Clinging to a Styrofoam cooler

Yesterday, as I hid in flannel sheets to find a nap I didn’t really need, I realized why I think of myself as such a mediocre mom. It’s because I thought there would be a lake.

All I’ve ever had is a river. My life has been a river. No, let’s have the proper visual. My life has been an urban overflow culvert for diverting flash floods in perpetual hurricane season. Muddy polluted water and trash surging at terrifying speed. And I’ve been clinging to a Styrofoam cooler in the middle of it, perpetually cold and  exhausted and sputtering.

Look closely at the refrigerator. I’m in there somewhere.

Yet I thought, as a mother, I would suddenly be able to climb out of that bilge, hop over to a crystalline lake, and make my life a series of healthy, elegantly executed strokes to and fro in the clear clean water. Healthy diet for the children, breast stroke! Intellectual stimulation, scissor kick. Consistency, cleanliness, joy and dependability; there I’d go, cutting through the water like no-nonsense dolphin. That would be parenthood.

That all the sudden I’d stop being me.

That didn’t happen. I’m still, seven years in, just coming to terms with it. How far I am from that lake. I really thought I’d be in the lake.

But, I’m not clinging to Styrofoam either, though. At some point I summoned the strength to find a raft. It leaks and wilts but it holds us all. I even have a single paddle, for all the good it does me against the current. Other families have two paddles. Motorboats. I even know one with the parental equivalent of a small yacht, the bastards.

Still. I shouldn’t have been hiding yesterday in the bed, with the kids bored and re-watching Wreck It Ralph yet again while Gus surfed the internet on the couch behind them. LE needs to practice reading. She needs to see me clean the house and learn to help. The boy needs to be read to and I should play blocks with him. I should think of something for dinner. But I don’t want to. I almost never want to.

I should be building a better boat.


8 thoughts on “Clinging to a Styrofoam cooler

    • Thank you. And you never know if they’ve fallen off till they’re grown. The analogy falls apart there but you get what I mean.


  1. Those families with yachts, I dunno about them. Are they real? I sometimes find it hard to believe that anyone is so together. Besides, part of parenting is letting the kids slip off the raft once in awhile and use that time to learn how to swim. And letting them see you swallow some water too every now and then is okay too, because we do that in real life. If all we show the kids is the perfect shiny yacht, they never learn how to deal with things when they don’t go perfectly. Your styrofoam cooler floated, so good on you for being resourceful. You’re teaching your young people how to survive.


  2. I thought I’d successfully added you to my feed, but apparently not. Think I have now, though.

    Jesus. Parenting is hard. There’s just no getting around that. Some days I feel supremely confidant, others I wonder what the hell I’m doing and how is it everyone else in the world seems to know but me. But basically? I think loving your kids is the main thing.


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