Killer of Joy
I recently found myself in a familiar place as my 11 year old stood next to me wearing his father’s tie over a Batman t-shirt lamenting the injustice of his two day banishment from the internet for acting like a lunatic when asked to find an non-screen related activity the previous day. I sat resolute, acknowledging his displeasure, and ensuring him that he will not die from this. His exit from the room was a jumble of huffs, snorts, and grunts.
Moments later, my phone rang. The boy had made his way downstairs to his father hoping for a different answer. My darling partner of nearly 20 years called to see what I thought about lifting the sentence a little early. I sat in silence as he questioned our reasonning and made what he saw as a rational argument. He ended with, “...but whatever you decide I will support.”
“Excellent. No. I’m writing. I have to go. Love you.” It’s worth noting that he did wait until the boy left the room before calling to question our parenting solidarity. As is so often the case, were it not for “Mommy, killer of Joy” the house would have been quieter but our children would think it’s ok to act like assholes.
The boy retreated to his bedroom where behind closed door he wailed, “Why do you love EVERYONE more than me?!? Why are you so mean to me?! Why do you treat me like garbage?! You don’t let me do anything! ANYTHING!” All while sifting through a mountain of Lego pieces and loudly clicking them into place. His gift for multi-tasking misery and creativity is unmatched.
With three children there is at least one person angry, or on the verge of hating me at all times. I would like to say that in the face of this cavalcade of prepubescent emotions, confidence and equanimity are areas of strength for me. I would also like to say I have $1,000,000 but that wouldn’t be true either. Parenting feels as I imagine tightrope walking must. With every breath you are just one moment from going over. No matter how well you think you are doing all it takes is a gust of wind, a distraction, or a “come inside and do your homework” for this delicate undertaking to disintegrate into a bloodbath of assassinated joy with Mommy behind the trigger.
When I began this motherhood journey I imagined a gauzy utopia filled with smells of the ocean, fresh baked bread, and clean laundry. I would wear flowing white dresses and be encircled by perpetually smiling, well adjusted children. Our days would be a mix of peaceful music, reading, and toys made only of blonde wood to stimulate the imagination.
Nearly 15 years into this I’m getting more comfortable with my role as the joy killer. I am also the party planner, the sleepover inviter, and the purveyor of pets. The boy did not die from losing the internet for the weekend. One day when his boss tells him something he doesn’t want to hear and he does not devolve into a puddle of tears and rage it’s unlikely that he will think I can handle this disappointment because my mother didn’t let me get away with acting like a psychopath when I was a kid, but as long as he isn’t 40 and living in my basement I guess I’ll live with that. I don’t have the slightest idea how to do this thing but I do know that they still want to tell me their stories, sing me their songs, and hug me before bed.