The screaming. The squealing. The massive number of toys that beep and sing. In my early 20s, the endless NOISE of my sister’s kids drove me up the wall.
Who needs to run up and down the hallway at 7:30 AM yelling ‘BACON BACON BACON’? What kind of humans was she raising? And, more importantly, how could I escape?
Two-plus years postpartum, the squeals of my baby girl fill me with joy. The pounding of her little feet racing around the kitchen are frequently echoed by my own.
These are the happy squeals. They’re the kind of high-pitched excitement that comes after a good night’s sleep. They foreshadow two-plus hours of cheerful baby and the possibility mom might be treated to several blissful minutes of self-play.
They are the squeals dreams are made of. I know that now. I know that sometimes there’s no quieting a tiny human. I understand the desire to join the fitful baby-waddle. And I have firsthand experience with the downfall of trying to quiet said enthusiasm.
The onslaught of cries and tears. The moodiness when happy agendas are suddenly shifted from playing bumper cars with toy trains to…anything else. Back in my early 20s I thought you had a kid, fed them some milk, and taught them to be quiet.
The joke’s on me sister. I’m so sorry I wasn’t more supportive.
This reality began to sink gradually. This universal truth of motherhood came over days and months as I began to realize I’d heard this chortling before, rumbling from the chests of each of your kids. How did I not hear it for what it was?
How did I not think to step in, send you to the coffee shop (or the nail salon, bar, garage — anywhere), and ‘handle things.’ Instead, I asked probing (aka slightly accusatory) questions like, “Why do your kids need so much attention?” and “Can’t they just play at the pool on their own?”
I’m sorry I didn’t realize juggling work, kids, and marriage often meant shelving self-care. That’s when I should have been your most vocal cheerleader. And I was silent.
Yours was a burden you chose, to be sure. A planned burden (as is mine). But that didn’t make it any less hard. And while my 20-something-self could only see all the ways you ‘had it made’ — with the house and the car and the husband, I didn’t see all the things that you were missing out on — like sleep, washing your hair, and drinking your coffee while it was warm. (Oh, the joy that is a warm cup of coffee.)
I didn’t understand what it was to both love your life and want a break from it all in the same breath. And I couldn’t comprehend that living both truths made you human.
I didn’t know the strength it took to be on your game, the same game, day after day. (‘Ya feel me mammas?) Nor did I realize the difference a sympathetic ear could make or a friendly, out-of-the-blue text. But I do now. Because you showed me. Because you knew that what I needed more than anything was someone to call and say, “You’re doing great. You got this.”
What I needed was someone to hear my baby squeal and smile because that’s the sound of joy. And you gave me that — you give me that.
I’m just so sorry I didn’t know enough to have given you the same. Because you really have done great. You’re doing great. You got this. All of us do.