I've got this middle school girl from down the street who comes over now and then as a mother's helper. I pay her $2/hour (what a deal!) and all that's great but in reality I think it would be easier to do it entirely on my own. For one thing, Frances doesn't fully trust her somehow and spends half the time whining "mommy, mommy, mommy do it." Which makes me completely out of my mind. I also have to say something to the girl about not texting while she's here. Today I watched her holding Clark up absently w/ one hand and texting w/ the other. He, of course, fell over. I suppose these things aren't common sense when you're 10. That's why they make you wait until you're 16 to drive. (and maybe 18 to vote? Can't have folks w/out common sense voting...! Ahem.) But she did get F out of the bath (after I got her in and washed her hair) and put her diaper on and dressed her. That was helpful. I was trying to finish schleping the laundry up and down the stairs and also create piles for packing for the trip this weekend, and Clark was mostly playing nicely on the floor of my bedroom. But then he was done w/ that (and screeching) and Frances was STILL whining for me to hold her and Mitch called to say he was on his way and for me to get dinner ready, and I just had to lie on the floor. It was the best thing, really. I did it beside Clark so he would stop the screeching. (It's this new thing he's started, and it's most unattractive.) (I would like to comment here that the hubby's request was not such an outrageous demand as it sounds... it was the result of a discussion last night about what time things are happening in the evening and how to best get both kids in bed without feeling like we've got zero time for ourselves.) The floor was wonderfully comfortable and I closed my eyes and the sounds of neighbor kids drifted in the windows. It sounded like a regular summer afternoon from some space far off, like the space in my dreams. When I closed my eyes, it sounded idyllic. I wished I could stay there a long long time. I was still there when M got home. He said, "what are you doing?" and I said, "lying on the floor." Which was about all of it.
Lying on the floor was healing in some way. Just giving up--realizing that I don't have to pack or get dinner or respond to F when she wants wants wants me. I don't have to do these things; my world will not melt. These are, of course, things I'd like to get done, but they are not essential. The are not the sum of ourselves, the measure of my life; they are just things.
I sometimes think that if I had the time and space to have a proper meltdown where I could lie in bed and not bathe and not eat and listen to self-depreciating indie rock, then I could recoup some of this energy that dribbles out like rain from the gutter seam. I'm reading Franny and Zooey right now, the first time probably since college, and I'd completely forgotten what it was even about. For those of you who don't remember either, Franny is in the middle of a nervous breakdown, a kind of spiritual crisis. She has the luxury to lie on the couch and cry and refuse her mother's offers of chicken broth. I'm a bit jealous. It was, however, what I spent most of my 20s doing. I'm due to move on.
But having the kids (and not just one!) keeps me from doing that. It keeps me from doing nearly anything except what it is we do: pour a bowl of dry cereal and slice a banana for F's breakfast, change diapers, breastfeed, change diapers, spoonfeed Clark pears or avocado or carrots, clean up spills, wrestle shoes on F, help her pull off her pants and diaper to sit on the potty, reclothe her, pour sippy cups of milk and water and juice, fill zippy bags with raisins or cashews or goldfish for snacks, make peanut butter sandwiches, keep F from yanking toys away from her brother, put her in timeout when she whacks him over the head, let the dog out, let the dog in, feed the dog lunch, clean up more spills, fend off requests for more more more t.v., breastfeed, change diapers, bargain w/ F to eat some of her lunch, read a book and sing a song before nap, listen for the crying to stop, carry Clark around while I make a sandwich and put some dishes in the dishwasher, breastfeed, change diapers, walk walk walk a crying Clark to get him to go to sleep and hope he doesn't wake Frances so I can please god get a short nap myself before they're both up again. All that's by one pm.
For awhile I was panicked thinking that my life would always be like this. So tiring, so constant. Several mothers reminded me that sooner than I'd like it will change and my kids will be so grown up. They won't even want me around. At first I was relieved, knowing eventually I will have space again to myself. But lately I've had this new panic (trading one panic for another! Awesome.) that I can't slow the time down, that their babyhood will be too short, that I'm not paying proper attention, that I can't box and keep it.
My mother called a few minutes ago and I didn't answer the phone because I knew I wouldn't be a good conversationalist just now. So she called my cell. I didn't answer that either. Then she called Mitch's cell (which I heard vibrating on the desk since he's gone to the gym) which meant she thought something tragic had perhaps happened to keep me from picking up a call. So I called her back simply to tell her I was alive and not bleeding in a hospital (though metaphorically?) and that I didn't want to talk. A minute later M's phone rattled on the desk again and it was she, this time calling to say how sorry she was that I'm not feeling so great and to suggest perhaps I need more sunshine. Seriously--sunshine. Ah, yes, that's the problem. (sigh.)