I found myself straight-up crying at my desk for a few minutes earlier today.
In addition to being incredibly unprofessional, it was also utterly perplexing at first. It happened while I was watching the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are, which was one of my favorite books as a kid and is-- to my delight-- T's favorite book now.
We read it every night, him and me. He memorized it long ago, so that I simply need to say "The night Max wore his wolf suit..." to get him going.
The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him "WILD THING!" and Max said “I’LL EAT YOU UP!" so he was sent to bed without eating anything.
I'm finding the age of 2 (almost 3) to be kicking my ass. It's both frustrating and humbling that a person who still wears robot pajamas can cause me to lose my patience in a way no one else can. They don't tell you this when they hand you your baby at the hospital, when your love is simple and overwhelming. They don't tell you that your love will get deeper and more intricate, and in a few short years, you will vacillate between wanting to gather your kid in the world's biggest embrace, and wanting to leave him on the doorstep of a kind-looking neighbor. Or maybe even a neighbor who doesn't look like an ax murderer. Perhaps just someone who’s not actively holding an ax.
I wish there was a book I could read; one that would tell me that there are other people out there who feel guilty about not feeling guilty when they leave for work in the morning. People who have to spend 48 hours alone with their kids, and feel so utterly exhausted at the end, and well, embarrassed that other parents out there that do this EVERY SINGLE DAY, not just two. And they likely do it without fantasizing about being on a tropical beach, or hell, maybe just having a half hour to read Us Weekly cover to cover. People who—despite those feelings, still feel this complicated tug on their hearts when they walk in the door at the end of the day, and hear the shrieks and the little feet running as their keys hit the lock, a wordless testament to just how much their kids miss them.
That very night in Max’s room a forest grew and grew and grew and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around. And an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max. And he sailed off through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year to where the wild things are.
Since I have only a few hours with the kids each night, we stick with a schedule. Each night, after we read the story, he makes me re-open it to the part where the forest starts growing in Max’s room. In fact, we’ve been doing this for so long that the book falls open to this page. We prop it up on a pillow, and he falls asleep curled towards it…it’s part of the routine. I know there’s going to come a time soon when he asks for a different story, or shrugs off the whole Propping of the Book altogether.
And I think—no, I’m pretty sure--that that’s why I started tearing up today. By the time he’s going to be old enough to see the movie, it--and thereby, the book he so loved as a toddler--won’t be relevant to him anymore. He’s going to get taller and faster and less chipmunk-cheeked; it’s happening already, I see it every day. He’ll turn into a little boy, and I’ll need to let him go. Not completely, of course, but to let him stumble-—to deal with it on his own when someone takes his toy, or to pick himself up when he takes a spill, or run off with his friends without a second glance back towards me. And even though he exasperates me sometimes, I want to hold him that much closer when I think about all of this.
And when he came to the place where the wild things are, they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws till Max said “BE STILL!” and tamed them with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once and they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all.
I mean, it’s scary, raising little kids. You struggle with wanting to bring them up to be good, confident people without crossing that line of turning them into spoiled, cocky brats. You want them to be humble, but not timid. To speak their minds, and be independent, but not seem arrogant. You struggle with wanting to be yourself --not some parent-like automaton--but still set a good example at all times. It’s not easy, this constant juggling. At the end of it all, you turn them loose on the world, hoping that it treats them right, and that you’ve given them whatever skills you can to enable them to navigate their way through in it.
“And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!”
I have no idea what comes next. I’m phasing out of thinking of T in terms of being one of my two babies, and wrapping my mind around the idea of him as a little boy. I’m sure he'll fill the coming years with good times and times that are…less so. And even though this book may gradually drop out of his life, and even though I’ll be an imperfect mom at times, if I do my job right, he’ll always know that this is the place for him, the place where “someone loves him best of all.”