I waited tables for years in high school and college, and when the restaurant was crazy busy, we’d say we were “in the weeds”. Restaurant-speak for chaos bordering panic, where waitresses like me who counted on the tips would wonder if my customers would actually get their food before it was time to reset for breakfast. There were many years in early motherhood when I felt in the weeds. I routinely begged for the restoration of my sanity, and the inner strength to survive each time one of my children came apart at the seams. With three children born in less than four years, these episodes were frequent. One of my biggest coping mechanisms was to think about how someday, not too far away, I’d have children who would be six, eight, and ten and life would be so much easier. Next week, Tom turns eight and this magical trifecta of ages will come to fruition.
I found myself thinking about this tonight at dinner, and I almost laughed out loud while blinking back tears of utter frustration in front of the kids. Wherever I came up with the notion that when we hit ten, eight, and six, motherhood would be a cake walk is beyond me. We had just walked in from indoor soccer, and Tom told Whitney that she “stunk at goalie”. His body jerked and twitched in a sort of dance, and he loudly jeered, “You stink, you stink” as if moving to the beat of a drum. Whitney had just accused Hadley of stealing something from her room, and in between her seething words, she lunged at Tom yelling, ” Tom! Cut. It. Out. NOW.” Whitney spoke in such a snide tone to her sister that she easily could have landed a part on a soap opera as a junior villain. Later on, Hadley was begging for dessert, despite not finishing her dinner. This, after she had overloaded on Tootsie rolls from the vending machine at soccer with the loose change she’d scrounged together. Her whiny yet desperate-sounding voice made her sound like someone who could be circulating an empty coffee can down on Route 114 to collect change for her cause. As much as I repeated “no”, the angrier she got. Our evening ended on a high note once Gordie got home, but they have all been mean to one another for over a week. It feels so disappointing sometimes, so crushing. My goal as a mother is to turn out a product week in and week out that delights and adds value to the world. Rotten won’t do.
In some ways, ten, eight, and six seems impossible. How did we get here in the blink of an eye? Yet during the low moments, like tonight, I wonder if I’ve got motherhood, or if motherhood’s got me. For a blink of a second I don’t want these children in my home, who have taken it over, only to be so wicked and unkind to me and to one another. Of course I adore each of them to their very core and I try to remind myself that although we’ve come so far, they still are so very young. Yet this isn’t always the fairy tale I imagined it to be. I remember that famous line from Corinthians that has a place in every mother’s heart: “Love is patient, Love is kind.” I deeply inhale, I deeply exhale, I pour a large glass of wine, I count my blessings, and I press on.