The Witching Years

{by Amy Whitley}

It’s staying light a bit longer each day, but we still have a long way to go until spring. I can tell because I still have to switch my car headlights on driving the kids home from the karate studio or the soccer fields, still have to flip the porch light before calling them in from the neighborhood streets. In another lifetime (which wasn’t too long ago), I’d sit out these winter evenings indoors, the kids too young for unsupervised neighborhood roaming, my own motherhood too new to risk a public toddler meltdown or unscheduled nap after nightfall. From my watch at the kitchen window, the sun would disappear behind the city long before dinner was served, and something heavy and panicky would rise in my chest and sink in my belly as the outside darkness closed over me like a blanket, locking me into a fate of 5 pm until 7 pm with only my babies for company.

It would have been so easy to switch on Backyardigans and switch off myself, but most days, we resisted the lure of the TV. Instead, I’d play cars on the mat in the boys’ yellow-walled room, listening to the vrooom-vroooom vibrating against their lips, then to the bubbles blown in the bath, the run of the water from the faucet as they brushed their tiny, pearly teeth. I’d find Hidden Pictures, change diapers, press playdough between my hands. I’d pause to find blankies and binkies before scraping the dinner dishes and setting them on the sideboard to dry.

We were on our own most evenings back then, my husband needing to work late every weeknight, every weekend. (I still can’t believe we ever got used to that, but we did.) As the clock inched toward 7 pm, I’d finish the forgotten loads of laundry on the bed, each t-shirt and burp cloth and OshKosh overall cooled and wrinkled in the heap. The blackened windows would reflect my face—too tired for my twenties—and I’d wonder how to make it another hour. Another twenty minutes. Another ten.

This was my Witching Hour, but what people forget to tell you is how the hours add up, strung together end-to-end, day-to-day to become Witching Years. They commence in those first black nights of nursing a newborn, and they roll on and on until all your children are old enough to take the bus to school. Or at least old enough to wish they could.

And some mothers are great at it—love it, even—but not me. I floundered, immersing myself in my boys: their needs and their wants, their meals and their clothes and their toys. I waved the white flag and gave myself over to them completely, and this was how it had to be. On the surface, I even looked good at it. Underneath, I was drowning. My days were spent sinking and my nights were spent kicking my way back to the top, to where at least the waves slapped me in the face instead of swallowing me whole, arms stroking upward through the dark. I stopped writing. I stopped exercising. I stopped thinking, truth be told. Sometimes I wondered whether some secret source of oxygen had been cut off from my brain.

It’s clearer here, on the other side. In the light. With kids who brush their own teeth and do their own homework and get their own snacks. I know now that being a mom of young children, staying in the house day after day, parenting solo so much of the time…well, it is what it is. (Oh, is it ever.) I know that I did my best.

I also know I’ll never get those years back, as much as they often make me shudder: those years that passed so slowly as to nearly grind backward. Those years so long I measured my children’s ages in months instead. And that’s a travesty, because I left a piece of myself there. Something raw, and unmeasured, and instinctively maternal. Something sacrificial.

It was that something in me that gave way, that moved to the rhythm of my children’s sleep cycles, to the sunrise and the twilight, to the stirring of the oatmeal and the snapping of the car seats and the hefting to the hip, to the breast, to the mouth to kiss the lips.

It was that something that laid down arms. Set aside dreams. And that something was—there’s no other word for it—bewitching.

Amy Whitley writes at The Never-True Tales
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Story Editor~  Heather King ::: @HeatheroftheEO

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12 Comments to “The Witching Years”

  1. Justine says:

    One of my favorite posts. Ever.
    Justine recently posted..Black hole and sun

  2. Don't miss @nevertruetales on @StoryBleed today – a beautiful, powerful post –

  3. Justine says:

    Agreed! RT @HeatheroftheEO Don't miss @nevertruetales on @StoryBleed today – a beautiful, powerful post –

  4. Amy Whitley says:

    Honored to be featured at @storybleed today with my piece The Witching Years. Stop by!

  5. Christine says:

    Go read RT @nevertruetales: Honored to be featured at @storybleed today with my piece The Witching Years. Stop by!

  6. Kate says:

    RT @nevertruetales: Honored to be featured at @storybleed today with my piece The Witching Years. Stop by!

  7. Thank you for having me here. It’s truly such an honor!
    Amy @ Never-True Tales recently posted..What we’re not reading Spring 2011 edition

  8. Chantal says:

    This is the 2nd time I have read this post (first time on Never True Tales proper) and it struck me both times. It so accurately describes how I feel. Last night when I was with my 15mo and I looked at the clock and thought, one more hour, just one more hour, I can do this. Thank you for being so honest.
    Chantal recently posted..Hiding

  9. Sue says:

    Something sacrificial…. indeed. I’m exhausted just remembering how much of me was spent those years. Wonderfully written!
    Sue recently posted..The Basketball Hoop

  10. Yuliya says:

    This is just gorgeous, raw and honest. I thank you for putting into words what I feel every day.