It wasn’t a great start to the week this Monday Morning.
I woke up feeling super tired, but was otherwise in a good mood. The early hours, with my toddler bouncing up and down on my belly, eating a banana and watching the Lion King while I dozed, were pleasant. As the morning wore on and more people began to trickle down the stairs, my mood began to turn.
What was it? Was I feeling like I have no time and space of my own? Not even five minutes to wash my armpits and try to poop? This feeling is a frequent source of irritation, and I waffle between feeling ashamed of this (I should LOVE dedicating myself to my children) and feeling resentful (how, with three parents in our house, can I even feel like I don’t have enough time to take a leisurely shit?).
Was it the crop top my eight year old tried to wear to camp? Fuck you Disney tween programming and your stupidly inane and vapid role models. Was it the short tone and thirteen-year-old attitude she flung at me when I politely asked her to head back upstairs and put on her camp t-shirt. “I couldn’t find where you put the laundry!” Well excuse me, maybe you can go back to washing it yourself.
Was it the ridiculousness of our ten year old who wants to shave her armpits, forgets in the shower, and then insists on an adult doing it for her, interrupting all of the get-out-the-door prep we are trying to deal with? If you aren’t old enough to attempt the over-the-sink armpit shave, after being shown three times how to do it, maybe you aren’t old enough to shave?
Everyone and everything began to drive me nuts.
The baby wouldn’t let me put him down. Not for a second. I just wanted to get ready to leave the house and drive the kids to camp on time. Finally, I had to distract him with a particularly loud and obnoxious TV show that we’ve been trying to phase out of the house, so this profoundly irritating soundtrack became the backdrop to my shit cloud attitude.
Getting freshened up and dressed, I tried a re-set. Even a pretty dress didn’t help. I started slipping down the bottomless well of “what-are-we-doing-with-our-lives” and “why-isn’t-anything-happening-with-the-new-business” and I began to feel an equal amount of panic, resentment, and anger.
I loaded the kids in the car, with more than a few growls after tripping for the billionth time and scuffing the dainty white dress up shoes that the little women INSIST on leaving in the middle of the hall way to get trampled by everyone who walks by.
Then something happened, albeit slowly.
First, I was able to laugh at yet another unsuccessful parking attempt. I’m a bit hopeless at parking – I just got a novice driver’s license, and small maneuvers are NOT a forte.
Then, I was snapped into the present by the focused task of holding my son’s chubby little hand as he scaled the mini wall at camp. All the kids walk the top of the wall like a balance beam, and he was not going to be left out.
Then my heart began to soften at the sight of him tearing after the big kids, and the semi-terror that accompanies watching a toddler try to run. I felt the love seep in as his sisters delighted in the way his frantic run is only as fast as their normal walking pace. The love him purely, and effortlessly. He feels the same about them.
I took notice of the smiles and chuckles of everyone else watching them. Everyone who walked past, in this busy place, had a smile – even some reluctant ones. My little man is a joy-bringer everywhere he goes.
By the time I left the girls, I had hugs and warmth, and affection for them. I apologized and told them I was having a hard morning. It sounded ridiculous to me, because there really isn’t anything hard about my life, but yet I feel sometimes like I am suffocating. They said “That’s okay Momma, we understand.” I hated myself a little. I felt really small.
I took a deep breath. I decided to have a different kind of day.
Little Noah wanted to run, and so I unleashed him. He ran and ran and ran. He scaled the little wall. He climbed a big rock. He pointed at birds, and pretended to be disgusted by bird poop. I did all of those things too, treated to the singular focus and completely present experience of being almost two-years-old. After some play time, I buckled him safely in the car, texted an apology to my lover, and then began to drive.
Clean slate. Fresh start. Productive day.
I was feeling it, lifting from the fog of my own brain. Driving with pop tunes filling the mini van, enveloped in a real-life thick fog that had rolled in off the lake. By the time I parked the car, I was feeling good about the day, and the baby was napping happily, waiting to wake up at his grandmother’s house.
I had missed two texts. I had an email preview on the screen. I could see the phrase “we are so, so sorry.” I felt a rush of cold.
School friends from our Toronto life, good ones, great people. A dad. A brain tumor. Cancer. Emergency surgery. Two little boys. A mom with a heart as big as the universe. Awaiting Pathology. That goddamned phrase and everything that it has meant to me, and everything it will mean to thousands and thousands of you.
There are battles being fought every moment, in every corner of the world. Families are torn apart, children are killed. There are wars fought over land and god. There are struggles against poverty and hunger. There are battles for life and death even in the tidiest corners of our first world utopia. There are the battles we fight with ourselves, just to be decent people who aren’t caught in our own pathetic battle of self-pity and ingratitude.
What are you fighting? Is it worth the weight and the energy? Is it life or death?
Can you lay down your arms, just for a moment and see the world like a toddler? Is it beautiful? Is it filled with possibility and adventure?
Can you scale the wall, with a little bit of help, and make it to the other side?