Feeling Flushed

Stay at home moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, nannies, and child caretakers of any kind, 

How do you do it?  

I have been home, or rather, away from the camp/commune life, for like, five hot minutes (two weeks), and am slowly rapidly turning into a monster.  The frustration creeps in not even one hour into my day and continues careening along the path toward tyrannical madness until – mercifully for all of us – my head hits the pillow at night.  I feel so wound up inside that, if tugged, I might very well unspool the full amount of my pent-up crabbiness all over the floor, and probably wouldn’t have the energy to either explain it away or pick any of it back up.  Not only have I become a miserable body and mind to inhabit on my own, but I have been particularly miserable to live with, should you even dare to try to connect with me or suggest that we, I don’t know, talk about it. 

The last two weeks have been a whirling, spinning toilet bowl full of – you guessed it – misery. 

In the next turn of mental upheaval, I am faced with the reality that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I do, to stay home with Milo.  I know, I know, I know that many parents are not able to be home with their little men and women, and I do, in my saner moments, comprehend that my daily experiences are enviable.  But, to be honest with you, it makes me feel a little bit like one of those six year-olds at the dinner table who won’t eat the asparagus-stuffed Gefilte fish you made them for dinner: 

Oh, there are starving kids somewhere? 


I realize that this is a terrible, horrible analogy, but it’s the best I can come up with in my state, so please be gentle. 

In each day, there is most often the Good: Milo learning to point to the Dalmatian in his Curious George book when I ask him to show me where the doggy is; running into my arms with the full momentum of a tiny rhinoceros; giggles and giggles and more life-giving giggles at sweet, timely intervals.  But there is normally also the Bad:  irate cries when I take away the caps covering the screws that secure the toilet to the floor (a favorite of Milo’s, that on a positive, keeps me cleaning the toilets); kicking my legs/arms/everything everywhere during a diaper change while we are out visiting a friend’s house; throwing peas and spaghetti and milk cups on the floor and then somehow – in a miraculous cloud of impossibility - finding a large, heavy, pointed object to throw down on my head while I’m cleaning up the first three (a half-truth, yes, but then why does it always feel so pointy?). 

But really, he's the craziest cutest angry person. 

I am absolutely, positively sure that there are moms and dads out there who would almost literally kill to be able to partake of these daily rituals.  I know that you work intensely hard, and that you still feel the terrible pressure to be everywhere and everything to everyone, especially your kid(s), and I don't mean to belittle your case, even in the smallest degree.  But friends, in my world (because that's what i'm talking about here), there is also the Ugly.  There are diaper changes with the aforementioned flailing, kicking and throwing things, but also with fecal matter smearing all over your carpet, while you are suddenly battling the intense urge to pin your toddler to the ground and lock him in the cat crate while you take an extraordinarily long walk to the nearest bar and have a really, really, exceptionally strong drink, even if you've never had a drop of alcohol in your whole life.  There are days in which, unless your list is composed of:

“feed child
clean up after child [a little]
change diaper
try [and fail] to get child to sleep
feed child
change [appallingly rank] diaper
cry on the floor
bribe child to get through the yogurt aisle
feed child [donut holes] so he won’t fall asleep on the car ride home
fail to feed child dinner (because he’s eaten twelve donut holes already)
wrangle child into pajamas
put wild animal to bed, twice
eat a pound of chocolate
step on approximately five thousand small toys
go to bed way too late”,

you won’t be able to check anything off.  Laundry?  Nope.  Dishes.  No way.  Exercise?  Bahahaha.  

Wait - did you really think you could do that?

I realize that I am writing this in a state of moderate frenzy, so forgive me when I ask to take it all back in a week and tell you how much I love my life (because I do), but in a world that tells you that your value is bound to how productive you are, and because I have foolishly bought into that mantra, there are days when I want anything but this job.  Anything.  Commercial dishwashing all day?  Yes.  Hospital laundry?  If I don’t need to talk to anyone, sure.  Stuff envelopes in an office??? Ohmygosh, yes.  Some days I would give almost anything to feel productive.  

But for now, in the midst of these good/bad/ugly days, I plan to simply keep changing my list to look like the above, so that I can actually check some things off, thankyouverymuch, and to do my best – my very not-good-enough best – to keep up with my son, and to smother him with an excess of love and hugs so that he would never guess that his mom is justthisclose to completely losing her marbles. 



I wrote a little note to read at the reception of two friends of mine who were married a couple of weeks ago.  This is a pair who I love and who happen to be on a terribly enchanting honeymoon right this minute in the forests and mountains of western Canada, being, as they have always been - both independently and together - adventurous and appreciative of every little small thing.   They are among my host of favorites and have generously given me permission to share this with you.  Thanks, friends. 


There is a little shop in Moab, Utah that sells crafts and other works made by local artisans.  Each time Craig and I have gone camping in that area, we’ve popped in the store to have a look around.  Invariably – as is true in all parts of the southwest, I think - there are a number of art pieces composed of mixed metals: old bike gears and chains, scraps of galvanized steel and maybe a washer or two thrown in somewhere.  Most parts show definite prior use – the edges of the gears are worn smooth, the chains are clunky, and the washers are pock marked and could never lay straight.  And yet, in each case, the artist has intentionally chosen that specific object as a component in order to create something of new interest and new value.  And even in their altered form, each of those components is still completely identifiable.  Each metal piece remains as it formerly was - rusty and bent and imperfect – and yet the new creation, as a whole, is a marvelous and whimsical thing.

Jennifer and Jacob, welcome to your new adventure.  Welcome to a lifetime of being welded to something broken.  

I say this with a smile, because it’s as true for you as it is for Craig and I as it is for every couple anywhere.  There’s no other way to do marriage, and most often it’s in this brokenness that we get to see the extraordinary nature of love done well.  

In these initial months and years, I challenge you to develop the habit of thinking on your individual brokenness, not in a manner to weigh you down, or discourage you, but in order that you are able to see more fully how good and beautiful it is to be on the receiving end of such love.  Humble people don’t have pride to be hurt or inconsequential arguments to win, and, I’d wager that they experience a deeper sense of joy than the rest of us.  In marriage, winning is never the goal.  Perfection is never the goal.  Showing love... that is always the goal. 

Love might take physical form as a comforting embrace.  Or a hard conversation.  Or laughing so hard that you pee a little.   But like any of its incarnations, genuine love can only emerge from a heart of humility. 

During these initial days, you will hear that marriage is a hard work, that it contains difficult stretches to be endured and will require more restraint and patience than you imagine.  I admit that this can be true.   But if you can practice being clear with your expectations and gentle with your judgment, it can be as whimsical and lighthearted as art made from tea kettles and tire irons.   If you can learn to love each other well in the seemingly small, everyday ways, the big challenges will seem less daunting.   You are broken – both of you, and all of us.  But today marks the beginning of your brokenness taking the shape of something beautiful - and I’m warning you - amidst the work and the patience and your sacrifice, it’s going to be a terrible amount of fun. 


Also, happy belated anniversary to Craig, my best and most forgiving friend.  Let's do ten more, just to be sure.

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