After sharing some of my grief about mothering last week, I thought today I'd share a little bit about what feels right. I wrote this piece several weeks ago, and I think it helps to explain one of the major internal struggles—and its resolution—that I experience as Daniel's Momma.
As I write this, I'm sitting in my rocking chair—the thinking chair, as Daniel calls it—while he tries to fall asleep.
I rock in this chair at this time almost every day, and it's become a treasured part of our daily routine. It affords me a few moments to sit and relax, to rock myself into the restful pace of nap time. It allows me to block out the light of day for a time and instead enjoy the still darkness of Daniel's cave-like room.
I just finished reading this article by a man who disconnected from the internet for a year, and how he discovered that the internet is a way to create and strengthen meaningful connections, not a way to weaken them or make them more superficial. I couldn't agree more.
My kiddo kicks and wrestles with his covers, and I'm aware of the sounds of Arwyn and her daughter downstairs nursing on the couch before they're ready to go home. I hear Isaiah (our beloved nanny) say goodbye to them and close the front door. I hear a sweet toddler laughing.
So does Daniel.
He's not exactly awake, but he's not really asleep, either. His body is aware that something isn't quite right yet; he's unable to relax and surrender to sleep. It's something I talk to him about frequently: allowing his body to relax and melt into his bed, allowing his mind to surrender to the restorative process of sleep.
The problem seems to be that the act of connecting with other people disrupts the natural rhythms of Daniel's sensitive body. It's not the connection itself that's the issue, it's the physical and practical ways we live it, the day-to-day interactions of it.
This has been one of the greatest challenges of parenting Daniel: balancing my need to actively connect with people outside our nuclear family with Daniel's need for predictability, routine, and rhythm. I still need more practice.
But it's so hard, because the things (Jaymz or) I think are fun and enjoyable (going to the park or zoo, Skyping with family, visiting people we love) are the very same things that upset Daniel's body to the point of losing sleep, disrupting digestion, causing aggression, and spilling lots and lots of tears.
I rock in my chair and think about how without the internet, I would be largely cut off from any semblance of a support system, having long since been disconnected from many of my local parent connections.
Another (discouraging, disappointing) side of this struggle is that many of our extended family members have made it clear to us that the ways we choose share our life on the internet are not ways they desire to utilize to stay connected with us. The use of Facebook, blogging, and email have been called too impersonal, too disconnected, and these methods don't seem to feel like truly authentic and meaningful forms connection to those people.
What I wish these loved ones could understand is that the internet is really one of the only tools we have to work with. While I would love to have a weekly Skype date with everyone I love, that would not be sustainable for Daniel. Heck, I can't even have a phone conversation with my sister while I'm sitting in a different room (not even involving Daniel) without him spending the next hour or two screaming and tearing around the house—totally dysregulated.
Our life since Daniel came into our family is certainly very different than I expected. Our experience seems to be very different than that of most other parents in our peer group, and certainly than that of our parents and their peers.
Sometimes I feel really upset about that. I'm not going to lie: it's still really rough sometimes, folks. In some ways, I'm just beginning to allow myself to grieve the loss of those expectations I had for what motherhood and life with this child in our family would be like. I know now that it's not going to get easy quickly. The challenges Daniel faces are not going to get better and go away (anytime soon? likely ever?). This is our family's truth and I have to honor that, even when it's not what I wish it could be.
I'm rocking in my chair, and Daniel fidgets under his covers, kicking at his heavy blanket with his sleepy feet. I hear Arwyn quietly gathering her things and her little one to leave. She walks out through the front door and closes it gently behind her. Not ten seconds later, Daniel draws in a deep breath and then lets out a big sigh: finally able to put his body to rest for this brief break from his challenging day.
And in that moment, I know that what we're doing for him is the absolute best we can do, and it's exactly what he needs. I feel an instant wave of peace rush over me, coupled with a swelling of confidence that Jaymz and I are successfully (dare I say skillfully?) navigating this challenging road with Daniel.
It may not be ideal that we can't have overnight visitors or that we have to prepare for over a month for an out-of-town trip, but that is our truth. That's our reality. And I'm going to continue to try to connect using the methods that work best for our whole family. Even though they're not perfect, they're pretty damn good. In a lot of ways, these tools enable us to create and maintain valuable connections in ways that we never could before.
For that, I am deeply grateful.