Sunday, May 29, 2011

The saturation point

Written yesterday afternoon...

I just woke from a deep, late afternoon nap, the kind of nap that leaves your face streaked with crease marks and your body feeling like it has sunk into itself.

It's the kind of nap that I almost never take.

It's the kind of nap that I’ve been craving.

It’s been a little rough around here lately. Yesterday I cried the ugly cry in front of all four of my kids, and at one point—the point where I wailed “You guys are my favorite people in the whole wide world and I can’t stand being with you because all you do is FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!”—the three oldest burst into tears, in unison.

It was the scene straight out of The Sound of Music where Maria sits on the pinecone at the dinner table and then covers for the naughty children which causes them to start boo-hooing.

Though in our case there was no mild sniffling. We don’t do anything mildly in this house, not even crying.

We were a sight to behold.

I’m not sure if it’s me or the kids, or maybe a little of both. All I know is I’m exhausted, worn out by all the bickering and crying and yelling. I don’t have any more tricks up my sleeve. Nothing works anyway, so it’s probably no big loss, though the lack of options does leave me feeling vaguely desperate and resource-less, like a hopeless lumpy of a mother.

It’s not that there’s anything big going on here. No, it’s just a combination of little things, the gist of which is that I wake up in a good mood, eager to get to my day, to read to the kids, work on projects, do my cooking/gardening/writing, to just hang with my gang because they are so incredibly interesting and creative and fun. But then my hopeful early-morning expectations get blown to smithereens by this scene, times three hundred and twenty-six:

*a child has a full-on hissy fit over the size of the cereal bowl or some such nonsense
*a child scream names (“sexy head” is a new favorite) at anyone who dares to look in her general direction
*a child stares pointedly at the screaming child who does not want to be stared at
*a child crouches at the table like a wild animal and drips milk over table and floor

And that’s all in the first ten seconds of breakfast.

As I go about putting out fires, separating children, meting out consequences, distracting and directing and redirecting, the wind whooshes right out of my sails, taking all my happy-thought goals and dreams with it, and I’m left drifting, bobbing up and down on the endless sea of attitudes and chores. It’s depressingly disappointing.

To top it off, my feet have been aching like I’m eight-months pregnant, I pierced the palm of my hand cutting boiled eggs with a curved knife blade (duh), and I’m sick of not spending money.

And here’s where I reach full siren mode—in my head, anyway. I WANT A VACATION! WAH! I WANT SOMEONE TO ANTICIPATE MY EVERY NEED! I WANT TO GO OUT TO EAT! TO THE MOVIES! TO THE BEACH! I WANT TO BUY SOME NEW CLOTHES! A NEW COFFEE PRESS! A NEW CAMERA LENS! I WANT WANT WANT! WAH WAH WAAAAAAH!

And since I can’t do or have those things (they wouldn't fix anything anyway, sniff-sniff), I’m left with much more down-to-earth (though equally highly improbable) wants:

*I want everyone to talk in hushed tones
*I want everyone to walk—no, tiptoe through the house
*I want everyone to come when called
*I want everyone to do the tasks they’re asked to do the first time they’re asked to do them
*I want everyone to smile angelically
*I want everyone to say “please” and “thank you” and such sundry pleasantries as “would you like help with that, dear sister?” and “oh, you want to play with the toy that is mine? But of course you may, dear brother!”
*I WANT THE CHILD WHOSE VOICE SOUNDS LIKE A FOGHORN TO STOP SOUNDING LIKE A FOGHORN BECAUSE IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY.

And no, I am not PMSy. Why do you ask?

And lest you think it is complete pandemonium and chaos in this house of mine, let me assure you: it is complete pandemonium and chaos.

And still, we keep everlastingly at it. In the rare moments of calm between the foghorn bellows, marathon name-calling sessions, and flying fists, I make a conscious effort to kiss curly-haired heads and stinky-boy necks. I pin the dishwasher’s hands to her side in a big bear hug. I make eye contact with each pair of blue eyes and smile, if only for a second. This rough patch too shall pass.

And then there will be a new rough patch, sohelpmegod.

The sheer intensity of it is enough to lay me flat.

Shortly after that ugly cry of mine, my son walked through the kitchen where I was getting lunch together, sighed heavily and stated matter-of-factly, “It’s what it means to be a mom.”

I think what he meant was, You just discovered the toughest part of parenting, Mom.

Yeah, boy. Did I ever.

Signed,
Fed Up to My Eyeballs

This same time, years previous: the ways we play (ironic, no?), rhubarb tart and rhubarb tea

13 comments:

  1. Beautifully written, straight to the core/heart/brain. I don't know anyone else who can write the way you do.

    So few people (especially these days, sad to say) give stay-at-home moms the credit (that's such an inadequate word) for the emotionally draining, hard, super-difficult job they do in struggling day after day (minute after minute?) to be a good mom raising well-adjusted children. It's the hardest and most important job on earth. And the least rewarded. Or understood. Unless you've been there.

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  2. That was a very condescending thing for your son to say if he was contributing to the chaos. Did he say he was sorry?

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  3. Oh my word - his all-knowing comment slays me. I have no wisdom or even encouragement back b/c if I had it I'd be using it myself! But you are not alone. : )

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  4. Me too. And I only have half the amount of children you do and one of them can't even talk back yet.

    I think we should vacation together and go buy some new clothes. Just kidding :)

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  5. In a flash, it will all be over.
    (And--ha--I'm not talking about the Rapture!)
    I'm talking about the tough part of parenting, and how quickly one finds oneself filled with nostalgia.

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  6. Do you live in my house? I hate getting out of bed when I can already hear the fight going on and that horrid shriek that my daughter does. And, um, where did they get "sexy head"?

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  7. I want all those things and some peace and quiet and my children are all grown. I feel for you and it was all said so eloquently.

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  8. Oh, sweet friend. Thanks for sharing from the gut. It helps so much to know other moms experience similar things and feelings.

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  9. Sexy head? Ha ha ha ha! Where do kids come up with this stuff? Sorry to laugh at your expense. I'll let you return the favor any time.

    ps - Last time I busted out the ugly cry, Calvin ran out of the room and ran back in a few minutes later with a quickly-scrawled cheer-up picture of skyscrapers and stick men.

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  10. PSS - Almost forgot to say: No you di'int! Seriously, you're worried about how my knobs will stay clean? Girl. I'm all about patina.

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  11. oh sighhhhh, I see this stage coming. And the tastes I've gotten so far make me madder and screechier than anything previous. Why is it so hard for people to live together in a MANNERLY way??!! Manners are my battle cry right now and of course mine need brushing up. Thanks for your honesty and for making me laugh. How smart of you to deliberately kiss and hug your little hellions.

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  12. Delurking to say Thank You! I'm so glad someone else feels like this! I've got three: 6, 4 and 2, and one on the way, and I keep thinking WHAT DID I DO?! Four? FOUR!? When the noise level now makes me want to hide in the closet and cry?

    This sounded so doable two kids ago.

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  13. Miranda, It IS doable. About 50 percent of the time.

    Dr. P, From his tone of voice and manner I could tell he was trying to be empathetic.

    Ya'll: your sweet comments made me tear up. Thanks.

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