Drowning in shallow water
Snap. Grumble. Bark. Glare.
It’s moments full of these things I remember as I try to fall asleep each night.
I drift to sleep certain that these moments reveal everything about who I am as a parent.
“Grandma just cannot speak highly enough of you!” she told me. “How you show him what’s real and important in this world. Not toys, not that he doesn’t have those, but what really counts.”
I never know quite what to say to compliments, so I murmured something unintelligible and waited for her to continue.
“And those pictures of you guys with your faces painted last week? What a hoot! Anthony tells me folks were giving you mean looks, but I know you and you didn’t care a bit.”
I laughed. “True. But you know what was funny? For all the people at Disneyland who gave me ‘come on, now’ stares, the ladies in the Whole Foods bathroom were in love with my pirate face. Who’d have thought?”
A couple hours earlier, I’d watched my son’s head disappear just beneath the water at a friend’s home swimming pool. I leaped in when he failed to surface, his hands waving slowly instead of in the melodramatic, thrashing way of film.
“You just had to put your feet down!” his dad said as I pushed him further into the shallow side. And it was true: he just had to stop panicking long enough to try something different.
I didn’t realize until then that I, too, have been drowning in shallow water, sinking because I was too focused on my submerged face to consider all the possibilities for pushing myself, gasping, out of the water.
My husband’s recent job change has given me a welcome chance to reassess … everything.
All the choices I now see before me were ones I had before. There’s no part of my situation that was ever all or nothing. It only felt that way because I was too focused on thrashing for air to take in anything else.
And all those nights I fell asleep believing I was defined as a mother by all the moments I’d snapped and grumbled? They were parts of the struggle to just find my way back to air.
Here, from the surface, I see how much more there is–farmers market trips and shared face paintings, for starters–and I smile.
Next time I start to feel like I’m drowning, I hope I’ll test for land first.