Go away! I love you.
This is my bathtub tonight. Looks cozy, no? Those pure white bubbles, mmmm…they’re not the organic orange and lavender bubble bath I meticulously picked out for my daughter. It’s Clorox. When friends walk into my home and smell the bleachy-fresh air, they think I’m a neat freak, but, to be honest, it’s usually the sign of a bad day.
Today was a doozy. It was clear from daycare pickup that L. was more than usually exhausted. As though to prove me wrong, she decided to abandon her friends on the toddler playground and climb to the top of the 25-foot spaceship at the park.
My husband and I: afraid of heights.
While I try to engender this confidence in her, I wish it didn’t manifest itself on a rusted, rickety spaceship. After ensuring her safe return to the ground, we leave the park for Target, where she cheerfully points, “I want that. And that. And that.” I harness my temper.
I say, “L. I know you want all that. But sweetheart, please don’t keep saying that. You have so much. Aren’t you lucky?” She smiles. The woman in the pajama aisle smiles. My inner parenting expert beams for a few short moments.
After a tearful burrito dinner that ended with my child planted in front of an iPad, I plop her into a tub. Then I see it coming. She retreats to the corner of the tub. She won’t make eye contact.
It comes screeching out of me before I can stop it. I pull her out of the tub, smearing poop on my fresh towel, sit her on the already-clogged toilet, and give up. There is literally poop everywhere. The calm-organic-non-GMO-screen-time-policing-“secretly”-neurotic-mom shrivels up inside me.
My outer shell carries her to her room, where she manages to pull down one of the cheap, institutional blinds (because, why not?). We read three books, rock for an eternity, and then she let me put her in the crib, all the while alternately telling me to “go away” and “I love you” (I want to quote The Princess Bride to her—“I don’t think that word means what you think it does” to her, but I know the irony will be lost).
And as I walk down in defeat and towards a cocktail before bleaching my home for what seems like the millionth time, I wonder how I will have the strength to do this all over again in the morning. But somehow, by 9:00 pm, I’m in her room with my hand on her chest, feeling her gentle inhales and exhales.
This motherhood thing, it’s a marriage of opposing forces. We just want to be alone, but the moment we are, we crave those tiny hands.
Go away! I love you.
Maybe she knows more than me.
Jessica B. is a PhD. candidate in English at the University of Colorado Boulder and mom to a high energy power packed 2 year old that always keeps her on her toes. She can be found around town either on her way to run or headed home from running somewhere in this beautiful Colorado front range.