On the advent of our transatlantic departure, the kids get super whiny. This is a common occurrence any time travel is coming, no matter how excited they are, there's just enough uncertainty, just enough nervousness that their voices to turn to whines. But I'm not crying! Mattias tells me. I'm talking in my sad voice! For Trixie, who is barely speaking, the whining is accompanied by writhing around on whatever floor is conveniently beneath her feet when the mood strikes. I pick her up off the floor a dozen times in a single afternoon. Noah and Mattias will miss approximately three weeks of school. For Noah, especially, missing the end of the year means a lack of closure. He breaks into tears one night in bed because he'll be missing Field Day.
While typing the paragraph above, Mattias comes to me, his face covered in black marker, Look what I did! I march him straight to the bathroom to clean it off his face before it becomes permanent. He's too old to draw on himself with marker. But he's too young to know what to do with all this nervousness. I should have been paying more attention instead of distracting myself with this blog. After scrubbing off the marker, I cuddle him on my lap while trimming his finger and toenails. There are so many things to do right now! I know Mattias needs the physical-ness of a cuddle; I need these kids with clean/short nails for the wedding in three days. Trixie is jealous of the cuddle time, she attempts to push Mattias off my lap. As we rebalance, I look up and out the window to see Fritz's retired boss walk past the window with his grandchildren. They look so idyllic and peaceful. I wonder if I look idyllic or peaceful at the moment. I feel anything but.
At bedtime, I dump the responsibilities on Fritz and go to Target on a last minute errand. I can count the number of times I've dumped bedtime responsibilities on Fritz on one hand. But on this evening, I just. can't. do. one. more. minute. with. the. kids. At the store I wonder WHY we do this to ourselves. Whenever we pull the kids out of their routine it's a special kind of parental torture. I can hear my mother saying that it's good for kids to do new things. I can hear myself saying that I've never been a complacent type; I've always pushed myself out of my comfort zone. But with the kids...I don't know how much fight I have left in me. After 8 years of little kids and their irrational behavior, I'm thoroughly, maybe even irrevocably, exhausted. I watch other families, with their seemingly quieter, simpler, more peaceful lives and I wonder if I'm addicted to creating chaos in my own life. I imagine telling my mother that pushing the child-me to try new things created an exhausting standard.
I sigh and try to see some personal advantage in our imminent travels. When the kids were younger – when there were fewer of them – visiting relatives meant I could fade into the background a bit. I'm not sure that's possible anymore. We'll see.
I think about Noah and Mattias's school and the way my life revolves around it. I consider that maybe my school-centric social circle here in Denver contributes to my exhaustion. I like every individual, but as a group.... The group is simultaneously wonderful and horrible for me. Sometimes the group identity feels stuck to my personhood like a temporary tattoo I'd like to scrub away. Maybe I just need some space from that school and the group collective. Slip into someone new, have a different context. Yes, I think, that might be nice.
Then I think again about how tired I am. But not so tired I can't type up a blog post! I remind myself. Because there was a time, about a year ago, when sitting down to type just wasn't an option. I remind myself to be thankful, because the exhaustion has been worse. Maybe I can type more blog posts after I've been able to shed my skin and blend into a new background...
When I feel deflated by motherhood – and frankly, it's frequent in the last few years – I tell myself that it will get easier. I believe this; I have to; otherwise I couldn't go on. The idea of all the kids being in school for several hours a day is a juicy carrot, hanging just beyond my reach, but not for long! When the three kids are together and in super-whine mode (like now), I'm interrupted with a new crises every 20 seconds. We grab dinner out and: Trixie throws olives on the floor. Mattias cries about the baby birds outside in the thunderstorm. Trixie gets her finer stuck in straw hole. Noah has to be reminded to sit in his chair. Trixie dumps water on the table. Noah wonders away to refill his glass. Trixie finds a mystery tennis ball under the table and won't let go of it. Mattias wants to know (through sobs) where the baby birds go when it rains. Noah has to be reminded to sit in his chair (again). Trixie squirts yogurt all over herself. And so on.
As I pushed my cart around the aisles of Target, cringing at the thought of Fritz back at home wrangling their whiny butts into bed, I promise myself that when they are all older and in school, I will do WHAT I WANT during their absence and dammit, I WILL BE HAPPY DOING IT. I'm totally invested in being here while they are young. But it feels like it's lasted about 3 decades and it's not really what I want to be doing full-time anymore and mostly it's only fun in retrospect. I will not mope around shedding tears about it being over. I remind myself to record these sentiments. Maybe they'll make me laugh some day. Or cry. But Today-Me wants to tell Future-Me: THIS TIME WAS NOT EASY! Don't be deceived by the way it comes across so cute and harmless in the photos. Or funny on the blog. The exhaustion runs deep.