My world shrunk when my belly grew. There’s no doubt that the earliest times of motherhood restricted my community. No one had ever needed me this intensely; and at first, there were not enough hours to give beyond my own home, beyond the present moment.
After my oldest son’s birth, the isolation was a welcome relief — on an introvert-extrovert scale, I’m all the way in. I eased into the continual silence the way I ease into a warm bath. It was all rest and peace, a sweet calming relief from this noisy world.
I met other moms and other littles, but with my first, I could never time his naps or feedings or anything to align with anyone else’s schedule. The vast majority of the time, it was just him and me, me and him — baby blues fixed on mother’s browns. We both erupted with elation when Dada came home each day.
But along the way, my introversion vanished in the presence of other parents. I longed to break the silence, longed to have a little more going on. I talked at the rate I reach when I’m three cups of coffee in. (Okay, maybe I was three or four cups of coffee in each and every day. Don’t judge — sleeping has never been my kids’ strength.)
I was just finding my footing with other mamas when my second son entered the stage. Then, we moved. Three or four cups of coffee didn’t even begin to touch my exhaustion. Those early months were like trying to see some sights at sixty miles an hour. There was no life outside of ourselves. Just a baby, a toddler, a Dad and a disheveled mom. Our lives felt like a red-lined engine. Bursting into flames seemed imminent.
I could never fully appreciate community until my life was nearly void of it. Our own family didn’t feel like a community unto ourselves — our existence was fractured and flimsy, cohesion took a long time. And finding community — well, for me, that takes a long time, too. If I were a patient person, this might have set well with me; however, impatience is my biggest vice. The smallness of my world clenched me like a corset. Many days, I found it hard to breathe.
Now that my youngest is 3, my oldest, nearly 5, I sense a shift of direction, a big bend in our journey, maybe even a change of pace. I’m certain my longing for silence is greater than it’s ever been. I still chug my coffee, still feel on the brink of a breakdown on a regular basis. But our family has become a community.
Just the other day, my youngest told my oldest, “You’re my special friend.” Of course, before I even wiped away the little tear that formed in my eye, they were screaming at each other and fighting over who got a certain toy. Still, there’s more and more light and life breaking through, more and more love to live into.
Recently, we had spring training in our yard. My oldest cheered on my youngest, encouraging him to get a hit. Apologies, sharing, using words, admitting hurt, encouraging, gently pushing each other onward — these are the things that my days are filled with. Life together.
My two boys, husband and I — we are a family, a community. We belong to each other, day in and day out. And as my family has cohesed, my world has expanded. Already, I am certain they are giving me more than I will ever give them. And this world of mothering has given me a community of women at the ready to say “me too” when I sigh about my latest struggles. My boys have launched me into new relationships even though they are simultaneously the ones who have restricted them.
It seems so natural — that our family would be our main community and the jumping board for all other community.
We sharpen each other. They make me want to be better. When they ask me what I said after I mumble under my breath about the car in front of us, I am reminded that four ears are constantly tuning in to my utterances. Suddenly every word matters. They tell me if I am forgetting to speak kindly. I’d like to say that I’m training my children up, but I think they’re the ones training me. This parenting thing is so much more give-and-take and cyclical than I ever imagined, even at this young age.
Cooperation is a constant. My husband and I confer on matters of tantrum taming. We confer over schedules. The boys cooperate with each other — working out toy schedules and turns, striking deals with lawyer-level skills. It seems no decision is singular. Little kids live their interconnectedness loud. I can no longer make a single decision without the profound awareness of another being.
It’s a gift to have their perspective running underfoot. They tether me to the present. I am aware of the future and the past, maybe have some superior knowledge of both, but I think on this matter, childlike is best. They slow me down, sharpen my sight. That I am in community with them — it makes me better.
But their very young, so they need me, too. To teach them, to show them the way. Like all good community the love, sharing, giving, receiving, healing and helping — it’s all mutual and beautiful.
I never expected family life to feel so much like the richest community I’d ever imagined, but with each day, I am more and more grateful that it is.