This morning went the way most mornings do. I let the baby stay in bed with us after her 5:30 a.m. feeding, and was woken at 6:30 by Ceci climbing in too, bringing blankie, Pillow Pet, and talking Yoda with her. I managed to get everyone dressed and fed. I only yelled a little. We arrived at preschool exactly on time, which almost never happens; everything else was usual.
Still, as I pulled out of the parking lot to head back home, I felt an urge to call my mom. I wanted to vent about how the days pass and I never get anything done that I mean to do, how I feel like I’m just treading water. When I look at myself and I look at my house, nothing ever looks the way I’d like it to. And I’m ready to have my body back, but my 10-month-old isn’t ready to relinquish it. I would tell her that I’m tired from the nights that Alex cries. I’m irritable with the other girls and then immediately sorry for my short temper. Comfort is what I’m seeking, and sympathy. That’s what I want.
What I need, though, I know, is not for someone to pat my head and say, Oh, poor you. Tell me all about it. What I need is to acknowledge that my struggles, as real as they seem to me, are absurd in light of what I know about the world. What I need is to seriously stop complaining and be grateful for all that is right in my life.
So I don’t call. Instead I make an inventory of the things that are, today, just as they should be: The warmth of my baby next to me, her body small enough, for now, to fit perfectly in the curve of my arm. Ceci in her car seat, curls tumbling from the hood of her rain jacket. She lets out a goofy chuckle and I imitate her, and the game continues for a minute or two until we both can’t help but laugh for real. On the drive to school, I hear Maggie say Wow… I ask what she saw and she tells me it was a puddle, a really big one. Good for jumping in? I ask. Yeah. Big enough to fit eleven people. These are moments of joy.
There is peace in my life where I am willing to find it. It comes in the sound of my children at play, pretending only as children can. Ceci walks around the house with the phone from the toy kitchen, calling her friends, relatives, teachers. Miss Amanda? Hi. How are you? Good? I’m good. Are my friends being good listeners? They is? Good. Okay, bye! Maggie, too, is still unembarrassed about playing make-believe. I can hear her in her room while Ceci naps. She is all of the characters; I don’t know how many or who. When I come to tell her that quiet time is over I scan her room for clues. There are Star Wars figurines lined up on her book shelf and clothes pulled out of her closet. She could have been waging a war or posing in a fashion show. Either way, it looks like she had fun. She’s five, she should be having fun.
I’d like to believe that there is an order to it all, a harmony so big and wide that it encompasses the chaos I am living in. What I see as disarray is really just a natural process of shifting the pieces until they all fall into place. For instance: In the night, most nights, my youngest daughter wakes. I will not nurse her until morning, so I straighten her blankets and try to quiet her. Each night she will be soothed only when I allow her to hold my hand. It is uncomfortable; I have to hang over the crib rail in a way that cuts off circulation to my arm and painfully tightens my lower back. As I hang there, her small hand fiercely gripping mine, it’s hard not to focus on the pain and exhaustion. I want her to sleep, I want to go back to my bed. But the beauty, the rightness, of my hand in hers- that isn’t lost on me either. Isn’t that what it is to be a mother: to look for the brightness on the other side of pain? To know that every bit of this experience we call motherhood, even the parts that feel awful, add up to something greater?
So many of the things I complain about stem from the three greatest blessings of my life. What could possibly be wrong when so very much is right?