I have held myself back for a very long time. Longer than I realized until recently. I have held myself back for many reasons, but it always comes back to the same underlying cause- fear.
When Moose was a baby I would get anxiety at the idea of going out with him. I wasn’t afraid of the public- I was afraid of him. Moose was a reflux baby. He wasn’t the pliable, calm nugget I was expecting. He wasn’t like any of the babies I had taken care of. He was grumpy and screamed- a lot. Feeding him wasn’t the blissful, bonding experience I had been told about. He wouldn’t stay latched. We both cried.
I often felt like a failure.
Medication helped. It helped him sleep more than three hours at a time. It helped give me the ability to put him down. He ate better. But it didn’t solve my fear. The fear that I am sure was a contributing factor to the demise of my marriage. The fear of venturing outside the safe confines of my home, alone, with Moose.
Moose’s father has a lot of interests. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is good to have things that interest you- that keep you engaged in life. But his interests were not baby friendly. His interests were not Me friendly. So he was gone a lot. One night a weekend at the minimum- for the whole weekend once a month. And I supported it. I contorted myself to cover the child care and the house; to ensure that he could do everything he wanted. I wanted him happy- even if it broke my heart. Now that I am being honest with myself, I was afraid he would resent me if I asked him not to do something. That if I asked for more participation in our family, it would cause him to leave. Or cause a conversation that would crush me. One that was inevitable, it seems.
Before Moose was around, I used these nights to myself to spend time with my best friend or pick up shifts at a local restaurant. I kept myself busy- distracted from how unimportant I felt. I told myself that we were healthy because we didn’t have to spend every second together. This was what a solid relationship looked like- two independent people. I was proud of it. I thought we had grown. I thought we had grown together.
When Moose entered my world- I couldn’t imagine being anywhere but with him. Don’t get me wrong, he pushed me to my brink. He did it a lot in the first twelve months of his life. Between the reflux, the chronic ear infections, teething, and the struggle with my milk supply, his infancy was not what I had conjured in my dreams. But it was still beautiful. Spending Saturday mornings on the sofa with him filled my heart- even if I was beyond exhausted. And the more his father got excited about his hobbies- the more he wanted to continue leaving this little sack of potatoes for a weekend every month- the more rejected I felt. Not just for me, but for my son.
The heartbreak- combined with the intimidating idea of taking a potential crisis situation out of the house- left me paralyzed. I spent the time Moose’s father was gone, alone in my house. I was isolated. I felt distant from the outside world. I have never been so lonely in my life. At the time, I didn’t realize how apprehensive I was to take Moose anywhere. I knew it was there, but not to the extent that the tendrils of fear gripped me. How the idea of pumping, packing all his gear, or nursing in public with no help, defeated me. So I didn’t leave often. I would wait until Moose’s father returned. I lived my life around his hobbies and needs. I must be clear- he never requested this outright. I am as much a creator of the situation as he was. I didn’t speak up. I didn’t make requests. I was afraid to be told something was more important than my needs- so I never voiced them.
Once Moose’s father left- there was no one to schedule around. There was also no one to help. If I didn’t learn to leave the house with my kiddo, I was never going to. We would both become hermits. That is no life. I also had the loving push from people that support me. They invited Moose and I to go places. They came to my house and brought us dinner. They gave me strength just by being there. They didn’t allow me to do what I always do- burrow within myself and soldier on alone. They wouldn’t allow me to “pull myself up by my bootstraps” in isolation. They hugged me as I cried on their shoulder. They didn’t flinch when I needed to yell, just to get it out of my system. And they played with Moose- the most amazing gift anyone can give me. They made us both feel accepted. They didn’t just invite me out, they invited him specifically. They made being a single mother less scary.
Over the last five and a half months, Moose and I have taken more adventures then I have in years. I hadn’t realized how removed I was from my life. I had crippled myself. I felt left out, when in actuality I had checked out. I was so concerned with being available to my spouse- soaking up whatever attention I could garner- that I quarantined myself. I felt like I had to choose between my worlds- my husband and everything else.
Since Moose and I began our explorations, I have learned several things:
There is no amount of planning that will equip you for all possible scenarios with a toddler. You may not have enough snacks, he may need a diaper and you forgot to pack one, he may take a car nap that throws off his entire sleep schedule, he may play in the lake and get drenched, he may be cranky for no reason. But we will survive it all. Even if parts of the adventure are stressful, there will be fun too.
I will never regret taking my sidekick anywhere. I will never regret sharing experiences with him. I will always benefit from seeing the world through his eyes- through his wonder.
Just about everything is more fun with him. Due to more than just his presence. He is changing me. He is changing how I see the world. He is changing what I focus on. I no longer worry about how I look when I am with him. He is my world- and if I can make him smile, I will do just about anything, including crawling on the floor or dancing like an idiot. Innocent bystanders no longer matter.
As much as I am raising this little boy into a man- he is raising me too. He is teaching me some of the most valuable lessons of my life. He is making me a better version of myself. I still get scared. I don’t thrust myself into uncertainty with enthusiasm like he does. But I don’t hesitate to take him somewhere new. We try new things. I face some of my fears. It is baby steps, but I am getting there. People have told me that he is blessed to have me as a mom, but I think it is the other way around. I am blessed beyond measure that he chose me.