The Smile That Saves


Honey honey

Honey honey (Photo credit: weirdfishes/arpeggi ( Ashnaa Rabbani ))

The Husband is still traveling (eighteen days out of thirty-one this month, back and forth three times!), and I find myself turning for encouragement to stories I wrote down last year, at this same juncture. Every time dad comes home and then leaves again, I discover anew the big difference between being a stay-at-home parent, and a left-at-home parent.

Number Two demanded eleven time-outs before noon today, and we reached the developmental limits of Five’s long-suffering stoicism just a few hours after that. It feels good to remember how much more impossible it was to be the left-at-home when my kids were Four and One. Here’s a little something from way back when.

Date: Saturday, May 14, 2011

Time: 7:27 p.m. PT; 4:38 a.m. in Dusseldorf

Subject: Hard day

<> wrote:

Hi Honey,

I couldn’t do this without my children. Each of them, in turn, sustains me. And this trip, for the first time, they comfort me together. They don’t mean to be a comfort to me, but they can’t help it.

It’s hard when I know that I am scary to my children. I’m not frying-pan scary—I hope you know this by now—but there are days, and sometimes days and days, when I simply cannot find my smile. When I scold my daughter for being hungry, or awake, just because I am tired, or covered in yogurt. Or when Four backs himself into another corner and all I can do is growl in vindicated satisfaction.

But these two children have come into my life to teach me how to live. Let go. Be in the moment. Do less. Say what’s in your heart. Sleep when you can. If you can’t sleep, rest. Step back. Accept forgiveness.

What broke my heart today? The way Four translated for and defended his sister: Mom, she just wants her own spoon. Her advocate. Came up to me and laid his palm on my cheek: Everything’s okay, Mom. Then goes and whispers in his sister’s ear, glancing sideways at me with a look somehow wicked and serious at the same time. And One, not getting the joke, huffing her imitative, infectious laugh.

Me, suspicious, asking: What are you two up to?

Oh, Mom. We’re just planning to poop at the same time.

And then the smile bubbles up inside me, the smile I’ve been waiting for all day, the smile I so desperately needed, the smile that will save us from me.

Everything will be okay.