Sometimes at night, I suddenly miss my child. We have been together all day, we have driven each other up and down the walls of this godforsakenbeigetemporaryapartment forty-seven times, he has whined, I have yelled, and 7:45 has come as a relief all around. But then, hours later, lying in my bed, I ache for him so strongly I almost get out of bed and go hold him.
I never feel like this about Benjamin. Cuddly though he is, I never feel like I must have him in my arms right away. I am happy for us to be apart for the night and come together in the morning. No, this is a feeling reserved for Zachary.
It is not that I love Zachary more. It is that I fail him more egregiously. Part of that is because we are so similar, and part of it is that he needs more from me. More patience, more understanding, more sympathy. And lately, he hasn’t been getting it.
There is a fine line between discipline and bullying. A fine but bright neon line that pulses dangerously between setting strict limits and pushing a kid around. It is a line I am not crossing – yet. But I am close enough to feel its heat.
I expect too much of my little man. He is so good in so many ways, but so difficult in others. He is so grown up, and so I expect him to be all grown up sometimes. And, the truth is, when you tell a three-almost-four-year-old to put on his shoes, sometimes he gets distracted with a toy instead. At 8:30 AM, I get that. At 7:00 PM, when I need to take out the trash because my husband is not coming home again (work, not another woman) and the trash is too far away from the apartment to do it once the kids are in bed, I lose my temper. I yell at him. I tell him I need his full cooperation when Daddy isn’t there to help.
But it’s not their damned fault that Daddy isn’t here. It’s not their fault that Benjamin wakes up in the morning and says “Daddy working, Mommy right there.” It’s not their fault that we are in a temporary apartment where the garage and trash are so far away I have to put Benjamin in a stroller to get there. It’s not their fault the garbage disposal and stove went out at the same time. It’s not their damned fault.
I must back away from the line, a retreat mothers the world over know only too well. I must remind myself that he is only little, despite his enormous vocabulary and outlandish math skills and serious little demeanor. I must remember that he gets picked on enough by the big kids in the school play yard and bitten enough by his brother (although who starts it, kiddo?). I tell Benjamin that if he wants to bite someone, he should bite himself. I must take my own advice.
And so, at night, I do not creep in there. It is not his job to assuage my guilt in his sleep. But, tomorrow afternoon, as we creep through to dinner-time and I start to wonder how the hell I will ever handle three kids, I will do better.
Tomorrow, my sweet child, tomorrow we will do better.