Maybe it’s the rain. Maybe it is how they undo everything before you can even finish doing what it is you’re trying to do. Maybe it is the way “No” sets her spiraling to the edge. Maybe it is all of these things or none of them at all. Maybe it is a restless energy within you, pining for something you can’t name, much less grasp onto. Whatever it is, it’s left you exhausted, and frustrated, and feeling the weight of it all. And so you throw your hands up and say “Let’s go play in the rain” but then you remember that the back yard is flooded, that there are three of them and one of you and running after two toddlers moving in opposite directions is impossible (you consider telling the 6 year old to watch one of them until you remember that it’s ill-advised to put a baby in charge of a baby) and suddenly the simple act of playing in the rain becomes a feat too complicated, so you say “Never mind” which definitely sends her over the edge and you have to do what it is you do when she falls down that rabbit hole…and then something happens.
A memory, a picture, a song.
You’re kneeling on the floor scooping up spilled Cheerios when you feel their hand on your back, brushing by as they fly to the next thing.
You’re standing between their cribs at bedtime, each one poking a hand through to find yours and you’re struck again with the miracle of two as you trace their fatty palms.
They all bring gifts to you — dandelions and rocks and four-leaf clovers; a broken toy that needs mending, a ceramic turtle that looks more like a fried egg but you display it on your bookcase anyway because it’s the most beautiful fried egg you’ve ever seen, a pinched finger that needs kissing and then suddenly the other one is offering his perfectly good finger to your lips too.
Your daughter opens a book whose pages are worn and crinkly. “I love this sound,” she says, making the pages speak, and you think Me too, baby, I love that sound too.
She rides her bike down the street to the farthest point you’ll allow and when she turns back she yells, “I’m coming back to you, Mommy!”
Because you’re their True North. The point at which their rotational axis meets the surface, where energy is renewed by kisses, and where their heartbeat slows to calm, harbored, windless. It won’t always be this way, not as pure or palpable. Something about the axis of rotation not fixed in duration and so True North varies.
So you spend your days tirelessly going through the motions, thinking Is this enough, this motherhood thing I signed up for? And also: Am I enough? But when you think about it, the longest days, the ones spent muddling “through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year,”* you realize that all day long, though it might not have been the most magical day, you’ve been offering the tools they’ll need to navigate a terrain none of us can map. You’ve been laying a foundation, the coordinates of which will remain even when True North shifts. And this is enough. YOU are enough. Because it isn’t about better, bigger, perfect, more. It isn’t always about the magic. It’s about providing a childhood that says “I was here” so the magic will filter through the looking glass as True North becomes less transparent.
*lifted text from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak