I drove to work this morning with one hand on the wheel and the other hand inside of a box of Oatmeal Squares. Cereal was all I could grab on my way out of the house. It was mercy I even managed that before I wobbled to my car with Layla’s breakfast, slippery water bottles—one tucked under my arm and the other balanced on a plate, two backpacks, and my make-up bag. It was 6:45 and I couldn’t squash my defeat. It’s so early, but I’m still so late, I thought dejectedly.
I tried so hard not to be—begging Layla the night before to sleep early and wake up without constant nudging; putting everyone’s clothes out and packing lunches; making dinner and ensuring enough for leftovers the next day; doing work for an hour after everyone else was asleep. Preparing. I tried to get it all done, but it wasn’t enough.
In fact, the last few weeks have piled on top of each other so much so that I have been glued to each monkey bar—aware of the metal lines to come but also only able to reach out so far. Tasks are getting done, and lists keep piling up. Judging from people around me, it very well could be just that time in September.
Last night after everything was undone and done (maybe not even in that order), I had a hoarse throat and a weight on my chest. I was upset at how the kids bickered on and off all night, causing spikes of tension that hit me the way it feels when you stop abruptly after running fast, your body all confused and breathless.
My body couldn’t handle a single more argument. By the final time I told Layla to stop coming out of her room, that enough was enough, especially since I’d read the story and fixed the light and fed that last snack, I had nothing left to give. And then just as I had quieted, I saw her run out of her room. I was afraid that if I nagged or yelled one more time, I’d unravel. Instead, I sat angry, transfixed on why I couldn’t just let it go. She’s being a kid. I’m a working mom. This is how it is. You know this. Just put on Downton Abbey and screw doing the dishes.
Thirty minutes later, I found her asleep on the guest bed. I walked towards it to carry her to her own room, but a feeling spiked up on me. I sat on the edge of an ottoman in my living room instead and just cried. So many women are familiar with that good-cry-in-the-shower moment, only this time I was just sitting in a quiet room, grateful for some relief.
So that was last night. And my Oatmeal Square morning was this morning. The rest of today brought me to a better place. It’s the last official day of summer, so maybe there’s something to that.
My student editors made smart calls; my classes are liking The Crucible. I found my groove, so I felt the power to walk into the house with blinders on. We hung out in Layla’s room and loomed bracelets. Kal did his own thing while we held onto the moment.
At bedtime, I told Zade stories about when he was a baby. His new orange and black bracelet glowed against his blue LED night light, causing curiosity and joy—so sweet on his face. I leaned against his little stomach and laughed genuinely with him. Parents’ emotions are insanity. I am so tired, but I want to wake him up and relive how he laughed, an extended laugh that pleasantly surprises me when coming from a child.
This morning I was certain this post would be only about how the struggle catches up with us some days. But then just a few hours ago, I put the kids, skin shiny from a bath, to bed and felt tired, yes, but also better. A spike of affection and appreciation replaced what I felt 24 hours before.
So, I’ll leave you with this last anecdote if nothing but for my own memory:
My kids’ exuberance to see me come home from work is is really touching. They’re naturally loving greeters until it becomes a competition between who can run for the hug the fastest or hang on my neck the longest. Usually, my arms are filled with the same things I loaded my car up with in the morning, so the greeting becomes an awkward mashup of good intentions, the necessities, joy, and disappointment.
I decided two weeks ago that I’d walk into the house with only my car keys in hand. Arms open and able to reduce my own frustration with trying to make the scene what I want, I am able to give them what they need from the second I walk in. I gave up telling them to hang on and adjust. I just added a couple trips to the car. Something so simple solved one small element of the evening for me.
Tonight, I’m grateful to not end the night sitting on the edge of an ottoman. Those nights happen, and that’s life. But I’ll keep searching within for small adjustments that can help end the evening with an LED glow, some time to write, and a little more peace.