The three of us – Ryleigh, Logan, me – stood in our living room last night at around 8 o’ clock, thinking what to do. Logan was getting tired and I’d said we could read and get to bed. I sat on the couch and started singing an Imogen Heap song we’ve loved for years, Hide and Seek. As I sang Ry joined in and harmonized and Logan kept the beat using an old wooden dish strainer and two pencils.
When we finished Logan smiled and remarked proudly, “Dat was a gate band!” That was a great band. Ryleigh and I laughed and agreed. Ry had an idea to hook her computer up to the television so that we could look up karaoke versions of our favorite songs.
She put on Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ and we all got microphones (towel paper roll, marker). We stood together in front of the T.V., threw our heads back, and belted it out.
We kept thinking of songs we loved and in the middle of one, I think it was ‘Love Song’ by Sara Bareilles, I got one of those pictures I often get in my head when my love tank is rapidly being filled to swelling, and my heart beats so strongly that I want to cry tears that being wholly satisfied makes you want to cry - a snapshot of the way a scene looks from above, if I were watching myself from the sky.
My eyes were shining, and whatever creases have formed around them thus far were certainly apparent. My mouth was open wide and the laughter that emanated from it was heavy but it was so light, and it was melodic and it was real.
I saw the two little girls on either side of me, the smallest one unable to read the words on the screen but pretending to; the taller one passionately declaring her reasons for not writing someone a love song.
I turned my eyes back to the lyrics and smiled thinking of all the times I’d done this as a girl with my own siblings and my mother. I remembered watching my mother let go with us, be silly with us, fly around the room pretending to be in a musical with us.
And I thought: this is what makes it so easy.
People sometimes tell me I’m going to burn out, I don’t forgive myself enough when it comes to my kids. Or they ask why? – why do you feel you need to let your kids sleep in bed with you, still? Why do you feel your toddler should still breastfeed, even at night? Why is it okay for your children to talk back to you?!
And there are times I ask myself why? I ask myself really, how bad would it be if I went in and said from now on y’all have to sleep in your own rooms? Logan, we’ve got a good three and a half years under our belts, no more breastfeeding, Babe. And Ryleigh, when I say something – that’s what goes, no questions, just stop.
Sometimes I do want to say those things. Especially when I’m tired or frustrated or feeling alone. Or when I wake up and open my eyes and all I can see is a haze of blue.
And quickly I remember that when I’m tired or frustrated or feeling alone, and when I open my eyes and all I can see is a blue haze over everything – it’s my daughters who allow me to let go.
No one else invites me to get up – all five feet, eight inches of me – to get up and flail around and scream off key and let go.
No one else stands by my side as I mouth words with the Rascal Flats and no one else understands that when I sing, “What HUUUUUUUUUUURRRRTS THE MOST!’ I’m talking about missing my mother, and no one else allows me to cry even while I laugh, and to sing with tears leaving warm, glistening trails down my cheeks.
No one else holds my hand while I sing and cry, pretending that they’re just being my back-up singer, but we really know they’re supporting me.
No one else is so unafraid to walk right up to me and demand I allow them to comfort me.
They let me let go. And they let go, too.
After the karaoke we started playing rap instrumentals and Ryleigh and I rap-battled for a solid hour. She got so much off her chest. She rapped about being smaller, about how adults think they have all the power, about how she loves peaceful parenting. She joked and cracked on my sagging breasts :), and when she ran out of lyrics she said, “Now watch this” and jumped into a dance breakdown. Lo and I put our mics to our mouths and cheered her on, shouting, “Oh! Oh!” like we see in hip-hop movies.
We all let go. It was two hours of no missing mothers or missing siblings or moving from North Carolina or divorced parents or grieving parents or trying to learn to read or wondering what we’ll be or self-consciousness or self-doubt or arguing or mistakes. Nothing is a mistake when you let go. Everything we did was what we were supposed to be doing.
My children find ways to let me let go every day. I find ways to let my children let go every day. That’s how we can do it.
That’s how I can put up with not being able to have sex in my own bed and not being able to read in my own bed and being hit every three hours in my own bed.
That’s why I am going to wait it out with Logan and breastfeeding. That’s why I can say YEAH I’M PRETTY DAMN OVER IT AT TIMES but my kid is not so, meh, I’ve experienced much worse with much less reward.
That’s why when my kids talk back to me or say no to me or yell at me I can look at them and hear a voice say TURN AROUND THIS IS YOUR SWEET BABY AND SHE’S LEARNING AND YOU NEED TO MODEL WHAT YOU’RE ASKING FOR…and also -
This is the girl who lets me let go.
This is the girl who lets go, with me.
These are the girls who stand with me when we close the blinds and lock the door and we know that no one can see us, and we take off our sweaters and we put on short-shorts, and we get so into the music that I can only imagine how silly and uncoordinated we look. I can only imagine because I don’t think about it, because none of that matters when we’re letting go.
This is what they mean when they say connection is the key to any peaceful parenting endeavor, I’m starting to understand so well. It’s not about being happy 24/7 or always being able to answer “Yes, of COURSE you can have that!” to your child’s every demand.
It’s about finding moments to let go together. There has to be a time when there is nothing else, because everything else is always there. The bills, the stress, the absent fathers, the dead loved ones, the living loved ones you just can’t see for some stupid reason, the things you wish were better.
And for your kids – there has to be a time of no homework if they’re in school, of no chores, of no bathing, of no whatever it is their brains are wrapped around.
There has to be a time of simply, being.
My kids let me let go. I can’t say that of many people. I think this is probably true for many parents. Who else can you be unapologetically you with, the way you can with your children?
Who else lets them let go the way you do?
Create opportunities for it. It’s a reminder, an affirmation, an incentive: this is why I do it. They let me let go. They help me to clear that blue haze. Everything stings less. We share something that’s only between us, a secret love language that we speak best when the blinds are down and our fake mics are turned up.
After that it’s easy. Letting go of the darkness inside me leaves lots of open space for what my girls throw at me – the back talk, the messiness, the spills one after another, the thrown toys, the constant fighting.
Now it’s not building up inside me, spilling over until I yell at them and want them away from me.
No, because when we let go together if frees up space, so that frustration has a safe place to go, and I can handle it.
I look at Ryleigh in the middle of her telling me, “YOU don’t have to have such an attitude!” I want to lash out but then my heart draws up a snapshot – the one of the two little girls on either side of me as we say how ‘ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone’, and the little girl knows who I mean when I say ‘she’ – and I look at that picture and I know I can’t lash out at this girl. She let’s me let go, so often, in such a big way.
I will treat her with the same tenderness and grace. We can talk about it.
She’s so kind, that I will be kind. And when I’m kind, she is kind. And…well, you get it. Keeps going.
Connection. I’m starting to understand, and it’s so simple, and so good.