counting the months he spent in my womb, growing from a tiny dot into a little baby.
When I look back at these years, often I remember the difficult times, and by difficult times I mean the times I failed to show up as an understanding parent, the times in which I reacted unkindly, showed anger, snapped, demanded the impossible from myself and my child and my husband.
I suppose it matters to me a lot that I parent my child well. I've made the concept of becoming a 'good parent' important somehow. Something to strive for. Something to put effort into. And in doing so, in endeavouring to 'making' it joyful for my child, I've ceased to find any delight in it.
Yesterday, I wrote about Kristan Hoffman's post 'On Not Letting Ambition Take Over', in which she talks about how writing went from being something as easy as breathing the air around her to the strife of reaching for the blue sky. A joyful pursuit in childhood morphed into adult responsibility.
Today, it occurred to me that the same is true of parenting too. When did it go from being an experience of presence, of delight, of living to one of milestones, achievements, benchmarks, and a constant evaluation of ourselves to see if we're doing enough?
So today, as I think back, I've decided to no longer reflect on the difficult times. I'm also not making any plans for the future, no resolutions to try and be a better parent, no pushing myself to get closer to an imaginary, unachievable ideal.
Instead, I'm just hoping to be present. Doing only a few things. Knowing these moments are fleeting. And it's ok. It's not about the range of experiences I am able to offer D. It's about the presence I can give him. It's also the greatest gift I can give myself.