When I was in my twenties, I thought I was capable of anything. I went to art school, and thought I could become “the next great artist” and change the world with my artwork. I watched the Olympics and thought that with a little training, I could compete in a triathalon. I criticized my bosses (in my head ONLY) and thought that I could do their jobs better than they could. I don’t know if it was arrogance or ignorance, but my self-perception was pretty skewed.
Then I turned thirty. And then I became a mommy. Let me tell you, parenthood has really helped me clearly understand my capabilities and the things I am simply incapable of doing. In being a mama, I have discovered many of my limitations, and have also found out I am able to do things I never thought I would be able to do.
For instance, I have discovered that I am INCAPABLE of going to sleep later than 9:30 p.m. Even if 76 trombone players come marching through my bedroom. Even if the season finale of Homeland is on t.v. My eyelids go on strike every night, somewhere between 8 p.m. and 9:25 p.m. My husband told me the other night that we were invited to go see our friend’s band perform… at 9 p.m. We both started laughing (in that, “wow, we’re super pathetic” kind of way) and reminiscing about times past, when we could actually socialize with our friends AFTER sunset.
On the subject of sleep, I have also discovered that I am TOTALLY CAPABLE of functioning on 3 hours of sleep per night, for a pretty extended period of time. To be clear, it’s not the kind of functional where I would confidently volunteer to, say, operate heavy machinery or solve complicated math problems. It’s the kind of functional that is required to toast and eat a bagel.
I have discovered that I am INCAPABLE of wearing UNstained clothing. This is not totally my fault. I have a baby that takes spitting up to a whole new level and has incredible range with his urine stream, and a toddler who sees me as a walking tissue. Between the two of them, and my own talent for spilling food and beverages all over my body, I’m pretty much a constant HASMAT situation. I still have grandiose delusions visions of being able to wear hip, trendy, unstained outfits SOME DAY in the future. SOME DAY.
I have discovered that I am CAPABLE of carrying around 40 extra pounds. Oh, I’m not talking about the weight I put on with my pregnancies (though that too is true). I am talking about my two children. Because there are times when both of my babies are crying, or not feeling so great, or needing mama hugs for some other reason. I can swoop up 14 pounds of baby boy in one arm and 25 pounds of 2 year old girl in my other arm, and do my best to provide them both with the care they need (and not drop them on their heads). I told my husband that we can’t have any more kids for the simple reason that I have run out of arms.
I am INCAPABLE of having limitless patience. I guess I thought I might be able to be the parent who (magically) never loses their cool, who always knows what to say to calm their child down and “keep the peace”, who never raises their voice… but alas, I too am human. I have on occasion overused “time out”s because it was easier than laboring to get my daughter to pay attention or follow rules. I HAVE raised my voice (and have subsequently felt horrible for yelling at Emmy). I am NOT a candidate for sainthood.
But the best thing I have discovered is that I am CAPABLE of loving more than I ever thought possible. Two years ago, I thought it was going to be challenging to divide my love between my husband and my daughter. It was not, because my love just doubled. In December, I worried about how I could ever love my son as much as I love my daughter. But again my love multiplied, and I am truly so in love with my husband and BOTH of my children.
So, it turns out I am NOT a world famous artist. And training for the Olympics would likely land me in the hospital. And though I know now that I am incapable of MANY MANY THINGS, it is wonderful to know I am capable of so much love.
Parenting with imagination. Or at least trying.