“How did you do this? How did you entertain me for hours on end and not got crazy? I won’t be mad if you said sometimes hid in the bathroom.”
My mom’s laugh comes through the phone as I press speaker and redirect Kate’s crayon-filled hands from my walls to her Elmo coloring book.
“I don’t know, toddlers are tough,” she said. “This is the time when you need to practice some radical acceptance.”
She’s said that before.
And each time I’ve wanted to throw myself on the floor like my toddler and kick and scream because I don’t want to accept.
I want to change things.
I want motherhood to be easier so I can get things done. I want more time to myself to think. I want to ward off temper tantrums. I want Kate to nap in the afternoon, so I can pursue things that are important to me. I want some space. I want her to eat her dinner instead of throwing it to the dog. I want to come up with bunches of stuff for her to do instead of millions of boring trips to the same park.
But in this moment in my life, there are just things I can’t change. I can’t change how long she naps or temper tantrums. I can’t change the little time I get to myself. I can’t change her age or my age or where we are in life right now.
So it seems the only thing to do is accept.
Acceptance is my achilles heel. My arch nemisis. For a girl like me who likes to change and do and be better, acceptance is not something I take to kindly.
Because acceptance feels like giving up.
Like if I accepted my life stage just how it is, that I would die inside from a lack of ambition. All my gumption would dry up. And then there’d be nothing left.
The thing I like most about myself also ends up making me an enemy of myself. This insistance on doing more and being more keeps me motivated. But it also drives me crazy when circumstances force me to slow down.
But railing against my life isn’t working. I’m not a nice friend or parent or spouse. I feel disjoined, irritable, unhappy for no particular reason. Like there’s some invisible irritant poking and proding me until I can’t bear the weight of the frustration another moment.
So ruminating and fixating on how I want to change things isn’t working. There has to be a better way.
And maybe that way is radical acceptance.
And maybe it’s not about giving up.
Maybe it’s about being okay with what is in this moment.
It’s not acquiescence. Or a tacit agreement with myself to live in mediocrity because that’s easier. But rather acknowledging those feelings of frustrations in my life and allowing myself to lean into the frustrations. Instead of spending all my energy pummeling my frustrations until they bounce back in my face, I accept those feelings and let them wash over me.
I don’t have to like every moment of everyday. But I also don’t have to spend every moment of everyday fighting myself.
In a way, radical acceptance is freedom. I can’t be doing more or being more. Because much of my day is out of my hands. I acknowledge I feel thwarted. But I don’t let that feeling carry me away.
I radically accept that I have a toddler who’s wishes and demands are unpredictable.
I radically accept that I might not get time for myself today.
I radically accept that my days don’t always go as planned.
I radically accept that the things I want to accomplish might take days or weeks or months.
I radically accept that this season of my life is a challenging one.
And I radically accept those sweet hugs and kisses from my toddler, any time together Dan and I have to be a couple instead of a couple of parents, and for all those times when I release the frustrations and set myself free.