It is mid-September and you lay in bed and try your best to fight back tears. Just go to sleep. Your mind is a busy factory pumping out unwanted thoughts at a frantic pace.
You think about how only two people came to your daughter’s birthday party, how composed and happy you forced yourself to stay in the midst of her disappointment. Inside, you fell apart. You long ago accepted that loving her means that her pain becomes your own.
And then you start to wonder whether you’re enjoying your children enough, given that your son is also a year older this week and time clearly has no plans to slow down. How is he seven? How is she already halfway to twenty?! A slight twinge of panic sets in as your thoughts spiral into a black hole of have I done enoughs? You distinctly remember your mom’s friends at your baby shower telling you to enjoy every second. Of course, you didn’t. Don’t cry.
Thankfully, you have been reading Living Untethered, which has been paramount in reminding you that thoughts have no hold on you when you learn to see them as simply the white lines on a highway whizzing by. So you practice CBT each time an intrusive thought pops in and threatens to force those tears out like a fire hose. They are too close to spilling over. You shoot the thoughts down one by one and breathe. Don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry.
But you know you can’t evade them completely. September is always filled with nostalgia and you remind yourself that this too shall pass. Because as much as you love being a mom, you recognize that with the sweet comes the bitter. With the highlights come the heartbreaks. And you wonder if this is just a training ground for the many more heartbreaks you will experience as your children grow up and experience the world more fully. For the many more nights you will struggle to fall asleep because you will agonize over their well-being and your absolute incompetence in raising them. For the sadness that will continue to seep out of their pores and into your own because those babies once lived in your body, after all. Sometimes thinking about these things feels like too much to bear. Go to sleep.
Then your mind goes to your youngest, who is almost four and on the cusp of leaving toddlerhood. Lately she’s been more independent and thankfully, a little sweeter. But you are so very aware that in less than a year she will be entering the world of public school. It simultaneously excites you and shatters your heart. You do your best to summon up precious memories but instead what comes up is all the ways you should be spending your time with her. A tightness forms in your chest. It is so much pressure.
Lately you question everything. Should I be stricter or more lenient? Am I too distracted? Am I paying enough attention to them? Who will hurt them someday? How do I prepare and protect their fragile hearts? How do I arm them with confidence and strength to spread their wings and own their truth when I am barely learning to do that myself? How much impact do I have, really?
There is a steep price you pay for love. But you know that you would rather feel deeply than not at all, so you will pay that full price in exchange for complete connection. To your kids, to humanity, to yourself. Real, unconditional love is messy, yet so pure. It hurts and heals.
You allow two tiny tears to slide down your cheeks and then you tell yourself, You are a great mom. You are doing your best and your kids are lucky to have you. No more crying.
And lastly, September, be gentle. You know that what feels like cruelty is also what is keeping you awake. Awake to the truth of time passing and your kids being in a constant state of loosening their grip on you. Every year, that grip feels a little lighter. And one day, you know, your hand will be empty.
You slowly, gently (finally) drift off to sleep and dream of sticky hands and toothless smiles and silly dancing. You will wake up to hundreds more days and continue to go through the motions, doing your best to be mindful. Of course, you are keenly aware that you will fall back asleep.
But September will always come around to jolt you back to life, revealing to you all your senses and big feelings. It will always plead with you to remember, gifting you with that same bittersweet nostalgia again and again. It will rip you in two and reignite the flame inside that burns for your babies.
So, thank you, September.
You might also enjoy Closing The Book: A Farewell to Babyhood