What happens when dreams don’t come true?

20170531_120020When I was pregnant with my first child something hit me and it wasn’t just that I’d probably never fit in a size 4 again or that I was about to create human food with my boobs (still amazes me).

It hit me that as soon as the baby was born it would no longer be about me. Not about my wants. Not about my needs. But especially, not about my dreams.

I’ve always called myself a dreamer. When I was a little girl I’d tell my grandparents that when I grew up I was going to live on a ranch with hundreds of horses. At least a dozen dogs. A few cats. And a pet parrot. All in a major city where ice cream parlors were open 24/7 and I could have any type of food delivered whenever I wanted. (1/3 and a half of that dream has come true. Yelp will bring me Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles RIGHT NOW if I really want them to).

By the time I was finally pregnant, which felt like a dream into itself considering the hoops I jumped through to get there, my dreams had evolved a bit. I wanted to split my time between California and Hawaii. To own ocean side property in both places (though I still would love to have a ranch). I wanted a big, beautiful life full of children and good friends and interesting experiences. And to write books. All the books.

The dream of wanting to be an author who made money writing and selling books was very much alive in me before my baby girl was conceived and it was very much alive after. Because having her made me more focused, more determined, and in many ways, more creative. But now I DID feel like my dreams weren’t as important as her existence. Someday her dreams should and would overshadow mine. Wasn’t that how it was supposed to be? Just as I suspected, her well-being was the driver of my dream ship and my goals would have to stay in the backseat until she was safely out of medical school. Or so I thought.

When I got into to Pitch Wars, the biggest writing contest around, I was ecstatic. Maybe the five years it took me to write my first novel was finally going to pay off. I was sure I was closer to getting paid to write books. If I was getting paid then I’d be helping provide for my family which meant writing wouldn’t feel frivolous anymore. It wouldn’t be just a dream. And then I could justify the financial expense of hiring a babysitter so I could write more. And could then justify the emotional expense, and resulting guilt, of ignoring my children to focus on writing even more books.

Months went by of editing. Kids were still loved, despite my focus elsewhere for several hours a day. Milestones still reached, despite a little extra time on YouTube. Life unfolded like the piles of laundry my newly walking son throws about from the clean clothes basket.

And then at the end of the contest agents actually wanted to read my book!

And then, after months of waiting, agents rejected my book. Lots and lots of agents.

There wasn’t enough romance in the beginning. The main character might offend readers. It was funny and the writing good, but agent so and so just didn’t love it enough to try to sell it. Women’s Fiction readers might not like a character whose main goal in life is to marry for money. And on and on. I was close. But I wasn’t close enough.

There were olive branches of hope sent my way – like when an agent I love and admire told me I was “obviously very talented” and should “write another book.” Write. Another. Book. But not getting an offer of representation, especially with two young children to love on, a house to clean, and no money to show for the hours I spent dreaming, made me question all over again my goal of being a novelist. Writing books, good books, takes lots of time.

And writing time meant missing out on playing with my daughter.

Reading to my son.

More screen time for both.

Writing time meant a little more Mac and Cheese, a little less from scratch.

Without representation, writing would continue to feel like an indulgence, not a career. Back to just a dream again. Like beachfront property in Lanikai. Or that horse ranch.

And so for the last few months, I’ve written a whole lot less. Even if I did stop sulking months ago that Pitch Wars didn’t end in an agent for me. Speaking of which, the biggest thing I took from the Pitch Wars experience, aside from an awesome mentor and new friends, was that most of the time it’s not your first book that snags you a deal.  In fact, many of my fellow mentees wrote several very rejected books before finally securing book deals. But something else was keeping me from making progress on my new project. Every time I sat down to write I was consumed with guilt.

I told myself, “Why are you doing this if there’s no guarantee you’ll get paid” and “Even your second book might not result in a deal.” But the worst of them all was this line of internal dialogue: “You’re being a bad mom by choosing to focus on writing instead of your kids. Instead of taking them to XYZ class. Instead of making their Wednesday a Pinterest board of magical muffin madness.”

So I backed off for a while. And not only was I unhappy, but I was more anxious. More frayed. I wasn’t as present. I felt unsettled. Like I was about to go on a long trip and had forgotten something. Like I had misplaced my phone or my sunglasses without the hope of ever finding them again. Being a Stay At Home was a huge gift and blessing, why didn’t it feel like enough?

When we were on our family vacation, I asked a friend with older children what he thought the most important ingredient was in the recipe for healthy, happy, and successful kids.

It wasn’t the schools they went to, he said. Not the neighborhood they lived in. Not how much money they had. It wasn’t the level of education parents achieved or the kind of house they bought or didn’t buy. The most important thing, he said, was the example the parents set. HOW the parents LIVED. I knew this. Of course, I knew this. But hearing him say it flipped one big light switch inside me.

By NOT writing, I was telling my children it’s okay to give up on their dreams. I was telling them that you should walk away if the payout isn’t immediate.

By NOT taking time away from them to work on my next book, I was missing out on the opportunity to show my children what hard work and sacrifice and perseverance are all about.

By NOT making myself and my creative needs important, I was setting the example that self-care doesn’t matter. (This also went for exercising and taking a shower now and then too ;)).

By NOT taking time to do what I loved, I was saying that passion doesn’t count.

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I returned from that trip with a fire reignited in my heart. If I want my daughter to reach for the stars, I have to reach for them with her. If I want my son to be brave enough to go down the biggest slide, I have to be brave too. Brave enough to get hurt a little. To fail. To face rejection after rejection – the same kind we’ll all face in small and big quantities for our entire lives. I have to write not just for my dreams, but for theirs.

My children’s needs will always come before my own. I’ll always feed them first. See to it that they’re safe before I am. I was right to smart at the sting of that realization when it hit me. Balancing their care and my own isn’t an easy feat. But by pursuing my own goals, I’m literally drawing a map for them. A guide of what to DO to obtain the unique things they’ll someday want in life. Even if those things are BIG and scary and difficult to achieve – like making a living as an author.

Mom Hair

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The other day I posted a picture of my feet strapped into a pair of new Target sandals. These cute little gladiator spin-offs with a wraparound ankle strap were the first non-athletic shoe purchase I’ve made post-partum. And by post-partum I mean I’m already one whole year into motherhood the second time around (is that even considered post-partum? Because I still feel like I JUST had a baby). My Target sandals are cute, cheap, and comfortable, a purchase home run into the stands of mom land. So, of course, I was excited to share pictures of them with my five Instagram followers.

Within minutes of posting I got a text message from my best friend: “GET A PEDICURE ASAP” it read. When I looked back at the picture, I saw how right she was. My right toenail was practically curling over like a witches’ talon it was so long and my left was sporting a jagged edge that looked like it could cut a person. In a world of glossy nail art and all the hashtags, my unpolished, unbuffed nails just didn’t belong. I couldn’t (and still can’t) remember the last time I sat uninterrupted in a vibrating chair at the nail salon. This got me thinking about how much my beauty regime has changed since having not one, but TWO, human beings to take care of.

Hair

Remember when regular haircuts and highlights were a thing? There was an actual time in the history of my existence as an adult person with a bank account where I observed the “every 6 weeks” for a haircut rule. I laugh thinking about that now.
With my first kid, it was months before I thought to address my reverse skunk stripe. I remember finding some woman in my local mom’s Facebook group to come highlight my hair at home so I could continue breastfeeding my ten week old, who refused the bottle, on demand. This was a disaster. My baby screamed the entire time, the poor stylist got hair bleach on her black pants because I tried to nurse my squirming daughter under the cape, and half my hair turned out white. Not blonde. We’re talking white like a snow leopard white. This debacle forced me to book an expensive and even more time consuming corrective procedure – months later – because I hadn’t found a babysitter I trusted right when it happened.
So when baby number two came along, I was two years into the best thing ever to happen to mom life: Ombre. Easy. Low maintenance. The perfect style for my budget and new lifestyle. Is the ombre trend over? I’m not sure I care. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Even if fashion tells you otherwise.
But when I started losing fistfuls of hair three months after the birth of my son, sporting near bald spots at my temples and scraggly strands that make the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock look like hair models, I was forced to chop the locks. Forced. The thought of sitting under bad lighting with a bunch of outdated magazines when there were kitchens to clean, kids to kiss, and books to write did not sound appealing.
When I finally did it, cut my hair shorter than it’s ever been and updated my Ombre, I DID feel better. But not better enough to come back for round two anytime soon. I’m a twice a year kind of girl these days. And now that I rarely blow dry, flat iron, or curl my hair because I never leave this prison I call my home (kidding!), I actually think things have balanced out. My hair is healthier and my pocketbook is too.

Waxing

I got waxed in various places every month before I became a mother.
After my daughter was born, I tangled with the torture a few times a year.
By now I’ve given up on the illusion that I’m part of the hairless cat family. And that at home laser I dropped entirely too much on? I’ve used it once. It just takes too freaking long. I rather spend the extra time doing something I enjoy in those rare quiet mom moments instead of having hot wax slathered on places I probably shouldn’t show anyone but my husband. Lucky for all of you, I won’t be posting any close-ups of my bikini area anytime soon OR probably ever.

Nails

As discussed above, I just don’t have the time. I mean, you make time for the things you care about, so maybe I just don’t care. As much I’d love to have charms dangling from my nails like a Kardashian they’d last for all of five minutes. I’d probably lose one in my toddler’s smoothie (where I hide all the green things) or I’d snap them all off in anger one morning because long nails and kid sweater buttons are like environmentalists at a Trump convention: frustrated and depressing.

For now, I’ll settle on polish less short nails that look healthy-ish because I’m not shlacking them with toxic paint. Or at least that’s what I’ll tell myself when my best friend comes over with her newly applied spring pedicure and I dream about how nice it would be to spend forty-five minutes being doted on by my neighborhood nail ladies. Okay, maybe I kind of care.

Makeup

I love it. I will always love it. What else can I thank for making me look half alive for the family photos I took two weeks after my son was born? Or for reuniting me with the wild hot pink lipstick wearing single girl from my youth? While my habits have changed – I’m more a mascara and tinted chapstick kind of person on the every day – I still love the way makeup can make me feel beautiful and glamorous. It’s just that now I’m a lot more comfortable leaving the house without it. That’s probably the greatest unconventional gift my children have given me – I’m 50% less vain and 100% happier because of it.

Motherhood has drastically changed my beauty budget, my grooming habits (whole weeks will go by without so much as a lick of deodorant gracing my armpits, but that’s a whole different story), and the level of time and energy I spend on my looks. But I still do like to get pretty. Hopefully my red-lipstick-just-because days, for example, are teaching my daughter and my son that it’s okay to want to feel beautiful. To have fun with your appearance. To get creative with your look. But it’s okay to skip the salon too, let those roots grow dark, and those nails grow natural. When beauty is taking time away from the things you love, it’s not worth it.

A Thank You to My Second Born


Something special happened for me when you were born dear second child. When you were freshly plucked from my insides like a juicy little strawberry and held into the air for me to see, I exhaled all the worry I’d carried with me before that moment. And from then on being a mom has been easier. Lighter. Decidedly more delightful. Dare I say, it’s been even better than it was the first time around?

With your older sibling, I spent so much time worrying. In hindsight, I was miserable. I had a near mental breakdown because the first outfit home from the hospital wasn’t Instagram-worthy perfection. I worried about baby body temperature to the point of putting good old Goldlilocks to shame in my quest for “just right.” I insisted on what felt like sub-artic temperatures on the thermostat and full blast ceiling fans because SIDS. I worried about milestone charts and eye contact and frequency of smiles to the point of practically burning out my smartphone from so much Googling. I worried about some very dark things, like a rogue semi truck slamming me and my SUV into oblivion on those rare occasions I’d leave the house without your beautiful older sibling. That’s not even touching on the skeletons in the closet that came knocking when your sister was born. My level of worry probably wasn’t healthy, but it’s the only way I knew how to cope with being a new Mom.

You see with your sweet big sister, I had to relearn who I was. I had to face all the complicated parts of my own childhood in the process. Each sleepless night, each party I passed up to stay home in the cocoon of new motherhood, each month that went by caring for a helpless creature was a step closer to better knowing myself as a mom, and therefore better preparing me for you, my second born.

It’s like baby number one let loose a tsunami of emotion, one that crashed down on an unprepared village – me and your father – leaving behind only ruins to rebuild. We’d read the books. We’d done the classes. We’d consulted friends. No stroll through Buy Buy Baby to curate our registry was ever going to truly ready us for parenthood. And so we fumbled through the first years with your sister, honing our mom and dad skills until you came around. The moment you were born we were already experts. It’s amazing how a little confidence can change everything.

Just by being number two, you gave us the most precious gift. You are the roof on our rebuilt selves, finally making us the parents we were meant to be. We could enjoy your newborn rawness without fear that you’d never wake from your sleepy newness to join us in consciousness. We could trudge through that first month of agonizing night feedings knowing it would end – making it as sweet as lost sleep can be. We could skip late night hours spent feverishly scanning message boards, knowing that a combination of behavior and instinct would help tell us when something wasn’t right. You let us enjoy the things that we stressed out about the first time around.

When your sister was born we still had one foot out the door in the game of parenting. We didn’t realize it until you came along. But with you darling number two, you brought the other foot back underneath us where it belongs. Thank you for all the big picture things you’ve given us and the sweet little things too. For letting us steal those extra kisses on your soft baby boy belly. For laughing every time we try to eat your toes. For crawling toward us with reckless abandon. For helping your older sister get over her fear of the Roomba. Whether it’s a second child thing, or just you being you, thank you. You’re so darn wonderful, we’d even consider something crazy – doing it all over again.

It’s Okay Mama

It’s okay mama. It’s okay that you bought the original goldfish crackers because your toddler wanted them instead of the organic bunny knock off ones that don’t taste as good. Yes there may be some moms out there who will judge you, but it’s okay. And that’s just silly anyway. Processed food is processed food no matter the label you slap on it.

It’s okay that you decided to fall down an internet shaped rabbit hole for an hour today while your kid watched You Tube videos on repeat. Mama, trust me on this one, it’s totally okay. If you read a few extra books at bedtime tonight to compensate, it’s okay too. And if you don’t read any books at all today, no one will die.

It’s okay mama to not look at your dog the same way. To have a Facebook feed that reminds you that 4 years ago you posted picture after picture of your rescue pup’s big brown eyes. And now the only pictures you’re putting out there are of your gorgeous baby, obviously, and MAYBE a sliver of tail in the background or half a paw. Your dog loves you anyway, I promise.

It’s okay to be weirdly relieved when your kid isn’t the only one crying at the birthday party. Or to be really annoyed when your kid IS the only one crying. Or to be the one crying. Mama I promise, it’s okay.

It’s okay if you’re not swimming in mom friends. If you don’t have a village to help support you through the newborn phase, the one kid into two phase, the baby to toddler phase. Maybe you just moved thousands of miles away from family. Or don’t get along with your family. Or don’t have any family at all. Maybe your marriage is on the rocks. Maybe it isn’t and you feel isolated all the same. Maybe you’re a single mom just trying to make it through each day without losing your shit. Or you’re a mama with social anxiety. Or a mama with a traumatic past. Or a mama with all of the above. I’m here to tell you it’s okay. You’re enough.

It’s okay to not be the fun mom. The creative mom. The Instagram perfect mom. The take a picture of every milestone and share it with the world mom. Maybe your life doesn’t resemble an inspirational life quote meme and it’s okay. (It’s also pretty cool if you are that mom, and I’ll be honest, we’re all a little jealous of you. And even THAT is okay).

It’s okay to not be okay. To strongly dislike your post-partum body. To not think your c section scar is a work of art. To wish you didn’t have wounds that make pregnancy and child birth look like it’s a battle. Even though everything about it is worth it, and so much about it is beautiful, some parts of it might not be pretty to you, and it’s okay.

It’s okay to be sad, mama, for the you you’ve lost. And to still be getting to know this new version, this mom you, months, even years later. It’s okay mama, it really is, to be annoyed with your childless friends because they’re annoyed with you. Annoyed that you’re not the same. That you bend to bedtimes and seek out kid menus and can’t brunch for four hours on a Sunday. It’s okay that you’ve changed. It’s pretty awesome actually how gracefully you’ve left your old life behind.

Motherhood can be lonely and claustrophobic and emotionally draining at times. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. To feel tired. To want to be the kid instead of the mama now and then. It doesn’t mean you adore your little humans any less.

It’s okay if you love most of it. Hate parts of it. And want to keep your kids in the safety of your home forever one minute and set them free the next. Being a mom is awe inspiring and complicated and scary. And you’re doing better than just okay, mama, you’re doing great!

 

Seen, Not Heard: Crying Babies, Airplanes, & Tootsie Pops

baby crying airplane photo

When my daughter was almost three months old, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Hawaii.

Like many new mothers who would travel for the first time with a baby, I was terrified.

What if I had the kid that kept everyone from feeling the Aloha?

You know the one. The baby on the plane who does not stop crying. FOR HOURS.

I mean, my daughter was borderline colicky, wailing it out at the witching hour with the worst of them. It was horrible, and confusing, and exhausting, but it appeared she was finallygrowing out of it. I hoped.

But what if she wasn’t?

Babies are unpredictable. In three months of mothering, I didn’t know much, but that was one thing I knew for sure. There was a fifty fifty chance that baby girl would freak the f out. The noise. The altitude. All the strangers. Plus, I worried that my fear of flying would somehow rub off on her.

So, I decided to follow the lead of an adorable Pinterest photo I’d seen. I put together consolation prizes for the poor passengers seated next to us.

The night before our trip, I spent hours filling plastic baggies with tootsie pops and ear plugs. I wasted entirely too much paper in my attempt to get the font size just right on the note I included the one apologizing for any crying before it happened. I sacrificed valuable sleep to preemptively make my fellow travelers a little more comfortable.

But, of course, no ear plugs were necessary and my kid was a glowing example of what traveling with a child can be like. Easy-ish, all the gear and diaper changes in small spaces aside.

So when I recently saw a mom friend sharing pictures of the in-flight, I’m-sorry-my-kid-might-cry goodie bags she made, practically identical to my own, and likely also inspired by some Pinterest travel board somewhere out there on the internet, I started thinking.

I started thinking about how you don’t see the guy with the bad gas writing notes to his fellow travelers apologizing that he smells like a dozen sick chickens have hatched rotten eggs inside him. (What’s the difference between him and a baby? HE can control himself, save a medical condition).

Or what about the old lady in the wheelchair? The one who gets to disembark before anyone else does. Sure she holds up the line, but you don’t hear her grown children asking the flight attendants to make an announcement thanking everyone for being decent human beings. Nor should they have too.

Because farts happen. People get sick. People age. And you know what else is a natural part of life? Babies. And babies cry. Sometimes a lot. And it really isn’t fun for anyone. But that’s the way it’s been for always. And the fact that babies cry definitely doesn’t warrant dirty looks and parent shaming. Nor does it require consolation prizes.

Recently we had some people staying at our vacation rental near the beach. When they arrived, I asked the typical, “How was your flight?” question. They replied with a rant about a brat on the plane who wouldn’t shut up. This they clearly blamed on the brat’s incompetent parents.  They took personal offense to the crying baby and the miserable people who made it.

In their defense, I’d probably have said something too, if asked. I’ve suffered through more crying than I ever thought possible before becoming a parent. Crying is brutal. It assaults the senses like nothing else can. But still, had these vacationers been seated next to an obese person, giving them a little less leg room, for example, I highly doubt they’d have had the audacity to vent about THAT with such obvious disdain. Kids and their parents seem to be the one group left available for bullying without consequences.

Nowadays, we’re bombarded with social media messages that we shouldn’t be sorry. We shouldn’t be sorry for our post-partum bodies. We shouldn’t be sorry for our messy houses. We shouldn’t be sorry for breastfeeding or not breastfeeding. There’s a whole list of things we have permission to no longer be sorry for. So should we really be begging for forgiveness from people we don’t know for something that’s as synonymous with life as breathing? Should we really be losing sleep in our attempt to placate our fellow passengers with candy and ear plugs? Part of me thinks crying happens dear riders of the headache inducing skies, so get over it.

We’ve come a long way from the “Children are to be seen, and not heard” generation, but I think we still have a long way to go in building the new village. I picture the new village as one in which we have understanding and patience and respect for the littlest among us. Their crying included. Clearly, there’s work to be done to foster a culture that is kind to those that might slow down the herd or, God forbid or prevent you from enjoying your airline peanuts in silence if that’s what you call the sound of turbojet engines.

While the issue of crying babies on airplanes seems like an inconsequential one in a news cycle of violence, terrorism, and orange tinged politics, this matters too. Being tolerant of the inconveniences imposed upon us by those that further the species, and being kind to the people who choose to raise them is important. That baby on the airplane you wish you could gag with your neck pillow might be wiping your behind in the rest home someday.

So would I do it over again? Waste sleep and money on bags of candy for people I don’t know and probably will never see again, simply because my kid might make someone miserable for a few hours? Simply because my kid might do what kids, by nature, are prone to do?

Absolutely.

In addition to tolerance, the world needs a little more sweetness. And if my now three-month-old son’s adorable, innocent face doesn’t do it for you. Maybe a tootsie pop will.

The Hardest Part

It was a typical end of the week afternoon in my backyard when I realized what I dislike most about being a mom.

My single best friend had stopped by for a visit. She was attempting to entertain my kids while I grilled dinner, me cursing myself for not bringing home a Costco rotisserie chicken instead all because of some article I read about the dangers of carrageenan.

In between baby coos, and trying to dissuade my toddler from feeding dog kibble to her stuffed animals, my friend and I talked about her Friday night plans, because of course I didn’t have any beyond DVR.

She, on the other hand, had options.

The kind single girls dream of.

Reservations at a swanky restaurant was option one. Jazz and wine at the Museum of Modern Art was another. Meeting up at a new gastropub downtown was a third.

In an hour or so, she’d leave me to bedtime routines and cranky babies, when she’d scurry off to luxuriate in a long uninterrupted shower before slinking into any number of in-the-moment outfits. She’d then head out into the night, the possibilities as fragrant as her perfume. Her mind swarming with thoughts of work and wine. She’d probably get drunk. She’d probably order late night takeout. She might even kiss a stranger. My friend could be recklessly irresponsible if she wanted to, answering to no one.

Picturing all that lay ahead, for both of us, was when I realized what the hardest part of parenting is. And it isn’t what I thought it would be.

It isn’t the poosplosions. The goriest of them always happening when you’ve forgotten the extra wipes or spare outfit or when you’re wearing white.

It isn’t the stretch marks. Oh the stretch marks. No hundred dollar cream or magic potion is ever going to restore the skin on my hips to what it once was.

It isn’t the crying. The newborn colic crying. The 6 month old teething crying. The toddler tantrum crying. The just because I want to annoy you crying. The two children at once crying. While pretty freaking awful, it isn’t even the crying. Though there’s no other more disconcerting sound in the world than a child in pain, be that pain real or imagined.

It isn’t the mess.

The expense.

The discomfort of having to hold your own pee, to deal with someone else’s.

The hardest part isn’t even the sleep deprivation. I thought the sleep thing would be easier the second time around. I was wrong.

Car keys have ended up in the freezer. I’ve slept through my first born LOUDLY dumping a bottle of Kefir on the master bedroom floor.  There have been moments of exhaustion so poignant, with both children, that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to wake up again.

The hardest part isn’t any of those things, though admittedly, they do suck. No one likes the smell of fermented dairy products in their brand new carpet.

The most difficult thing about being a mom is something I still struggle with, two kids and two years later.

It’s that I’ll never truly feel free again.

I’ll never get lost in the night like I did before my kids were born. Never again will I float from place to place on a whim, dashing from one exciting oyster pearl of a party to another, via smoky cabs and forgotten conversations with the people who drive them (way back then 3 years ago Uber wasn’t a thing) with nothing on my mind but the moment. I won’t be able to let go like that, to lose track of time. Not on a dance floor, or, even, on a long run. My kids will always be clouding my judgment, shaping my decisions, deciding my night.

Realizing I’ll never be able to set out into the world without my babies and not constantly feel the pull back to them, as if a magnetic umbilical cord is still attached, fills me with both joy and a strange a sense of loss.

Sure, I’ll hire a babysitter like everyone else does. Have dinner. Drinks even. See a movie. Mingle at a party. And dance, I’ll probably even dance. But a part of me, almost all of me, if I’m honest, will have one foot already out the door, in a rush to get back home to peak in to see if the humans I helped create are still breathing.

I’m wistful for my emotional independence, I really am. Because I can’t even run to Target alone without missing them. Worrying for them. Hoping with every pang in my heart that they’re okay.

That’s when it hits me, how close my wings have been clipped. It’s exhausting loving little people this much. And while my kids are the best thing that has ever happened to me, the lack of freedom a love like this entails is the hardest part of parenting, hands down.