It has been one of those days.
The kind where I wake up in the middle of the night to find that my 5-year-old daughter has crawled into my bed again and now her feet are wedged under my head and I can’t fall asleep for hours, and when I finally do I am woken up by a steady clunk of big boy feet and arms and bodies. They’re happy and excited to start the day. They want me to make them breakfast, check their homework, hug them, kiss them, find their jackets, mediate their arguments, solve their problems.
That’s when I hear the words in my head. They’re small at first, tiny whispers that could be soothed with just a few moments of peace. But, the bus is coming and they NEEEEEEEEED me and there is no peace. So those words swell into an enormous bubble that is going to erupt any minute.
I shake myself free of tiny hands and stinky feet and stomp into the bathroom. I check to make sure the door is securely locked, then sink to the floor on a pile of yesterday’s towels. My mouth flies open and those words, those two forbidden words, erupt out of it.
“Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!!!!!”
I am a calm person. A kind person. I am quick to love and extremely slow to anger. But there are moments–too many moments–when those words crash through my brain, canceling out everything else.
It didn’t even happen with my own kids until recently. For many years, they were my whole existence. Soothing their cries wasn’t irritating, it was my task in life–the most important job I could imagine. But they’re older now, and I am too. I am changing, growing, emerging from the cocoon of young motherhood, and I need peace to do it. I crave quiet now like I used to crave chocolate brownies or blood orange margaritas.
This might sound selfish. It might be selfish. But, selfish or not, it’s the truth. And denying the truth almost always makes things worse.
So I carve out my peaceful place, even if it means allowing my kids extra TV time or locking myself in my bedroom for a bit while they get their own damn snacks.
I say those words, those forbidden words, that are so often knocking around in my head–but only to myself, after I’ve made sure that the door is locked and they are far out of earshot.
Because these things are what I need right now. And if I don’t get what I need, I won’t be able to give them what they need… which is a warm, loving, present mother.
I know that life won’t always be like this. There will be a day when I crave their never-ending questions and constant under-footedness. When that time comes, I don’t want to look back on these years with regrets. I don’t want to feel like I spent so much time hiding from my children that I didn’t really get to enjoy them. And so, after a few precious moments in the bathroom, I take a deep breath and head down the stairs.
They’re all there in the kitchen, and there’s a puddle of orange juice on the floor, and my sons are bellowing pop songs, and they’re yelling and laughing and filling up every bit of space with their constant motion.
They stop when they see me, guilty expressions frozen on their faces.
This is the part where I’m supposed to say that my little angels made me breakfast or gave me big hugs. But, they didn’t. Because they’re kids and they don’t always know what’s needed from them.
But I’m not a kid anymore. And I know that there are times, many times, when I need to put aside my own need for peace and quiet and take care of my responsibilities. So they went back to their laughter and games and I made them breakfast and gave them hugs and sent the big ones off to school and put on a TV show for the little one so that I could steal this small moment of time to write and reflect and enjoy a solitary cup of coffee.
The show is almost over. Soon my little one will come tumbling in here looking for entertainment and comfort. She’s already calling down to me, asking for snacks and a new pair of socks.
I’m not answering her though. Because if I answer her right now, before I’m really ready to go back into that storm of questions and needs, the answer will be the one that I’ve been trying all morning to hold in. The one I’m forbidden to say out loud. So, I’ll say it to you here. Because I know you understand and won’t take it personally and that you’ve probably longed to say them yourself sometimes, too.
I’ll say them to you and you’ll say them to me and then we’ll go about our day much more peacefully.
SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!!!!!!!
See? Much better.