He Doesn't Like Me
"Mommy, Jeremy* said that he doesn't like me," Henry said to me looking at the ground with tears in his eyes.
"What did you say to him when he told you that?" I asked, feeling completely out of my league.
"I told him I didn't like him either." And with that, he skipped away.
Realistically, I know that not everyone will like my son. And I know that because I know that not everyone likes me, and that's just life. But hearing the hurt in his three-year-old voice cut through me like a knife. And it made me realize another part of this parenting journey that I'm not quite ready for - broken hearts, broken friendships, the feeling of sadness when it's bigger than "Daddy won't let me have a third pack of fruit snacks".
I'm not ready for his feelings to be hurt.
I'm not ready for his heart to be broken.
I'm not ready.
Henry, at three years old, is still very partial to certain people in his life. Jackson, Eston, Sophia and Serenity all consistently rank high on his "best friends" list. And the hugs and genuine feelings that pass between them all on a day to day basis at daycare is incredibly heartwarming to see.
The shouts of "Henry!" when he comes to daycare after a few days away. The bear hugs he receives before heading home at night make me smile. And the few stolen kisses he's received from his "girlfriends" always make me laugh.
Hearing that another boy might not like my son, no matter how Henry feels about him, too, hurt me in a way I didn't know was possible. It felt like a personal attack on me. And yet, he shook it off, skipped away, and went on with life.
If only life could be as easy as it is at three years old.
*Name has been changed to protect the other child, even if he doesn't like my son.
I am a creative.
It took me a really long time to be able to say those words out loud. I didn’t believe them. To me, creatives were the women in cat eye glasses and paint-splattered overalls. Their personalities were big to match their sculptures and artwork.
I was none of those things.
“Papa is gone.”
The message wasn’t unexpected, I knew the end was close, but it didn’t stop the tears from immediately filling my eyes and then rushing over my eyelids.
I sent my mom a text asking her to call me. I wanted to make sure she was okay. We cried together on the phone, both of us feeling his loss so completely already - she having lost her Dad, me having lost my Papa.
I can feel it creep in every single day. It comes in kicking and screaming, punching me in the gut until I can’t breathe. It’s relentless and comes on without warning. I can’t ignore it.
“Mom Guilt is the feeling of guilt, doubt, anxiousness or uncertainty experienced by mothers when they worry they're failing or falling short of expectations in some way.”
It sounds ridiculous every time I talk about it. After all, I’m letting these feelings creep into my subconscious. I’m letting the feelings take over until I feel completely inadequate, but they are there all the same.
I got my “fancy” camera (a Canon Rebel t3i) back when I started blogging in 2011. (Side note, how in the world have I been blogging for 8 years?!) I intended to use it to shoot better outfit photos but didn’t have much use for it other than that. For years, I took it out a few times a month, snapped a few shots and back to the closet it went.
Tomorrow marks one year since I left the corporate world to be my own boss and stay at home with my kids. It has possibly been the longest, most difficult year of my life.
I’ve been sick for over three weeks. What started as a simple sinus infection and sore throat quickly blossomed into a double ear infection that had me in tears all throughout the night. After ten days of antibiotics, I still can’t fully hear and can still feel the fluid sloshing around inside my ears. It’s been miserable to say the least.
I turn 36 today and suddenly I feel old. 30 didn’t do it, even 35 didn’t. But 36? It feels dangerously close to 40. It feels as if I’ve been ripped from my youth and now I need to be a real adult. I can’t claim young and dumb anymore - not that I have recently, but it felt nice to always have that as a backup excuse if I needed it.
Each time a new week starts, I’m determined to be a fun mom. I want to put my kids to bed each night with huge smiles on their faces thinking about how much fun they had with me that day. And I want to go to bed each night thinking of how I chose my kids over my phone, or my work, or any other distractions that crop up throughout the day. And each week? I’m pretty sure I’ve failed.
It’s dark. I look around for someone to grab onto but I’m alone. I try to move through but the quicksand around my ankles holds me in place. I close my eyes and steady my breathing.
This won’t last forever.
Today I sit and think about the first time I met you. The doctor pulled you from me after a relatively easy labor and shouted “It’s a boy!”, and I burst into tears. I was so happy you were who I dreamt of. They laid you on my chest and you immediately stopped screaming and stared up at me with those beautiful blue eyes you still have today. I couldn’t believe it - you were here, and I was a mom.
The shutter clicks. I step back and look at the image now frozen in time, smile. I move slightly to the left, crouch down until I’m eye level with him, push the button. The rapid shutter click is so satisfying to my ears. Later, I’ll scroll back through my shots, pausing for just a second on each, choosing to save or delete. Later still, I’ll upload them to my computer and savor them all as I edit. Excited to share them through Facebook and Instagram, excited to look back on them a year, two years, ten years from now. These are my memories, forever captured by the lens of my camera.
I cannot believe you are a year old, I cannot believe how fast this last half of your year has gone, and I cannot believe that we actually survived this year. It was, without a doubt, the hardest year I’ve ever gone through. But at the end of the day, we have you - and you complete us. This past month has been a roller coaster (as it seems so many are), but you are officially a walking machine. You much prefer walking to crawling and each time I look over, you’ve pulled yourself up on something else and are a tiny walking human. It amazes me each time. Not to mention, I just love the new baby walk.
I have so much I hope for each of you in your lives.
But first, right now in this moment, at ages almost 1 and almost 5, I just want you to feel as if you can be kids. There is plenty of time for growing up and adulthood later in life. But right now I dream that you learn and explore, scrape your knees and have your hearts broken. I hope that you dream your biggest dreams and truly believe that they are possible. I hope that you never stop laughing, never stop playing, and never stop being on each other’s side. I hope that you see me and your dad as people to run to to make everything better.
When the door opened, a sweet baby with big blue eyes peered at me, wondering who this stranger was. Shannon greeted me with a warm “Hi!” like we were old friends instead of people with a mutual friend in common. I stepped into the beautiful old home with tray ceilings and immediately began to survey where I could put lighting, where we could snag the best shots. Grayson, at 11 months old, was chatty repeating “hi” over and over throughout the shoot. Getting Jon and Shannon to play and cuddle and love on baby Grayson was easy, taking shots that I hoped they would love turned out to be both nerve-wracking and so exciting.
I feel as if I am “on” and “working” 24 hours a day. My only break during the day is the 1 hour of silence in the afternoon when the baby is napping and my oldest is having quiet time. During those times, I pull out my laptop, get to work, and before I know it, the silence is up and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what needs done. My break at night? The six hours of sleep I get each night - IF both kids sleep all night, which is a rarity. If not, I’m lucky to get 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
You can’t POSSIBLY be 11 months already, can you?! Just one short month until we celebrate your ONE YEAR of life on this earth. It feels like you just got here. But then other times, it feels like you’ve always been a part of our family.
This past month has been a roller coaster. We got to celebrate your first Christmas, while also dealing with a serious stomach bug affecting all three of you boys in the house. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best of holidays, but luckily we have a lot more to make up for it.
When I look in the mirror, I suck in my stomach, I turn a bit to the side, I see the stretch marks from my youngest son, and then I smile. It’s taken me a really long time to get to this place. I’m okay with what I see. Do I love my body? I love what it can do, I don’t always love what it looks like. But I accept it. My strong legs that propel me in a game of chase around my yard with my oldest. My strong arms that carry the weight of my youngest all day long. And even the stretch marks that marked the baby it took us nearly a year to conceive. I’m getting there. I’m starting to see the beauty in the mirror.
This month you’ve started to really let your personality shine through - and that personality is hilarious. You’re still stingy with your laughs, but we’re figuring out what makes you tick. You celebrated your first big holiday with Thanksgiving and as a baby who loves to eat, you were definitely in your element. Turkey, corn casserole, stuffing, potatoes, rolls, you were a fan of it all.
“Have you spent a lifetime muting yourself for fear of what others will think? Are you an entrepreneur who calls your business a hobby because you worry about what your mother-in-law will say or because it’s safer to keep everyone’s expectations low? Do you hesitate to admit your dreams aloud because you’re nervous about others making fun of you or judging you for your choices?”
All of these questions made me stop instantly. I read through them again and again and again while the power of the words pulsed through my ears.
This is me. She’s talking about me.
“Mommy, can you play with me?”
It’s the fourth time he’s asked in the three hours he’s been awake. We’ve played Uno, we’ve played Candyland, we’ve played kitchen, we’ve colored and painted and blown bubbles. And now I just want to sit. But the hope in his voice gets me every time. I’m supposed to want to play, right? I’m supposed to be eager to spend every single moment with my children because pretty soon they won’t be children at all and they’ll never want to play with me and then my house will be empty and I’ll feel so alone.
But the fact is: I don’t always want to play.
I can picture it like it was yesterday. Me, Henry, and Harrison were sitting at our dark brown dinner table. Brandon was out of town for work, again. It had been a long day of playing, rocking, feeding, screaming, coping. I was counting down the minutes until it would be bedtime and I’d finally be alone. I set Henry’s paper plate of peanut butter and jelly in front of him. Harrison had been crying for nearly ten minutes by now. Why? I’m not really sure, and I doubt he was either. But he was mad and he wanted everyone to know it.
I tried to feed him bites of the mashed potatoes he normally scarfed down. He screamed more. I tried to give him a bottle filled with watered-down apple juice. He slammed his tiny fists down onto his highchair tray. Over and over he screamed until he was so red in the face, I thought he was going to choke.
9 months! We’ve survived nine months - all of us! And just as last month, things are still improving month over month. You’re a happier baby, month over month. You’re a more flexible baby, month over month. You are so fun to watch these days. You are obsessed with the kitty, just like your brother was. You crawl to him, and open your mouth like you’re either going to kiss him or eat him. And then you rub your head along his fur. He doesn’t seem to hate you as much as he hated Henry, or, he’s just sick of fighting :) Either way, it’s so fun to watch you chase after him.
This was a month of first’s. You got your first two teeth (on the bottom). You said Mama for the first time (I will forever be glad that at least one of my two kids said Mama first). You are THISCLOSE to crawling but somehow still manage to get yourself around a room - I suspect a bit of scooting when no one is looking. You also got your first flu shot - and I didn’t even realize she had given it to you because you didn’t make a peep. I think it’s possibly those massive thighs of yours - couldn’t even feel it.
It’s been a great month.
Over the past eight months, you have often had to play second fiddle to your brother. At first, it was the newness of it all as your dad and I tried (often unsuccessfully) to juggle this gigantic shift in our lives where we now had two kids to take care of.
After that, and for quite a few months in a row, it was that Harrison was a HARD baby. He didn’t sleep, he cried a lot, and we were beyond exhausted. We snapped at you a lot in that time, and we often didn’t mean to. But we were frustrated, angry, sad, and sometimes just miserable. And we took it out on you. When you asked us a question, or needed help with something, or got upset like any other four-year-old does, we snapped because we couldn’t take ONE MORE THING.
The breeze is blowing through my hair as I push the purple double swing. I'm watching both boys, and they're both grinning, holding tightly to the metal chains. Henry leans back and forth, trying to propel them higher in between my pushes. It's quiet aside from the squeak of the chains and the babble between two brothers.
I can't stop thinking about how different of a baby you are these days. From the first 5 or so months of your life to now, it's like we have a completely different baby living with us. And let me tell you, we're all so much happier these days - you included. You're a HAPPY baby now. We even have strangers stop us, you give them that incredible grin you have, and they remark about what a happy baby you are. And finally, I'm able to say "yes, he is". Plus, we just have a lot of people stopping us to tell you how beautiful you are. It's those big blue eyes man, so much like your brothers. Between the two of you, you guys are always turning heads when we're out.
I remember the moment that Henry met Harrison. It was one of the best and also scariest moments of my life. Leading up to Harrison's birth, we talked to Henry about how life was going to change and tried to make him understand (as best a 3 year old could) that things would be different. But still, I worried. So on that day when he walked into the hospital room, my heart was racing.
There was a time, not long ago, where I felt in control of my life. Every day I got up and I knew what would happen, I could guess how I would feel, and I counted on that. I can pinpoint when that changed.
It was January 30, 2018 at 3:29 pm.
That is the exact moment that a beautiful little boy (who I was so convinced was a girl) came screaming into my life. We named him Harrison. And since then, over these last six months, I've felt anything but in control.
Oh sweet buddy, this last month was SO MUCH BETTER. It's like you're a new baby. Like we're a new family. We're all so much happier because... YOU SLEEP NOW! Granted, you still aren't sleeping through the night, but sometimes we get six or seven hour stretches and it's like I don't even know what to do with myself.
I knew I was supposed to put him down. We're sleep training him after all, and I'm supposed to put him down while he's still sleepy. But for some reason it just hit me. Harrison is my last baby. I'll never have another baby of mine at 5 months and 24 days old. Tomorrow he'll already be another day older. I felt the tears prick my eyes.