Sunday, December 11, 2011

Someone please help me: May 14, 2006

Mother's Day 2006 found me very near my breaking point with the whole mom gig. I am not what you'd call naturally maternal. I'm not even what you'd call an especially competent parent. But I try really hard.

Right about May 2006, all that trying had just about worn me out.

The mother of all gifts makes for a tiring job
    This is a very big day.

    Not just because it’s Mother’s Day (Hi Mom!) and not just because it’s my oldest son’s 6th birthday (Hi Jack!) but because it is the first time since the day my son was born that his birthday has fallen on Mother’s Day.

    So it’s Jack’s birthday, and it’s Mother’s Day, and it’s all happening at once, and you know what I’ve got to say about it? I AM TIRED. Bone-tired, soul-tired, worn-out, old-before-my-time, nearly-weeping-with-fatigue TIRED.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
    For context, you need to know that in addition to my 6-years-old-today son I have a 16-months-old-today son who is just old enough to reach all the high, dangerous stuff and who DOES NOT like to be told "no." He is the Tantrum King, the Lord of Wailing, the Child Who Will Not Be Tamed.

    He is Ben the Baby Barbarian.

    People jogging by my house (Hi Joggers!) often slow down and peer curiously at his bedroom window, which positively vibrates with the power of his screams. I keep waiting for the police to show up, called by well-meaning neighbors who are convinced I am using the baby as a pincushion.

    So, as I was saying. It’s Mother’s Day ... right. And Jack’s birthday.

    I started to write a column about the day Jack was born, which was an amazing, beautiful day (that ended with a lot of pain and stitches). I was going to write about how I sat in the car in front of my house at 4 a.m., enormously pregnant, waiting for my husband to drive me to the hospital, and across the street was a Baptist church with one of those lighted signs. And on the sign was this illuminated Mother’s Day message: Motherhood is a gift from God.

    Now, I am not a religious person in any conventional sense, but I don’t have to be hit upside the head with a mallet to know when I am receiving a message from a higher power.

    So I started to write that column, and it was going to be really good, maybe even moving, but then the baby woke up from his nap, and then he was howling to be fed, so I fed him, but then I had to clean up the mess from feeding him, and he was trying to climb over me and eat the food off the floor, so I had to put him in his crib while I cleaned up, and then he started to SCREAM, and then I had to change his diaper and get him into the car so we could pick up Jack from school, and when I got them both home I realized I was out of milk, then I had to make dinner while the baby hung onto my legs and SHRIEKED into my kneecaps for me to pick him up, up, UP, which I absolutely should not do because it just teaches him to shriek, but I did it anyway because I just wanted it to stop, stop, STOP.

    Anyway ... you get the picture.

    Poor Jack. While I wrestled the baby barbarian and the macaroni in the kitchen, Jack sat at the dining room table writing rows of equations in his special equation notebook, not really paying much attention to us, not really worried about anything except when he would maybe get some macaroni and cheese. Which he did, eventually.

    "Babies are a lot of work," Jack said to me that night, after we had finally fought his little brother into bed.

    "Yeah," I said, sighing. "They are. I think maybe this baby is extra-hard, though. You were pretty demanding, but your brother is just absolutely unbelievable."

    "He’s really a good baby, though," Jack said, pulling his Superman pajama top over his head. "I really love him. He’s my favorite baby. He’s cute."

    And I thought, If I weren’t so tired I would now be inspired to go write that column about how motherhood is a gift from God. Because it really is. Especially after the kids get past about age 3.

    But I did not write that column. Because people, I AM SO TIRED.

    I got Jack to bed, and I sat with my husband on the couch (he helps me with the kids, he really does. It’s just that he commutes an hour to work, so he leaves before 7 a.m., and it takes him until after 6 p.m. to get home and how much can you really do in the time that’s left?) After a few minutes of sitting on the couch I was falling asleep, so I went to bed and lost consciousness. At 9:30. Again.

    So now it’s Mother’s Day, and it’s Jack’s birthday, the sixth anniversary of the day I became, for the first time and forever, miraculously, astoundingly, Mommy.

    Dear God, thank you so much for the gift. Now could you please send a little endurance to go with it?

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