Feast or Famine?   1 comment

I came to the conclusion quite a few years ago that with children, it’s one or the other.  I don’t know why I didn’t pick up on this years before that watching my own parents.  It seems like they were always available, always loving, never tired, and rarely crabby.  But when I talk to them about life when my brother and I were little, I know that can’t be the case.  Mom has talked about longingly looking forward to the time when I would be in school and she could get a break.  I just don’t remember anything about that from the perspective of a child.

The only memory I have of mom losing it was the first winter we lived in Juneau Alaska.  Dad was out of town and some combination of weather conditions, and bad windows meant our picture windows had water running down the insides of them.  I remember Mom crying on the phone to somebody from church, who did help her take care of the flood on the inside, so she could stop her own personal flood.  Who could blame her?  Dark Alaskan winter coming down in a new town thousands of miles from the home, husband away, and water on the wrong side of the plate glass.  Oi.

But in general, kids can’t relate to adult challenges.  It’s not our problem.  I couldn’t relate then, and I just didn’t know what it was like for an adult caring for someone else, day in day out.

So…I didn’t know, even though all the evidence was there, what it would truly be like to carry those responsibilities of parenthood.  Of course, nobody can in advance, even if you babysat for months, or carried an egg around in your purse, or wore a fake baby thing in a sling for a month.

I remember the day we drove my mother in law to the airport for her return trip home.  I’d had help until then.  She told me “Keep looking up,” boarded her plane, and then I had to trot to the women’s bathroom to change my firstborn’s diaper.  I had never done this without some other helpful person around.  I got him on the changing table and had the diaper off before I realized the disaster it was.  I desperately needed more wipes, as in paper towels would be good. But, you know the rule, never leave baby unattended on the changing table.  I actually called out in the echoing room for help, thinking maybe some passing woman would come in and rescue me.  Nothing doing.  At that moment, I knew, he really was my responsibility for the next 18 years, amen.

I love the gifts of parenthood.  But I can honestly say, I don’t like how I can’t sign off for a few days or weeks when it feels like the need strikes.

Obviously it isn’t a need, or the human race wouldn’t have survived this long.

Those times you do manage to arrange a getaway, after dreaming of it for weeks…my main memories of those trips away with my husband seem to revolve around the way we’d literally collapse on the bed in the B and B first thing, and fall asleep.  Never mind the trendy shops, dinner out, or lovemaking.  It was being able to just take a nap if we wanted to, and that was usually the first thing we wanted to do!

But the thing is…once you have been given  a child, nursed himthrough some high fevers, read him Goodnight Moon a hundred times, felt her warm heavy weight on your lap and smelled its sweetness, once you’ve given him a birthday present that lit him up like a torch, once you’ve learned to truly love someone other than yourself…there’s no going back.

If that child is out of your home, it’s too quiet.  If that child is gone to Grandma’s for 10 days when he’s 12, you have a lonely place in your heart that is way too big to believe.  If there is an empty seat at the table, it feels like something is missing.  If your daughter’s bedroom door is shut, you leave it that way because you can then pretend that she’s actually in there drawing or reading or cuddling with her cat.

Loving your children and meeting their needs is exhausting.  But not having them around just plain feels wrong.

For now, I can’t get my head and heart any further around this, than just moving forward one day, one hour, one task at a time, rejoicing that I do have a family which needs me.  There will come a time when it will be quiet here.  Thank God for this day with my children.

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Posted April 14, 2013 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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One response to “Feast or Famine?

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  1. Hi Jenny, you express this so beautifully but it scares the crap out of me at the same time! 🙂 I am seeing many friends going through these changes and losses right now. How to embrace them and welcome the new adventures while dealing with the grief will be a challenge. I feel like I have been digging in with my heels ever since the kids passed toddlerhood! And yet it doesn’t serve them to hold on to the present. They strain forward with all the vigor of youth 🙂 Ah well. We will learn. Hugs to you…

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