I am a worrier. I worry about everything all the time. If I can't find anything to worry about then I worry myself about that instead. Do you ever do that thing where you've been cold-sweat obsessing about something all day, then you're just dropping off to sleep - having kinda forgotten about it - and you remember that you were worried about something earlier and then wrack your brains to remember what it was so you can continue worrying about it? I do. I do it all the fucking time. It's really no great mystery why I don't sleep well. And it's always stupid, small shit that doesn't even actually matter at all. Like I forgot to buy something that I don't really need or didn't wash up the stuff from dinner.
We have one of those Elf on the Shelf things this year. Do you know how fucking stressful they are? It was sent to us as a gift by my relatives in the US and Toddler Taylor loves it (which is all that matters and makes me incredibly grateful to my family for sending it as I don't imagine I would have thought to buy one myself). Every night the elf is supposed to fly back to the North Pole and report the day's events to Santa, then he will return to our home and find himself a new spot. Of course, that means it is my parental responsibility to find him a new place to sit in each day. So far he has perched in the Christmas tree, clung to the wreath in the hallway (where he had to have a safety rope because I found him on the floor when I came downstairs and can only imagine the horror that would have ensued if it had been Toddler Taylor who made the grim discovery rather than me), poked his head out of a box of Ready Brek, and today he is swinging, Miley style, from a glass bauble in the kitchen. He has also sat on a few shelves too, just to keep things traditional - and easy, if I'm being completely honest. But the point is that every night when the kids have gone to bed, I wander around the house, elf in hand, looking for a new spot for him. I worry that Toddler Taylor won't be able to find him. I worry that he will fall to his death from whatever lofty perch I have chosen. Mostly I worry that I will forget to move him at all. This has happened more than once and resulted in a sudden bolt-awake incident in the middle of the night, accompanied by frantic thoughts of, "The elf the elf oh my fucking god I didn't move the fucking elf!" So yeah. I worry about that cursed elf a lot.
I worry about Baby Taylor a ridiculous amount too. There's the fact that, at 14 months, he shows no interest in independently walking. I know that this is my fault because I have babied him because he is the last baby I will ever have (but that's a story for another day). I also worry about his proclivity for injuring himself. Because Baby Taylor may not be able to walk, but the kid is a fucking mountain goat when it comes to climbing. However, unlike a mountain goat, he often falls off the stuff that he has climbed and hurts himself. Yesterday he climbed up into the high chair and then onto the table. About half an hour ago he climbed onto this huge, soft cube he has that plays songs about shapes and, predictably, the thing tipped over and he fell off it. I can't even go to the bathroom anymore unless I take him with me because he WILL climb something, fall off it and probably give himself concussion. It's a nightmare.
I also worry about my house. My husband takes a philosophical stance on the issue of cleaning and tidying. "It will be better when the kids are older," he intones with a resigned sigh. I, on the other hand, regularly explode into hysteria over the state of our house: "If we don't fucking keep on top of cleaning the fucking house then it will be so fucking dirty by the time the kids are "older" that we will never actually be able to make it look clean again!" I hiss emphatically, windmilling my arms frantically in the general direction of the various detritus strewn about the place with gay abandon. For most of my adult life I have lived in the midst of other people's mess. First it was the boyfriend who never cleaned up after himself to such an extent that I gave up too. Then, after living in a few very cramped flats with no storage space and a three month suitcase-living stint in the US, I had to put up with my brother's negligent approach to basic cleanliness for six months. But in between there was this one flat I had with cavernous storage and plenty of living space and I kept that place immaculate. That flat stands as a monument to how I would live if I didn't have to deal with everyone else's shit being everywhere. At the present time, the ironing pile is so damned huge that I fear Baby Taylor may soon decide to climb it. I find myself panic stricken over the sheer volume of stuff there is to tidy away and clean sometimes. Like right at this moment my heart feels a little strangled by it all.
Money. Who doesn't worry about money, especially at this time of year? At the moment we are okay, but I know that soon we are going to need to send Toddler Taylor to playgroup for full days and I just don't know where that money is going to come from. I could work more, but that seems self-defeating because then I would need someone to look after Baby Taylor. So sometimes I look at the lives of my peers who have good jobs and are making good money and I wish that I had done more with my life. Of course, being a pragmatist, when I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do with my life at 18 I decided to put university on the back burner and work instead. And if I hadn't done that then I probably wouldn't be who I am today. But just every now and again I feel like I could be so much more, like I had so much potential and I just threw it all away. I guess there's more than one worry here, but they're so intrinsically tied up with each other - and both have such a huge bearing on my self-worth - that it's impossible for me to mention one without thinking of the other. Maybe what I should really be worrying about is why either of these things actually bother me so much in the first place.
Here's something else I worry about: Am I not enjoying this as much as I should be? Am I spending too much time worrying about stuff and not enough time just being with my children? Is it normal to worry this much about mess and finances and milestones and fucking elves? Will I look back on this one day and realise that I worried so much about the things that didn't matter that I missed out on getting the most out of the things that do? But the thing that I keep hearing from the older generation is that this is just how it is. This is just motherhood and parenting and that I will find all of the joy that I lost out on to worry when I have grandchildren someday. To me that feels a little bleak, so instead of thinking about that I keep bringing myself back to an afternoon I had with Toddler Taylor a couple of months ago. We went up into the woods and balanced along the trunks of fallen trees and threw piles of leaves into the air and ran along the twisting little paths and listened for an owl hooting in the canopy above us and we had the best fucking time just being together.
That's what I always dreamed of when I thought about having children. That's what makes me happier than anything else in the world ever, and I get so excited when I think about being able to do these things with both of my children next year.
And the best part? I wasn't worried about a thing.