It's bluebonnet season here in Texas. Like so many things about this wild western place, spring is both lush with beauty and fraught with peril. The beauty of the wildflowers and the mild perfection of the weather make the temptation to spend time outdoors pretty much irresistible. Sounds great, but lurking beneath that field of bluebonnets and Indian blankets is a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike. Floating within that comfortable spring breeze is a barrage of pollen waiting to steal your breath, choke your throat, and muddle your head.
It's hard to breath. It's hard to think. My throat stings. My head hurts and my eyes burn. Every morning I wake up with a head full of congealed misery. Allergies in central Texas are no joke, and I've learned that for me and Scott, they are a year-round battle. I never feel quite right anymore, and during certain times of year the discomfort boils over into something that is borderline debilitating. I spend every day battling through fatigue and a constant feeling of illness - trying to somehow keep up with the mountains of dishes and laundry, the piles of work and upcoming deadlines, and maybe hardest of all - coping with a little boy who is feeling the full effects of Texas allergies for the very first time.
He doesn't feel good and it's making life very hard for both of us. He's become my constant shadow, clinging to me morning, noon, and night. We made the decision several months ago to pull him from pre-school for both financial and emotional reasons. We simply couldn't afford his tuition, but aside from that our boy had been struggling with morning drop-offs almost every day for months. The running, screaming, crying, and clinging would lighten up by every Friday, but on Monday it would return with a vengeance. No matter how I tried to justify the behavior, or rationalize my guilt, going through that every morning was tough.
To make matters worse, he was struggling to fit in at Montessori. Our little wild child had a hard time sitting still, staying quiet, and following instructions in the serene and orderly setting I'd placed him in. His teacher was a very sweet woman with a kind and loving nature, but I sometimes got the feeling that she simply didn't know what to do with him. As usual, she assumed his behavior was the result of a lack of "constraints at home" - a hard criticism for this highly engaged mother to hear. Later, when we got C evaluated for Sensory Processing Disorder, we were able to finally understand how things were from his point of view. Some kids aren't built to sit still and listen quietly.
So now he is home with me, and I make time for work by swapping care time with my sister two mornings a week and hiring a nanny for three or four mornings every week. I also work during nap time and during the afternoons that Scott is home from work. While I rarely work for eight hours in a row, I almost always end up working seven days a week. Scott recently started mowing lawns and doing handyman work in his spare time, so his days "off" are now spent working too. Whatever time is left over is spent giving our undivided attention to C. He spends every Monday morning and every afternoon and evening all week with at least one of us by his side. But if you ask him, that's not enough - not by a long shot.
Scott and I love C's nanny. She's responsible and kind, patient and caring, and energetic enough to keep up with C all day long. C really likes her too, as evidenced by his chatter during her days off. But even with the perfect nanny, C can't seem to deal with being separated from Mama - even when I'm just in the next room! Every work day lately comes with an unsettling soundtrack of 2 3/4 year old sobbing. Every 20 minutes or so he bolts into my room, crawls into my lap, and does everything he can think of to stall his ejection. Sometimes he covers me in kisses and pouts about how much he loves me and misses me. Sometimes he growls and snarls at our nanny, proclaiming his hatred for her in surprisingly clear and stinging words. Most times he demands "baboo" (his word for nursing) and spends his time wiggling in my lap with his hands down my shirt.
It's gotten so bad lately that I end up spending a good half of my workday trying to convince him to give me some space. Even after work, when we are simply existing together, he is beyond clingy. He cries in the car - begging me to sit in the backseat because he "so loves me" or is "so lonely". Every night he wakes in his own bed and immediately rushes to mine. Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes he is angry. Either way there are usually plenty of questions and accusations from him to me. Why did I leave his room? Why wasn't I there when he woke up? Why do I want to sleep with Daddy instead of with him?
Last night I had to go number two with him sitting on my lap. He refused to leave the room, or even my arms, for long enough for me to use the bathroom. It's getting so intense lately that I can't get anything done without his interruption. He'll either sob and cry to stop me from doing the dishes or folding laundry or find something nearby to destroy or endanger himself with. The only thing that will keep him occupied long enough for me to even shower is television. I hate leaning on it as a babysitter, but I find myself using it more and more just to get through the day. It's one of those things leaves me feeling defeated. I never wanted to be that kind of parent.
Lately I've started to wonder what this mommy-obsession is all about. Is it a symptom of his SPD? Is he extra clingy because he doesn't feel good? Is it just a phase - something that all kids go through at this age? Am I working too much? Not spending enough time with him? Or is it that I spend TOO much time with him? Have I done this to him somehow? Am I too affectionate, too snuggly, too doting or permissive? Will he EVER stop nursing? Go potty? Adapt to a school setting? Right now, it's hard to believe any of that is on the horizon.
I love this kid so much - SO MUCH. He makes me happy every day. Being with him and being his mama fills my heart and soul in a way that nothing else has. Still - I value my career. It's something I've worked hard to attain and as crazy as it might sound, I LIKE working. I need to work. I need to make and create and write and share. Every time I think we've finally found a way to make time for me to do my thing it seems to crumble. Daycare ended in flames. Montessori wasn't sustainable. The nanny seemed perfect! The best of both worlds - part time care with mom nearby for hug breaks and sick days. The first few weeks with our nanny was amazing. I got SO much done. I was incredibly productive while C was happy visiting the zoo, doing gymnastics, or exploring our neighborhood park. Lately he refuses to leave the house with her and stubbornly clings to me throughout the day no matter how we try to entice him toward the door.
I'm not sure what to do next. How do we help this little boy learn that it's okay to stray from Mama's side? How do I prove to him that I love him no matter where he goes, and that I will always ALWAYS come back? How do I show him that growing up, getting bigger, and moving on from babyhood is a good thing? How do I balance his constant need for my attention with my own need to be productive and creative?
Life with C is a beautiful field of wildflowers. His presence floods my senses with joy and wonder. But we struggle through the beauty - each of us trying desperately to grow and thrive during a time that drains our resources and denies our desires. We're both pushing the boundaries of our worlds to see how far they stretch, testing the length of our tethers to each other, and having mixed feelings about growing up and apart a little more every day. I try to remind him that I'll always be his Mama, no matter how big he gets, where he goes, or what happens next. He just holds on tighter, begging me to always stay.