Motherhood: In the Trenches

Have you ever had a moment crystallized in your mind? And you know when it is happening that it will be a memory you hold forever? I have had that happen a few times in my life, and it is always during a very random moment. Once I was sitting at my desk in the 4th grade. I vividly remember the white buzzing glow of the artificial florescent lights in the brown room. I say brown, because the carpet was brown, the desks were all brown, the cupboards were a lighter shade of brown, and the walls were made of a brown brick. I distinctly remember the cold hardness of the top of my desk. I was sitting in the back near the door and the drinking fountain. My teacher was sitting in her desk, and as the crystallization happened, I realized it would be a moment I would remember forever.

Today I had it happen again. I was standing at the stove, stirring a pot of macaroni and cheese. Keith had been wonderfully helpful and was going to make some on his own, except he got distracted by playing with Faye, and actually burned the butter. The pan was a mess, and so we had to dump the melted butter outside, clean out the pan, and begin to make the sauce again, this time with me helping. As I stirred the noodles into the cheese sauce, Beth clung to my trouser leg, crying and begging to be picked up. I could hear Keith making karate chop sounds, and Faye instructing him with exactly how to play, what he should do next, what he should say next, and he was very happy to oblige and play along. The house was a mess. There was food all over the counter from when Keith had been trying to cook. Because we have wicked awesome friends, we had (have) a couch in our kitchen and a love seat, small as love seats are, crowding out the rest of my furniture in the living room, and slowly encroaching on the kitchen space. Our kitchen table had been taken down to give to my niece who is getting married this summer, and a new table given to us by some other friends was in pieces all over the living room, along with four beautiful chairs to accompany the table.

Of course, when there is so much new chaos in the house, the kids gravitate towards it, building forts and eventually disappearing at the event horizon, only to come out when they smell food, or their bellies begin to grumble.

At that moment, among the bedlam and chaotic mess, that instant froze itself in my memory. I will always feel Beth tugging and crying as I am gazing into a pot of orange mac and cheese, trying to figure out how to fix it. I will always hear the kids in the background, and remember the happiness that surged through my body as I listened to them getting along and having fun. And then the surprise that I felt that amidst all my stress due to my un-organized house, I was enjoying that moment.

I am so glad that one will always be with me. Mothering from the Trenches, I would label it if I could. Or possibly This is Real Life.

Now about the anarchy of my house. Let me explain.

My friend called me last week and told me she was getting new couches on the coming Friday (the one that just passed). She asked if I would like her old ones. I got excited and told her I did, and then began plotting out how I would arrange them in our basement, partitioning off a section for the kids big toys that are out in the shed due to lack of order and room for them. I realized I would have to take apart both the futon to put in the shed, and the pool table. But that wouldn't be a problem, Jeffrey and I could do it sometime, easy.

And then another friend called and asked me if I wanted a new kitchen table. Since the one we are using was my great grandomther's and wobbles anytime it gets touched, heaven help you if you want to cut any food on your plate,. I excitedly jumped at the chance. I asked my niece if she would like her great great grandmother's kitchen table, and she is very excited to have a piece of furniture so steeped in family history. I say good for her, I am not sentimental like that.

However, things kept coming up all week, so Jeffrey and I never got a chance to take down the pool table or futon. Normally I would just do it myself, but the pool table really is a two person job. Someone has to hold the ends while the other person risks death by crushing, or at least being hit on the head by a rouge pool ball, while they are trying to unscrew the legs from the table. It isn't really possible to do on your own. And I can't get the futon out until the pool table is out because the pool table is at the foot of the stairs, congesting the whole area, thus causing more mess and inner turmoil for me.

Because during this weekend of thoughts of clarity, I had a realization. This week has been hard for me. I have felt stressed and like I was falling behind and nothing I did helped me get caught up. I felt like I was taking 5 steps backward for every step forward, and I couldn't figure out why I was feeling like this. Until it dawned on me. It is because of the messiness of my house. If I can just keep a clean house, my mood reflects it. I began clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth at night again, not really realizing I was doing it until my jaw began to hurt. Because I don't always pick up on the clues right away. Mess=stress.

And yes, I have had this realization before. But it was surprising to me to be able to pin point the exact reason I was being so grumpy. Surprising and somewhat liberating in a sense. Not the sense that it fixed anything, just nice to know why I feel like that. But the real victory lies in the fact that I didn't yell at my kids once this week. From Monday until today, I have not raised my voice at them in anger. This is a huge accomplishment for me! I have set this goal so many times, only to fail. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have shouted their names, forgetting that I don't want to shout anymore, but immediately after I would remember, apologize, and then switch to a kind and loving voice to speak with them. I feel better about my interactions with them, but I know I have a long way to go from here.

Finally, the kids have been doing a million great and adorable things, but I will have to devote more time to that later. I think my insomnia may have just worn off and I may get some sleep tonight. Yay!


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