i take photographs of kale and cookies.
of sweaters and small pants made by my hands.
because the real work of my days is invisible.
can i hold him up –
as he squishes himself into his favorite corner of the couch,
crying a smallish whining cry,
because i used the bathroom before i sliced his
can i just grab his small boned shoulders
and shake out the wrinkles and creases
and snap a photo?
with caption: i made this.
he is unformed and unformable-
but somehow the work is to raise him
to guide him
to be with him while he grows.
while he cries and whines over cheese.
as though the previous afternoons voicelessness
(playing with an assertive older child)
is now being mended
by minute upon minute of vocalizing.
not yet three-
still toddler shaped-
kisses at the backs of my knees and says,
i want a happy mama, yes.
yes, i want a happy mama.
i hand wash the cookie baking dish mess
and i sing the farmer and the dell
over and over.
not quiet not loud.
then i hand wash the lunch dishes
even though they could go in the dishwasher.
i am not sure what my move is yet.
i am still singing
and flipping though
the parenting books of my mind.
empathy on the couch?
working at a task calmly instead of getting
sucked into the temper tantrum?
is this too aloof?
is this too reactive?
if i try that will i get frustrated and yell?
are there words?
just a hug?
i am at sea
using my oars not to move towards anything
but to hold steady
uncertain of which way is true north.
bobbing along to the soundtrack of his voice.
bobbling along through the undulations of my reactions to his voice.
the farmer takes a wife, the farmer takes a wife
hi ho the dairy-o the farmer takes a wife.
this invisible life
doesn’t post well on instagram.
this invisible work that doesn’t cease
that is never done.
the floor swept and then spilled on.
the beds made to be slept in.
the food cooked to be eaten and cleaned up and packed away
for the next meal.
the garden watered,
and again the next day.
in childs pose i breathe and then pause at the top of the breath.
here i am. i am here. just here.
it relaxes me somehow.
that time of not breathing.
just being here.
eventually today i will finish the dishes
and he will still be on the couch.
he is still mad about my bodily functions
trumping his parmesan.
i will need to plant the husking cherry tomato seedlings.
she will want to come with me.
i will invite him but he just sits on the couch,
parmesan before potty.
so i will go outside with only her-
still naked but for her shoes-
to the garden.
we will pull a few weeds and plant the seedlings
to the tune of his calling to me from the window.
“mama. mama. mama.”
five years in
i can tell from his tone where he is at
in his cycle of stuckness.
i know that soon it might be possible for him to join us
or that when we head back in he will be ready
for some compromise or small story to bring him around.
(i had to go use the potty again since the parmesan was served.
that is the job.
can i take a photo of that?
the knowing when he is ready to shift.
the knowing which cry means she is physically hurt
and which means she is scared
and which means she is angry.
the pants i can pin and sew
in two days!
the cookies just mix and bake.
the kale was just a seed in dirt.
sun and water. done.
the stream of parenting
these two souls
there is no tidy wrap up
to the other day at the lake
when i so badly want to be accepted
that i found myself
reacting to him
in unkind ways.
then stopped myself and took a moment
to sit down quietly
and wonder, why i am mad at him?
and realize that i was just scared.
scared for me.
that i wanted to be liked.
that i was worried i wouldn’t be.
that all my old familiar insecurities where
for a game of tag
on my playground.
once i found what i was feeling
i was able to calm down.
and then he came up to me,
all smiles and agreeable,
as though our stand off before hadn’t even begun.
and i thought, wow.
is this the way?
but of course
it wasn’t pinned and sewn.
i couldn’t take a photo.
and share it somewhere.
saying, look what i did today.
so the things have to suffice.
the small things.
that mark the way through the days
of the biggest things
i will ever do.