The definition of oxymoron is more or less a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms.
Well I have decided tonight, as Ellie sleeps soundly in her crib, that parenting combines contradictory emotions.
And it is just strange.
I will explain to you the thoughts that led me to this conclusion.
So you know that fussy time in the evening when every child in the universe cries for absolutely no reason whatsoever?
Yes, that time…from about 5pm to 8pm or 6pm to 9pm.
It makes me sweat. It makes me plead with Ellie to tell me what is bothering her. It makes me beg friends to come over and hold her and sway so I can put more than one fork full of food in my mouth in a 60 minute span of time.
Sometimes it even makes me cry.
Every day starts off so nicely…Ellie wakes up laughing, smiling and kicking her legs. (Clearly she has never woken up and had to go to work in morning television.)
And most days we have a great time together. She might fuss for a few minutes before she falls asleep for her nap, or when she is hungry and I don’t feed her instantly. But for the most part, she is a very happy baby.
The only exception is during a period formerly known as Happy Hour. NOW, in the current stage of my life, there is NOTHING happy about those hours.
So I shooooooooosh her in her ear to mimic the sound in the womb.
I sway from side to side, creating the most distinct back ache I have ever felt.
And I can forget about sitting down. Sitting down. What a ridiculous concept. The mere idea of me sitting down makes her begin to wail all over again…forget about it if I come even close to actually letting my butt hit the rocking chair…the squatting motion must cause her to feel like I broke her leg because that is how intensely she cries.
Then I changed her into her pajamas, and finally rocked her to sleep. I felt my blood pressure lower with her eyelids… when she was out cold, I gently put her in the car seat attached to the stroller.
And I felt that overwhelming sense of relief that parents of infants feel when they are finally asleep. The only thing I can compare it to is the feeling you got when you would study really hard for a midterm and as you handed it in, the weight of the world would lift off your shoulders and you would think – “I survived, I made it.”
Sweet relief. But this emotion was complimented with a tinge of something else I couldn’t put my finger on.
Desperate not to wake her, this is how she slept last night from 9pm to 3:30am – a very long stretch for my little Ellie.
My sister suggested I leave her in the car seat as long as she slept, and I clearly agreed in this practical parenting approach.
At 3:30am I fed her, and she went back to sleep until 7:30am (without the car seat) and then I fed her again and she slept until 10am.
So much sleeping, so little fussing…something felt odd.
We had yet another delightful day today and right around 6pm Ellie started the crying, screaming, hating life routine. I pleaded with her, I started sweating, the minutes felt like hours.
I gave her a bath which only gives her time to relax and really save up the screaming for when I remove her from the bath. I dressed her and rocked her and she was sound asleep by 8:45pm and I put her down in her crib, which is where she is right now.
As I tiptoed out of the bedroom, and I walked into the living room thinking “thank god I made it through another day” while I picked up her little clothes that were strewn across the living room.
I looked at the tiny little socks, and miniature bell bottoms and I suddenly missed her. And I realized that no matter how relieved I am when she is asleep, the moment she isn’t in my arms I begin to miss her. Like a lot. And the kid is only 15 feet away.
How crazy is that? She screams, I cry and then she finally drifts off to sleep and I miss her.
And this led me to my conclusion that parenting is an oxymoron of emotion. Add it to the list of things I didn’t know before now. And even though the short leash that is breast feeding makes me feel completely suffocated at times, the thought of nursing Ellie for the last time brings tears to my eyes.
I can only imagine the dichotomy of emotion my parents felt at so many stages of me and my sister’s lives. Sweet relief, tinged with sadness…and then, of course, absolute panic when they realized we would never actually move out and hand over the house keys. Like I said in an earlier post – parenting is really forever.
But in all seriousness, this is just the most bizarre tugging at my heart I have ever felt. And now that I think about it, it’s not two separate oxymoronic emotions – it is one emotion unique to parenting. It’s amazing and paralyzing all at the same time.
And to think, a year ago at this time, I never knew that this emotion even existed.
I think Joel Siegel put into perspective for me in his book, “Lessons For Dylan” when he quoted a friend talking about kids. The friend said, “The days take forever, but the years go by in a minute.”
Well at least now I can brace myself.