One day last week I changed the school drop off routine a little. Whit walked halfway across campus with us and then waited, sitting on the bottom step of a building in the middle, while I took Grace the rest of the way. She whined a little about this change (Whit didn’t join us at all in the past), insisting that her brother would intrude on our “special time.” She glared at me as we pushed our way through the double doors to the playground. I wanted badly to snap at her that she was being a brat, but I bit my tongue. Moments later, they were walking ahead of me, heads bent together, murmuring about something I couldn’t hear.
It was perfect.
Saturday morning broke clear and cold, cold, cold. I watched Grace’s soccer game hunched over, with my hands jammed into the pockets of my down coat. It was so cold my eyes teared behind my sunglasses. I had a lovely conversation with another Soccer Mom (gah!) and was taken aback when, mid-chat, Grace came running over, face flooded with tears. “Mummy! I just scored and you missed it because you were talking to Sophia’s mom!” She crossed her arms across her chest and stamped her foot, the very picture of righteous indignation. I hugged her instead of blowing up, guilt and irritation swamping me at once. With her face pressed against my coat she couldn’t see the emotions at war on my face. How can I possibly live up to this standard? rang in one ear and Oh my God I misssed seeing her score a goal shouted in the other.
“I won’t score again today and you missed it,” she wailed against my parka.
She did score again, and I saw it. I also observed her cheering on a teammate who tore down the field and scored her own goal, which made me far prouder than anything else (and I told her that). I kept remembering: it won’t be long until she doesn’t want me to watch her anymore.
It was perfect.
After soccer, I took Whit to make good on a promise from his birthday. He received several duplicate Legos so I told him I’d take him to the Lego store and he could choose anything he wanted (within reason). He was overwhelmed by the Lego store, and spent long minutes walking its perimeter, eyes wide, finger trailing across the various boxes. He could not make up his mind. I urged him to pick something already, fretting to myself that if we didn’t get to Johnny Rocket’s before noon we’d have to wait for a table. I chewed a fingernail, impatience swelling inside me, and told him again that it was time to choose. Let’s be honest: I rushed him.
He decided on a Lego, we went to lunch, there was no wait, and he was utterly charmed by the faux-retro-diner details. Then, at J Crew he picked out a pirate sweatshirt and was given this enormous, Willy Wonka-esque lollipop.
It was perfect.
I need to trust that as surely as my frustrations and irritations, my guilt and paralyzing panic about missing it rise up, they will ebb away. These emotions are clouds sliding across the sky of my life, that is all. This is what I am realizing: it is up to me whether I let these feelings, these moments when I am not the mother I want to be, mar the perfection of this life. And I won’t let them. I can’t change, I don’t think, the spikes of agitation and restlessness that sometimes overtake me so fast my head spins. But I can change how I let them impact my overall sense of my days, of my life.
Thank you, Katrina, for the exact words I needed at the precise time I needed them. As usual.
This life, this moment: it’s all so perfect it breaks my heart. Every day.