Saturday, September 3, 2011

messy and colorful

Life with kids has been kind of like this:

...messy and colorful.

So here's the messy part:
This week I had been puttering along at my normal pace, going through the motions of my typical routines when this ugly feeling- I'm not sure what to label it, resentment maybe- crept up on me. It burrowed its little weed into my mind and made me acknowledge a part of myself that was rife with discontentment. The Baby had been doling out a heaping dose orneriness. She assaulted me with her acrimonious demeanor (not to mention her toys which were aimed at my head) and a mouth overflowing with drool. I felt my skin try to retreat off of my body when she came at me with wet, stinky, cranky fists- pawing for my undivided attention.  I wanted to bolt- I wanted to be any place than where I was. But, I stayed and allowed frustration to course through me rather than searching my heart for compassion and patience. I employed  the talents of the other children, hunting down loose change to bribe them to watch her while I tried to get house work done or to, god forbid, assemble some loose thoughts to architect a short piece of fiction I was working on. I was disenchanted with my station in life. It was only made worse by the fact that the disenchantment bloomed with it's partner, guilt.
"Pick me up, damn it!"

 I know that the nasty pot had boiled over after having spent Wednesday afternoon at Princess Commando's school's Open House. When Princess Commando and Henry were in 1st and 4th grade respectively, I took on a long- term teaching position in a fourth grade classroom at their school. It was challenging, frustrating at times, but it was, also, very fulfilling.  I loved my students, even the ones who gave me ulcers. And I loved that I was contributing to my family outside of our home. I was working under the guidance of the most wonderfully insightful and compassionate teachers. They had taken me, an outsider, under their wings and helped me figure out the muddle of the assignment I was given. I was growing, with a greater understanding of myself and my abilities in ways I never imagined I needed to grow. More importantly, I was proving to myself that I still had more facets to my being outside of simply being 'mother' which I realized I had become intensely absorbed by.

But, the growth was soon stunted. When I was pregnant with The Baby and subsequently after she was born, I spent very little time on site at the school. I stopped subbing. I didn't have many moments to think about my separation from school as I was overwhelmed by The Baby's needs. But, on Wednesday, after re-connecting with the teachers I worked with, feeling their embrace of acceptance and love again, I realized how much I missed teaching. Realizing how much I missed teaching made me consider the circumstances that kept me from teaching. Inevitably that made me look at The Baby- and not in the glowing, nurturing, grateful, motherly light I should have been. Instead, I felt the unpalatable taste of resentment.

I do not know if it is written somewhere that mothers are not allowed to entertain these feelings. But, I felt the lead vest of guilt buckle over my ribs. I felt that I must have developed some flaw over the past 14 years of parenting which made me deficient in my ability to brush unsavory feelings about motherhood aside. I love The Baby, I know that is true. But, I do not love that my life often feels one dimensional and that that dimension is occupied solely by her shrieking needs. And there are three other children in my house whose needs are often  placed on the back burner. They survive by virtue of the fact that they are far more independent and self sufficient than their youngest sibling. Still, I long to spend quality time alone with each one of them (whether that desire is mutual or not); and my hands, bound by baby business, have kept me from them. This only adds to the messy, ugly feelings.

I should be where that cat is sitting. I miss the days of reading with my girl.

And, here is the colorful part, or the part that does not so much resemble mud:
I'm too tired to tango with resentment. I didn't wrap my hands around it to wring the life out of it- but, I chose acceptance for my current situation and tried to walk forward from there. Fortunately, that dirty, nasty disturbance doesn't root too deeply. It is only dirt, after all. It is easy to wipe away the muck and the mire when I wake up to this flame haired, dancing person:

The orneriness has been temporarily placed on a shelf. But, I am still the one she clings to most. When I leave the room- I am still the only one whose return she beckons with her inconsolable cries. She never lets me out of her sight.

It finally dawned on me that,of course, we are bound to be agitated by one another even if we are dependent on each other. Especially because of that. 'I want you close- close enough for me to push away-but not too far away because I may need you again in a moment.' We do spend every single waking moment together, for crying out loud. It is difficult to maintain that state of enamouredness with someone whom you never ever spend a heartbeat away from- not even to go to the bathroom.  But, yes, I am dependent on her, too.  I rely on her to put me in my place. There are days when I am so set in my ways; but, she's clearly had enough of everything and everyone. And her crystal clear pronunciation of the phrase "All done" gives way an accurate social commentary of her family, "All Dumb!" It's true sometimes we are a bit slow. And I would be all done with us too, if I were in her situation. More than her ability to shed light on our ineptitude, I've come to depend on her to color my world. Because, despite how our days might end, they always begin with this- a smile which shoots a million strands of colored light.


  1. Oh Amy, don't feel guilty for feeling your feelings. They are normal. Of course you love your girl. Parenting is just really hard. Sometimes I look at Ceci and I just want her to sleep through the night and then take herself for a walk. I just want to be alone. She's always there. But of course I love her. Your kids, even the baby, will fly the nest some day. but even before that happens you will get the freedom to go back to teaching if you want to. Babies don't stay babies. xo

  2. Good post - Of course you are going to get on each other's nerves - once you realize that, it will be easier to handle when you have feelings you don't think you should have. I have been going through a really bitey stage myself. I should be content and perfectly happy - but why am I so crabby then? It drives me crazy, but like you, I just brush it off and try to enjoy each moment.... sometimes I see a women acting the way I do and it makes me realize what I look and sound like. I pretend I am on a reality show to be better. But them my old self comes slipping back,,,, ah well,,,, Thanks for listening!

  3. life with kids is still not as messy as life in india :) also i totally think you should paint peacocks on your house! haha.

  4. @ Emily: thank you for your reassuring words. They mean a lot to me. It is good to know that I am not alone in my feelings- even if it sometimes sucks to feel that way.

    @Kristin-more people should act as if the camera's are on them so that they challenge themselves to stay on their best behavior. With that said, I can think of a few reality shows in which the subjects became celebrities for their bad behavior. I worry that I would just become complacent that the cameras were there and slip into my dirty sailor swearing. I suppose it's part of being human to have conflicting emotions at once. I'm also wondering if it's just that I'm getting older and less tolerable of noise and orneriness- because I don't remember feeling this way with the other kids when they were younger.

    @Kimia-I am going to have to use that line when I start to get down on my life- "Ugh, I'm sick of cleaning up cat poop- but, hey, at least it doesn't smell like life in India." Or when the kids start complaining about the clothes they have to wear, I can say, "well at least you're not in India, because today everyone was supposed to wear peach (and peach just isn't your color)." I do want to paint the peacocks on my house. We recently came into possession of a blank wall (I moved a giant armoire and now the wall is bare). It took everything I had not to paint a mural (which I had done at our old house). Instead I bought some cheap blank canvases and had a blizzard of ideas. I'll share them soon.