Thursday, July 11, 2013

Taking Time to Breathe

Since the first of my babies rose for the morning, I found the crawling hours of my experience falling squarely into the category of "one of those days."

To start with, Mia forced me out of bed earlier than usual after waking me every couple of hours through the night (so much for turning in extra-early to try to sleep off whatever mysterious bug ailed me yesterday). Beyond that, I had no particular challenge to contend with that was above and beyond the ordinary. However, I've found that a lack of sleep and the resulting ebb in patience (which is already in too-short supply most days) can prove to be more than enough to set me on the wrong track.

Little things were irritating me. I found myself picking useless battles and lacking the energy to fulfill simple requests, like getting a purse down off a shelf that was now days beyond actually still needing to retain its confiscated status.

And then the absolute horror of discovering that in the five seconds it took me to grab something from the kitchen for lunch, my two eldest had discovered that the tablecloth was the perfect medium for a game of tug-of-war across the table. Though nothing broke, and only my cell phone suffered a damage-less fall, I pretty much lost it for a moment, first on my astonished, children (one of whom knew better) and then on my poor husband, for having put down a tablecloth in the first place.

"I told you!" I screamed, "Tablecloths are no good with kids!"

Tom took it in stride, as he does all too often, and I sank away, fuming in anger and shame.

The yelling is a thing I'm working on, but it continues to astonish me how instinctive a reaction it remains, even when it makes me feel so wretched immediately afterwards, without fail.

Perhaps the most terrible thing about that wretchedness is how it lingers. As I retreated to the basement to start my shift with Michael while the girls napped, I felt useless and ill-suited to my role. Feelings of doubt consumed me, and even as I settled my cranky, teething son down into my lap for some cuddle time, with no more urgent business to be attending than holding him warm and safe against my chest, I wondered how I would get through the day. Or, beyond that, the next, and the next.

I was in full auto-pilot mode by the time Mia awoke, followed by Abby, and I have no clear memory of what exactly occurred in the chaos of me against three, beyond a faint sense that I faced the juggling act required to manage Mia and Michael with a mindless drive to simply survive, survive, survive.

Enter Tom, who so often at times like this, is my personal savior. He collected Michael for a second nap, gathered up Abby for a trip to Wegmans, and left me with just one again, my little Mia, who was all set to go down for nap number three.

Suddenly, I had some space and time before me, and plenty of things to do: the kitchen, the dining room, the living room, to name just a few. However, as I was walking Mia down in the Mei Tai, I'd gotten into a lively text conversation, and as that conversation ended, I decided that as precious as my free time was, I simply couldn't spend all of it in some mad, desperate attempt to prove myself a better homemaker (a thing I've been doing of late, with a questionable amount of net positive result). Sometimes, I need to just take a minute. Sometimes, I need to just breathe.

And so I did. I opened up my laptop in the middle of the day- a rare treat, indeed- spent a bit of time surfing aimlessly, took advantage of a bona fide keyboard to contribute to an online conversation rather than playing the part of virtual wallflower on my phone. When I heard Tom arrive home with Abby, I felt a bit guilty that I hadn't overhauled the living room as I intended, but only just little bit.

And wouldn't you know it, when I returned to the basement playroom with Abby, and a newly-wakened Michael, I did so with a fresher outlook and a fuller store of patience.

I didn't even discern the change, really, until Tom brought the last one down to me- my fussy Mia- and I had to resume that daunting juggling act with Michael under one arm and Mia in the crook of the other. This time, I had some energy to spare. This time, my brain was working well enough to allow me to utilize a bit of creativity in my approach.

And somehow, I turned those fusses into giggles, on both my left and my right. As I heard the precious laughter in stereo, I had an unmistakable moment of realization: I'm doing this, and I'm doing it well.

Now, tomorrow doesn't seem so scary after all.

But breathing- that seems all the more important.