I have to say I’m sorry. I feel like I’ve failed you as a mother. I spread myself too thin. I blinked too many times, was never looking at the right moment, turned away at the wrong time. I cry tears of bittersweet now.
You are long-limbed and bubble gum, riding bikes with no training wheels, singing along to pop music. In my mind you are still tiny enough to hold on my hip, eat smashed bananas, tuck in for naps.
You don’t ask me to cuddle anymore unless it’s bedtime. Did I say no one too many times? Why was I always so concerned with the damn dishes and dirty laundry? In a minute, when I’m done with this, Mommy is busy right now, give me a second. And you did. You sat patiently and I never came. I forgot. Caught up in my chores; the sticky floor, the dried peas on the high chair. Didn’t I know you’d soon stop asking? How could I have been so blind? So naïve to think you’d always want me in the same ways.
We cuddle now at night when I have the energy and patience left. I hate feeling like I don’t always want to. I want my own time, space, corner to just breathe and be. Did I learn nothing from the past? Will I regret these decisions the same way? Judge myself so harshly in the same light?
How can I possibly love all three of you the same? Divide my time, patience, hugs and kisses between you all fairly? I feel like someone always gets less and there’s no way around it. I’m doing the best I can. And sometimes I suck at this thing called motherhood. But other times I really nail it. Everyone is all smiles, bellies full, hearts content. Whose criterion makes me a failure? In (your) eyes I am the best mommy ever. In my eyes I stumble at every turn.
My only hope, my only saving grace is that you remember this one thing; even if I’m not looking when you do your first handstand, or if I empty the dishwasher while you read to me, or I tell you Mommy will lay with you tomorrow night, I promise; just remember you are loved fiercely, beyond reason and even in my failing I have loved you endlessly. If you remember these four simple words, You Are Loved Unconditionally, then I know I did something right.
And yes, tonight I will sing you to sleep and cuddle in close. Sweet dreams little ones.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, click here! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, click here!