The other night, after the children were asleep, I shut the bathroom door and leaned my back against its solid wood after a long day that seemed like a year of parenting.
There had been meltdowns and screaming matches and not just between siblings. There had been whining and crying and not just by the children. There were toys strewn across the living room, first grade homework assignments piled high on the dining room table, and pieces of artwork plastered on windows with sticky preschooler’s handprints, smearing our view to the outside.
Looking forward to a break from the crazy of parenting a four- and six-year-old, I retreated to the only spa I had access to, my tub. I pulled back the shower curtain to run a bath and reached to turn on the faucet when, to my annoyance, I saw my four-year-old son’s lego Avengers littering the basin of the bath. Stomping my foot I let out a deep and angry growl, similar to how a toddler might throw a tantrum, mine was just the mom version. I held back tears of frustration at having to do one more parenting task of picking up another pile of toys before I could get to my only enjoyable adult-only activity for the day.
Bending to my knees, I reached over the tub’s edge to save Captain America and his shield from his almost fate of being flushed down the drain, and I shook off Spider Man and Iron Man who were still sopping wet as their lego dents held standing water from the afternoon soak they took with my son earlier that day. Needing the three superheroes to dry, I placed them on the edge of the tub, ran my steaming bath, and finally stepped over the Avengers standing guard on the bath’s railing and into the bubbly lavender smelling water. My body sank beneath the suds, and I closed my eyes. I wished I could drift away to a place and time where life was easier as I was tired of being everyone's everything.
Moms don’t get rest. We're told to enjoy the little things while our littles are little. But we are exhausted by the needs that come with tiny humans. Moms don’t get a break. We’re told this will be the best time in your life, but time seems like a strange illusion, almost a cruel magic trick, when parenting young children. Every day seems like a year and each year seems like a day. Mom’s don’t get accolades either. We are told you will never be loved this much again, and I wonder if we are loved so much because we give so much. I ponder all of this as warm water washes over my skin. Rejuvenating my sunken soul. Reviving my body and being. Bringing me back to life.
Opening my eyes, my gaze meets Captain America’s, who is staring at me from the ledge of the tub, like a petrified peeping Tom I just caught in the act, and I laugh out loud at the thought. A satisfied smile creeps across my cheeks, because I remember a time when there were tears shed in the same bathtub because there was only silence in the house and no children to decorate its walls with noise. A single tear of joy rolls down the curve of my face as I add my own drop of wetness into the water, because there was a day when my husband had to pull me out of this same bath basin as I wept in its waters as I wished for a baby to hold. And now there are so many tears in our home, but they are of my babies. No longer do I shed tears of longing for what I now have, but now tears of unfairness and frustration, tears of raw anger and learning-to-regulate rage. I’m grateful now that tears of the growing pains of my children flood our home.
I wink at Captain America as if we exchanged a secret. He doesn’t wink back, but his knowing smile seems to have widened on his face. I say thank you to him out loud for all the times I have been given the privilege to step on his uncomfortable plastic pointy lego hands because he and I both know, he won’t always be here. There will come a time when there won’t always be Avengers in the tub. A time when I won’t love as much or be loved this much again. A day in the far future, not too far away, when windows will be clean and clear with no sticky handprints blurring our vision, and the days will seem like days again and not years and years will once more maybe fall into feeling less fleeting. When a little over a decade from now, new tears will grace my face while I take my bath in the silence of the night, but not because the children are sleeping but because they are grown and gone, and I will look back on the best years of my life, as only a memory of when there were Avengers in the tub.
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