It's a calculated risk, leaving her there at the table to "finish" her breakfast on her own. She's good at staying in her seat and it's not that far a tumble if it comes to that, so I figure she's relatively safe. I leave her with the remnants of her cereal and a purple plastic cup half full of orange juice. But really, who leaves their 2-year-old alone at the table with a half a cup of anything?
It's just that I need two kid-free minutes -- in this case, to pee. Some days, my three girls circle like baby sharks, swimming up every few minutes to take a nip out of me. I know they're not trying to kill me, but they can definitely pull me in every possible direction until I've gone to pieces.
Still, when I think of Lilah and how I'd given up on having another baby, I am grateful, humbled even, that I get to do this motherhood thing one more time. At first, I thought of her as my Redemption Baby, my opportunity to make the most of hindsight and find more grace and less frustration in motherhood. Two years in and I'm still wondering when the great metamorphosis will take place. While I'm more aware of what to expect and know what didn't work in the past, I'm still doing it pretty much the same way I did the first two times, complete with the same stresses and frustrations -- plus some new ones -- instead of the new-found zen I was going for. I do think I'm more confident, less anxious and better able to appreciate the small, gorgeous moments, but I haven't been able to mother in the sweet spot I so desperately fantasized about when I was pregnant.
I still yell when we're running late. Lilah enjoys plenty of screen time so I can shower or write in peace. I answer texts while giving her a bath and check Facebook when I'm supposed to be tucking her in. I'm quick to anger when she throws her dinner on the floor, but terrible at enforcing time-outs or any other consequences that might help her learn the drill. I promise her candy if she'll just get in her car seat so we can go already. I scold myself for not being more patient. I feel guilty when I'd rather do the dishes than read Duck on a Bike one more time.
Turns out, parenting is hard. It foils our grand plans and thwarts our best intentions. It messes with our self-esteem. I always want to do better, but is that realistic? I'm not saying there isn't room for improvement, but lately, I'm coming around to an idea that's revolutionary for me: This is it. This is me. This is my motherhood. I can either fight it or take it for what it is -- good enough.
Maybe redemption doesn't lie in the chance to change, but in the chance to accept the mother I am.
Today, the mother I am leaves the toddler to fend for herself at the kitchen table. I come back to find Lilah mucking around with the spilled orange juice. Her t-shirt is soaked, strands of her curly brown hair are stuck to her cheek. I let out a big, loud, frustrated, "Oh no!" She looks at me with an unsure smile, sticky hands in the air like a criminal under arrest. We stare at each other for a second and then she wiggles her eyebrows at me. I burst out laughing, heart melting, completely bedazzled by this miracle being.
Reminder 1: Don't leave the toddler alone at the kitchen table with a cup of orange juice.
Reminder 2: When there's a choice between being irritated with yourself or your kid and being bedazzled, go with bedazzled.
Reminder 3: Believe that you, with your best intentions and deep love, are good enough.