Guilt and Photography

I feel like my life, parenthood especially, is a constant struggle against time. Time is moving too swiftly or too slowly, leaving me either breathless in its wake or frustrated and eager for what comes next. My coping mechanisms, of which I have two- guilt and photography- are inadequate.

When I think of how quickly my kids are growing up my heart squeezes with the early pangs of nostalgia. All too soon my house will be empty of squeals and giggles and the pitter-patter (actually much more like elephant thumps) of little feet. As much as I long for peace and quiet, I know that’s my eventual reward and I don’t want it too soon. I may crave physical space, (must we always be touching?) but I know that I will never again have the heat from their small forms curled affectionately against my body; my hand will be forever bereft of their little hands to hold. I will no longer be the embodiment of safety and comfort.

Stay young, kids. Stay naive and sweet and full of that open bursting joy that comes with childhood. Stay small. Stay here- in my arms, under my roof, driving me crazy- for a while longer.

I’m sorry I’ve been impatient. Yes, I want to hear you sing that song again. Yes, I’ll watch your cartwheels and bike tricks and monkey bar accomplishments.

Another snack? Sure, my darlings.

Yes, I will tuck you in again and read another story. I’m sorry I get annoyed when you come back downstairs. Let’s go up together and savor these moments.

Anything. You can have anything and everything from me.

Guilt and longing. So I take photos. I take hundreds of them trying to freeze time, hold on to this. If I can capture that messy haired, barefooted moment of exalted summertime little-kid-ness, then it will stay with me forever. If I take photos of all of this, then surely my guilt will be assuaged.

Look, life, I’m not impatiently waiting for them to get bigger and put themselves to bed. I’m savoring. SAVORING! So you can slow down a bit. I get it.

But it doesn’t slow down. It can’t. Click.Click. I take more pictures.

At the same time, these very same people who I long to hold onto but who move through my arms inevitably, liquid and beautiful and unattainable as quicksilver, drive me completely crazy. Their noise and movement are constant and relentless against my senses, completely overwhelming. I just want a break.

Just a moment’s peace, please! Please stop asking me for this or that.

Please let me walk away. No, I don’t want to watch.

Please stop fighting.

Do you have to make noise at all times? Can’t you be still for just a moment?

Seriously, you’re hungry again?

Look around you at all we’ve provided for your enrichment and entertainment. You have books and toys and bikes and a big yard with a freaking swing set in it! There are hoses and sprinklers and balls and a stream and woods full of mysteries to explore!

Go! Go away and do the things!

Puddle gazing

Oh, look how adorable! Heads together they study some small puddle. Click.Click. And now, look how they chase each other around the house on their bikes. Click.

Their shouts and laughter follow them as they move through their world at a dizzying pace, everyday growing infinitesimally larger, infinitesimally closer to leaving all of this behind for the trappings of bigger kids, leaving me behind as a relic of their littleness, no longer wanted as desperately as I’m wanted now. Click.Click.Click.Click.

Guilt and longing. So I take photos.  

Why I’m afraid of summer vacation

Summer vacation is around the corner and I’m afraid. The hours of unstructured time yawning before me, stretching unfathomably far into the future, have me quaking in my flip-flops. The very fact that I’m filled with dread speaks to my clear maternal deficiencies. According to the internet, other mothers feel excited about all the “quality time” summer affords them. They see sprinklers, trips to the zoo, and happy exhausted children experiencing childhood without the stress and rigors of school. I see something much more sinister that mostly involves whining, yelling, tears over dropped popsicles, and sweat.

Are my children worse than everyone else’s? Perhaps other people’s children wake to a day of nothingness and think: I can ride my bike, read in the shade, chase butterflies, and enjoy my youth today! Mine don’t. Mine wake up early and already bored; the water in the sprinkler is too cold and the sun at the amusement park is too hot; the water guns got run over by the lawn mower and they don’t wanna read a book in the shade.

I suspect that it’s me that’s worse. The other mothers head off their children’s boredom by constantly organizing outings and activities. My children are insatiable though. We could spend all morning at a water park only to have them complain of boredom before we’ve made it out of the parking lot on our way home. They will play games, but only if I play with them. And here lies the crux of the problem: I don’t want to play with them. (See what I mean about maternal deficiency?) Those other mothers must enjoy the time spent with their children. I love my kids. I really do. Just thinking about them squeezes my heart in that slightly uncomfortable desperate way. But I like them more in theory than in practice.

At five and eight, their charms are not quite fully developed. Their jokes suck and their manners leave much to be desired. They’re not very good at games; they cry easily; and they whine and complain over every discomfort and delay – a mosquito bite or feeling peckish is the end of the world. I’m not much of a people person to begin with, but if I have to be around people I prefer adults, specifically the ones who have actually interesting things to say, actually funny senses of humor, and basically never ever fart on me.

We have some local day camps which my kids love. It’s a win-win situation as none of us really excel at dealing with unstructured time. The drawback is my guilt over sending them. After all, I’m supposed to be cherishing this time because it all goes so fast. Soon my little kids will be big kids, worse teenagers, and then they’ll move out and I’ll pine for these days. Today’s guilt transformed into tomorrow’s regret. They want so badly to play with me now and they’ll want nothing at all to do with me soon. Now’s the time I have to instill all the values in them, build the trust so they come to me when they’re grappling with serious problems, make sure they never drink and drive. I should be doing all of that while we cut star shapes out of watermelons and cover the driveway in chalk art.

But no matter how much I wish it, I’m not that Pinterest mom. I can’t keep my house organized with just 2 minutes per day, and I can’t spend a day with my kids without all of us fraying our last nerves. And so I’ll live with dread now, guilt soon, and regret further on. Bring on camp!


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He wins every time

“Mommy, can we please use your makeup?”

“No, kids.”

“But please? We asked really nicely. We want to play nicely together.”

“That’s sweet, and you did ask nicely. Thank you. But the answer is still no about my makeup. I’m sure you can find something else to play nicely together with.”

“But we really want to use it and we never get to and we’ll be really careful and we’ll be good for the rest of today and we’ll go to bed really early and not come back downstairs and we’ll be good tomorrow too.”

“I’m sure you’ll do all of that anyway because you’re such great kids. The answer is still no. I’m not going to change my mind.”

“But why, Mommy?”

“This isn’t open for discussion. I said no.”

Luke has a hard time with no. Many kids do, I realize, but every other kid on the planet (I’m pretty sure) will drop it eventually. Not Luke. He will take this to the nth degree. I don’t want to engage. I have a nice evening planned and I don’t want to have to take it away. I want to drop this so we can move on. So I’m staying calm, remaining firm, and not giving him any reasons why. That’s what I’m supposed to do, right? That’s what the books say.


“No. Please stop asking me.”

“But why?”

“This isn’t open for discussion.”

“But just tell me why. Why can’t we?”

“I’m not changing my mind and you’re going to make me angry. It’s time to drop it. Luke, really, stop.”

“But just tell me why?”

I don’t answer. It’s over if I don’t say anything, right?

“Mom? Mom? Mom? You can’t ignore me. What if I got a knife and cut my head off, would you ignore me then? Mom? Why? Why can’t we use your makeup? Why? I don’t get it. You’re so mean. Mom? We’ll be really good. We just want to play together. Isn’t that what you want? That we play nicely together? If you don’t let us use your makeup I’m going to punch Sally in the face and break her things and it will be your fault. Would that make you happy?”

“Luke, this is me warning you. I’m starting to lose my patience. You need to stop yourself. Now.”

“Just tell me why!”

“This is the last warning. I’m getting angry. Do you understand?”

My voice is still calm and even. I am going to diffuse this fucking thing if it’s the last fucking thing I fucking do. He storms away, knocking a book to the floor. I let it slide, not needing to lock horns with him now over picking up that book. I hope this is over. It’s not. He comes back with a note that says: “You are a jerk.”

“Go to your room.”

“No, I’m sorry. Why? I didn’t say anything. I didn’t mean it. It’s not about you. No, please no. Please, please, please no. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“I’m angry now like I warned you. Now go to your room please!”

Speaking sternly, but still not yelling. I’m going to fucking win this fucking thing!

“No I’m really really really sorry. Here, I’ll write another note about being sorry.”

“Luke, go to your room!”


And there it is, folks. The last straw. He hasn’t budged towards his room. He is staring me down. Calling me a jerk to my face and defying me. I’ve been here before. There is only one way to get him to actually go to his room. The only thing that works. Why did I put it off for so long anyway? I scream at him:


“I hate you! You are such a jerk!”

He stomps off to his room.

And this is how it goes here. I can’t win. No matter my intentions or mood to start, no matter how calm I remain through so much disrespectful behavior, he eventually pushes me over the edge. Every time. If I didn’t blow up then he would have escalated further – hitting his sister and destroying stuff. He will always get the reaction he wants eventually.

He wins again and I lose. Of course his win is a loss for all of us.