What I Didn’t Know Then — An Apology to Amy

Amy’s third child was born just a few months before my first; her older two (both boys) aged five and three. They lived in a house that wasn’t altogether graceful but her kids had a stocked playroom and everyone’s shoes fit. Amy was a do-it-all mom, completing a masters degree while ordering Halloween costumes online and fighting with a parenting partner who seemed absent from my vantage point.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why Amy emanated anger. Three kids are expensive and exhausting and there’s only one of her. She was outnumbered, out-matched, out run. Legos went flying across the living room, Rice Krispies spilled into the sofa; organized towers of freshly folded t-shirts and underwear collapsed in strategic locations in and around the stairs. No single human being can parent three babies (one in diapers, one stashing potty accidents in a corner behind the curtains) without appearing shoutier than they wish. Not that I knew that at the time.

Amy and I were together often in the baby days. We’d order pizza and drink wine while her kids ran into each other and made lots of boy-noise. We went on walks around the block; I pushed my newborn in a stroller. Amy pushed one too, and she watched a child on a scooter. And another one on a bike. Cars zipped around corners too close to her little ones and I wondered what a mother was supposed to do about boys on bikes who didn’t understand that they could get squashed. Could you just keep them in the house?

Amy confided in me during late night phone calls, seething rage sparked by bottomless piles of dishes in the sink. She made no attempt to quell frustrated tears caused by her inability to care about the cupcakes that the class mom was so adamant about. One time we met at the zoo and she screamed at me when I insisted on leaving at nap time. Her humanity was so hard to hold.

So I packed up my baby and went home.

When I walked away from Amy, I felt like our friendship was all wrong. Like we somehow weren’t doing it right. That there must be some prescription for motherhood and we just weren’t following it because if we were, if we could just do it right, it wouldn’t feel so horribly heart-breaking. So anxiety provoking. So scary.

I spaced out the text messages, waiting hours or days to reply. I stopped answering the phone, calling back days later when I was wandering around Target. I disappeared into the quiet of my still napping single child.

Three years and another boy later, hindsight creeps like a spider. I lie in bed and promise that tomorrow will be easier. Tomorrow I won’t lose it. I call my own mother crying, begging for a moment of patience, another hand, duplicity, nannies, maids, sister-wives, anyone, anything to calm the crazy.

I think about Amy often. I understand, finally, too late, why Amy had a placard above the sink reminding her that “There should be no shouting in the home unless there is a fire.” I drink more alcohol and take fewer showers than I’d care to discuss. I openly criticize helicopter moms because I simply don’t have the capacity to be in more than one place at a time. I appreciate McDinners.

But way back when, in the long gone days of endlessly photographing my one tiny non-moving baby who ate and slept wherever I left him, I couldn’t handle the day to day Amy. I didn’t get it.

Amy was the mom who showed me that mothering wasn’t gonna get easier. She showed me the scary and the messy. She didn’t make it pretty. For that, I jumped ship.

And today, to Amy, too late, I understand. I apologize.

* * *

Mel Kozakiewicz blogs at www.urdoingitright.com