I wanted to cry.
I expected to make my way home with wet salty tears streaming down my cheeks, dripping from my chin, and staining my jacket. But they just wouldn’t form beneath my eyelids. Perhaps it was that familiar numbness that lives in the hollows of my soul shielding me from emotional collapse as it does from time to time. Or maybe it was constant exhaustion that blocked them from falling.
But, without a doubt, I was in the throes of the most stressful and emotionally draining two weeks since my son was born. He had caught a cold that quickly transitioned into a stomach virus (marked with frequent projectile vomiting and countless trips to the laundry room) that then ended with fluid on his lungs and in his ears. We also had to deal with the unexpected and unwanted arrival of his secondary molars. As if all of that was not enough, I had the flu and picked up his stomach virus. This kept me out of work and him out of nursery school for a week.
One afternoon, in a desperate attempt to relieve the both of us of the cabin fever that was driving us completely nuts, I decided that we would run some errands and then drive to one of our favorite pizza shops for lunch. Bad idea. I forgot that outings with my son were no longer easy breezy. Toddler rebellion now rules the day. No longer does he reach up happy to hold my hand. Instead, he does everything in his power, including staring for minutes mesmerized at sights that he has seen a thousand times. Or ambling behind me at a snail’s pace, to avoid both my hand and me. Then there is the obligatory writhing, kicking, and screaming when I scoop him up in my arms to prevent him from waddling into the street, introducing his face to someone’s legs, or colliding into a tree.
On this day, the streets were filled with weekend shoppers, restaurant patrons, and, unexpectedly, the cops. With an audience of adoring smiles all around him, apparently my son thought it was the perfect time to “go zero to 100 real quick” in the words of rapper Drake. After the 20 minutes it took to cross a street and walk half a block, I impatiently scooped him up into my arms. As expected, he stiffened his body in an attempt to prevent me from holding him as he screeched and wailed louder and louder. His flailing and kicking caused him to slowly inch down my side and waist, as I struggled to carry him and our lunch without dropping either. Despite the 30 degree temperature, sweat saturated my hairline underneath my floppy knit hat as I weaved through a sea of disapproving stares. I was suddenly dwarfed by the obvious judgment that surrounded me. The multitude of eyes said it all–that I had no control over my kid, that I should let him walk if he wanted to walk, that I had no patience, that I was the negative in this equation.
All I wanted to do was make it to my car, my zone of safety. I figured if I could just make it to the car, there would be no more scrutiny, no more eyes of judgment. But then there was the cop. As I fumbled to quickly strap my screaming son into his car seat so that we could make our get-away, a cop manning a nearby luxury building construction site watched intently. I could see the conflict all over his face. Should he come over and question whether everything was alright or should he chalk the scene up to exactly what it was–a child turning all the way up on his undeserving frustrated mother? Making sure that there was no child abuse or abduction in progress, he kept his distance, but watched closely as I got into the car and pulled off.
The days that followed were made even more hair-pulling thanks to my son’s secondary molars. They continued to break through and break up the peace in our home. All of the signature sweetness had vacated his little body. He was now demanding, totally uncooperative, whinny, and downright miserable. He cried incessantly. No more did I see the beautiful smile that could light up any room. It had been replaced with an ever ready scowl of aggravation. On the few days that I was able to send him to school, his teacher reported that although not himself, he gave no trouble and quietly played or kept to himself. But when I picked him up, from that moment and for the rest of the night, his sole objective seemingly was to torture me. To make me pay for every ounce of discontent that he felt. He cried and screamed at the top of his lungs. He didn’t want to play. Didn’t want to bathe. Didn’t want to eat. Didn’t want to sleep. Didn’t want me to hold him. He was hopelessly inconsolable.
These were the days that tears flowed freely from my eyes. I called my mother around the clock desperate for her to tell me how to make it stop–how to make him stop. These were the days that I thought that I was going to lose my mind. These were the days that I never imagined when I longingly dreamt of motherhood. These were the days that I questioned my decision and ability to be a single-mother.
Gradually, the clouds that loomed above us for weeks began to lift. There were glimmers of my sweet little boy returning. The little smiles. The hugs and kisses. A dance step here and there to his favorite tunes. Even on the morning of a snow storm, as we made our third trip to the doctor in 10 days amidst biting cold and sticky flurries, he was cooperative, loving and, once again, the two-year old I love most in the whole world.
Recently, I came across a quote. “It’s just a bad day, not a bad life.”
In our case, there had been several bad days. More than either of us wanted or needed. But whether it is the terrible-twos, teething troubles, colds, or stomach bugs, these days pale in comparison to the ones filled with laughter, bear hugs, kisses, and the pitter patter of little feet speeding happily around the house.
For without these bad days, I would never know just how good life truly is.