Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Extremes

I don't know if it's pregnancy hormones, the trials of parenting a 2.5-year-old, the end-of-semester stress, or all of it, but I've been on an emotional roller coaster recently, and by that, I mean one of those rides that takes you way, way up high, balances uncertainly for a few seconds, then plummets you down fast and hard.

This morning was the perfect example. Sylvia and I joined our playgroup for a children's theater production of The Ugly Duckling at the awesome campus theater, The Brooks Center. The show was magical, done by puppeteers covered in lights in a dark house. It was unlike anything I'd seen before, and it was enchanting for kids and adults alike. It was the perfect way to introduce Sylvia to her first live theater performance. (She is named after the play D and I were doing when we met, so we hope she shares our love of the stage).

As I sat in the dark theater, surrounded by excited children, holding Sylvia in my lap, my heart swelled. Each time she enthusiastically applauded, or tried to explain to me what was going on ("look Mama, the rabbit is dancing!"), or I sat amazed at the stunning stage work, I grew almost weepy. This is the joy of being a stay-at-home mother. This is the best of parenting: exposing your child to the wonders of the world and getting to experience that wonder right along with her. Yesterday, we finally bought our house. Today, I sat in a theater at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. I could do both things because I have a generous, hard-working husband with a steady job, and we've decided to prioritize childcare over salaries. It's often a difficult decision for me, and I actually quite miss the office life, but for that magical hour, I knew I had a wonderful life, amazing opportunities, and countless blessings.

And then...the show ended. Sylvia was ready to leave. She took to her new favorite trick these days, running as far away from me as possible, rarely even stopping at my desperate screams to "stop!" when she is nearly out of sight (she has become quick the same time I've become quite slow). She looks back at me mischievously, fully aware that she is disobeying me. Then she went limp in the middle of a parking lot, knowing that is against the rules. Then she thew a fit to have candy while still holding onto a cookie. It seems like everything is a fight these days, or at least a negotiation. "Testing boundaries" is the nice way to label this phase; "pushing all my buttons" is what it feels like. And within 15 minutes of my moments of parental joy, I was ready to strangle the little brown-eyed fiend. By the time we met my husband for lunch, I practically threw her into his arms and went for a moment's peace in the bathroom.

It's strange, these ups and downs, this love and frustration, this joy and pain. I hope it molds me into a patient, tolerant parent, and doesn't wear me down into a numb, exhausted lump. Depending on which high you find me in, I'll let you know how it's going. Have I mentioned I no longer enjoy roller coasters?

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