There were times when I was awake at 3am standing in the bedroom with no pants, no will to live, making a shusssshing sound and gently bobbing back and forth to keep my baby from screaming which in turn kept me from screaming. I bounced and shhhhhhushed and bounced and shussssshed and thought ‘this will get easier.’
I told myself that because I was very tired from giving birth and keeping a baby alive and keeping a marriage alive and keeping my friends from leaving me and walking my dogs and remembering to eat. But if someone had really sat me down (hopefully got me some pants first) and looked me in the eye and said ‘do you think that’s true?’ I would have probably laid my head in their lap and said ‘no’ while weeping myself to sleep.
And I would have been right. It is not easier.
Babies certainly have a lot of needs and require a lot of physical energy from parents. These baby-needs could perhaps even be described as feelings. But my 6-year old has emotions. Emotions so big and so loud and so real and so raw that no amount of shush-bouncing could ever help. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I try very hard not to be uncomfortable with her emotions. They are a normal part of human existence, they are a sign of her emotional and psychological development. But sometimes they are painful for her. Confusing to her little heart. And nothing is more natural in me than the urge to build a wall around her heart. But that’s not wise.
I have a hard time stopping myself from always saying ‘you don’t have to be sad’ or ‘don’t get upset.’ Because you do have to be sad. And it’s ok to get upset.
I have a hard time because I see these emotions as a part of her growth that scares me. The part where I can’t always intervene, where I have to sit in my discomfort of her discomfort in order to model that nothing comes from pushing feelings away, nothing good anyway.
I watch as the veil of a blissful and optimistic childhood slowly, gradually lifts. People aren’t always kind. Things don’t always go the way we want. Bad things happen. Life isn’t fair. These ideas come in bits and pieces. And I hold it as my duty to remind her that those downsides must exist so that we can appreciate, understand and feel joy, love, peace, and security…but still, it hurts.
I realize now that the burden of diapers and sleeplessness come with the freedom of child-like ignorance. The jobs I have to do physically to raise my child have changed in an inverse proportion to the way I have to support her emotionally.
The upside of her emotions and her awakening are many. I am a trusted confidant to a budding girl, a future woman, who has enough love in her heart to withstand all the truth she will eventually see. I get to sit with her, for as long as she needs me or lets me, and hold her hand when she discovers the depths of each emotion, the joy of each elation. I take inspiration from her development, from the connections she makes while navigating sometimes uncomfortable or uncertain emotional waves. I’ll be a better mother, woman, human for sharing this with her. And yet.
I feel a certain nostalgia for pantsless bleary eye pre dawn shushing.