NS April 8th, 2010
Doing funny voices all day? I can deal with that.
Waiting patiently for a tantrum in public to subside? Unpleasant, but doable.
Breastfeeding a baby for hours on end and then a toddler who pinches and kicks and squirms? I bear it.
Changing nappies, preparing meals, rounding up all the items needed for an outing, arranging playdates, doing the school run, ensuring they are eating well, meeting their developmental milestones, learning manners, empathy, self-confidence, the alphabet and how to navigate this complex world successfully? That seems like the easy part most days.
You know which bit I absolutely cannot abide, the bit that, no matter how many times I am confronted with and know I cannot escape still manages to drive me up a wall?
The endless, self-perpetuating, infinitesimal cycle of spills, crumbs, soggy towels, muddy shoes, water all over the bathroom floor, every nappy taken out of its package, every item of clothing removed from the dresser, made beds instantly unmade, toys underfoot: toys on the sofa, under the bed, in the washing machine, in the car, in my handbag; marker pen dragged along the recently-painted wall, cat food dumped out, containers placed (empty) back in the fridge, overflowing bins no one else seems to notice and a pile of laundry that moves from body to floor to hamper to basket to machine to airer or radiator to basket to bed to drawer and back onto the body where it will remain for perhaps three to four hours before being soiled and removed yet again.
These things — not the tears or fighting or whining or being jumped on, poked, awakened, kept up, tried, tested and put through the wringer — is what usually ends up being the straw that broke this camel’s weary back. Maybe camels and mothers have more in common than previously thought — we both store reserves of fat and patience to see us through the long, hard slog in the brutal, relentless desert but eventually, if provoked, we get mean and spit; we lie down and refuse to move, dumping our hapless hangers-on headfirst into the quicksand.
Sometimes I look at another mess I have to clean up, another lovingly-prepared meal uneaten or another load of laundry I have to fold and put away and I do one of two things (and on a really, really bad day, both): explode or cry. I have seen a bowl of purposely-dumped cereal turn me from a normal person into a seething, shaking, quivering ball of internal fury that manifests itself with a clenched jaws, fistfuls of hair, eyes filled with teary, apoplectic rage and a river of self-pity and hatred that rushes through me so suddenly and with such force that it dulls the sharp edges of my heart a little.
It can’t be normal to have such a strong reaction to water dumped out of the bath, can it?
It’s not about the mess itself. I know that kids will be kids and that they don’t mean it (most of the time) and that it will get better as they get older. I know that in the grand scheme of things (and even in the not-so-grand), messes don’t matter. I know that Noble Girl doesn’t know how bat-shit crazy it makes me when she starts chanting, “I’m hungry!” every 30 seconds right after lunch and while I’m doing my daily freelance gig, on deadline; I know that Noble Boy doesn’t know how soul-destroying it is to have to say, “No. No. NO. Don’t touch that, please. No. Please, don’t touch it. No. No! I said NO!” about 90 billion times a day.
But it’s not that.
It’s more about the monotony and knowing that if I don’t do it or say it, no one else will. It’s knowing that while I’m busy cleaning up one mess another will be created in the next room, and then the next, and so on. It’s knowing that even if get down on my knees and look them in the eye and do everything a good parent is supposed to do in teaching their child about appropriate behaviour, it will go in one ear and out the other and I will feel like a broken record, scratched and spinning out of control with no one listening. It’s knowing that nearly every other mother on the planet feels or has felt this way too, and even that is not much of a comfort.
It’s knowing that I will do this every day, several times a day, for years to come, because I have to.