The Kitchen Floor
When I gave birth to Abby nine years ago, and then, Henry, three years after that, I never could have imagined them or our lives together now.
We have so much. Health. Home. Heart.
We also have other things. Strife. Struggle. Simmering.
When, on the days of their births, the doctor handed me those swaddled, bald bundles of baby, I did not imagine them having moments where they disliked each other. Or hitting each other. Or taunting each other. Or even getting so uncontrollably mad at one another that one would tackle the other. On a random Tuesday evening. Because one was so pissed that the other wouldn’t finish building a puzzle with her that she broke the puzzle apart, knowing full well that it would piss him off and then he, in his outrage and frustration took a running leap and tackled her. On the kitchen hardwood floor. On that same random Tuesday night.
I’m not sure exactly what I had in mind, if anything. But if I were able to time travel back to those hazy, hectic, halcyon days, I’m sure my future hopes held Rockwellian evenings, warm smiles and engaging conversation weaving a solid tapestry of family history. Not tackling on the dirty kitchen floor. Over puzzles.
(Yeah, I know, ridiculously unrealistic but true nonetheless.)
One of the constant challenges I face is the understanding and acceptance of this life. Not life imagined or scripted but Life. As. Is. Not. Perfect.
Life is not a Rockwell painting nor is it collage of smiling family portraits. Yes, of course, it contains doses of each of those realities, but in exceptionally small doses. Life is the moments that exist In Between. It’s the ER visits and angst and a fucking dirty house and an argument with a partner and car pool. It’s small arms wrapped around my midsection offering an acknowledgement and a wordless apology. It’s misunderstanding and resolution. It’s mediating colossal arguments over domestic glitter glue inequity while simultaneously trying not to laugh. It’s raising my young children to be self-sufficient adults who do not pursue perfection but happiness. It’s realizing the irony of being the one who teaches this delicate lesson that I continue to learn again and again and again. Life is getting so frustrated with those young children that I, at times, let my base emotions match and usurp theirs, and then hanging my adult head in shame that I acted like a six-year-old. And then, it’s showing them the grace of humility and forgiveness by asking for theirs.
It’s so damn hard.
Of course, as a recovering perfectionist, this challenge proves to be, well, challenging. I know that life provides challenges and that it is my job to be open to the friction and chaos that ensues. But.
But. But. But.
I still struggle. Each time two divergent emotions rise up in the bubble of a moment, I’m shocked that such polarity can exist in unison. That such extreme love can inhabit a moment filled with such angst. That I can want so much to help this child whose frustration makes him tackle his sister while simultaneously making me want to stomp my feet and pound the counter and scream. Or join the tackle.
Re-engineering my perspective on life and perfection is a daily practice. My and my children’s angst and struggle and learning is perfection. Perfection and life and all of its splendid dichotomy sit in the broken puzzles and the darker cadence of some days. They sit in the wounded eyes of a child. They sit in the soft, downy light of forgiveness. They sit in the acknowledgment of humanness and all its perfect chaos and shattering beauty.
When I release my white-knuckled hold on impossible and antiquated wishes, I make space for new realities and more resonate family tapestries.
Once again, I learn. I nod my head and rest it on the open arms of this repeated lesson. Practice, practice, practice. I practice my embrace of the jagged edges, the rawness, the light, the friction and the living that unfold on my dirty kitchen floor.