Friday, October 10, 2008

Small things

If you've ever lived with a toddler or preschooler, you know that they have control issues.

It turns out that living with a bunch of kids has also given me some control issues. (Just ask my husband.)

It's been a bad week on this front, mostly due to Caleb's two-pronged approach to Mommy Torture. Firstly, he has a cold. This means he's fussy, crying a lot, up every few hours at night, and wants to be carried almost constantly. Secondly, when he does allow me to put him down (only briefly, mind you), he's hell-bent on destruction: climbing bookshelves, shredding books, crawling into the dishwasher and then falling out, and so on. Even when he's not crying, I cannot leave him alone for a second.

I find this part of motherhood to be maddening: nothing occurs on my terms. I've spent the week staggering around in sleep-deprived, shower-deprived, out-of-control fatigue. I can't get anything done, quite literally. I've stopped trying. I ordered pizza for dinner last night. There are toys scattered on every horizontal surface in the house. Crazy-making, for me. When I have a free minute, for some self-defeating reason, I spend it on the computer reading about the disaster-formerly-known-as-the-economy, or this horrifying election season. Which makes me feel even worse.

This morning Caleb awoke at 5:45, ready to get up. Which meant for me: no shower, no breakfast, no sense of control or accomplishment. I had failed before I even started.

Except I didn't play along.

I calmly put him back in his crib, much to his disappointment. I happily made a pot of coffee. When I got into the shower, he was fussing. I let the hot water clear the cobwebs, and when I emerged he was still protesting (though not too forcefully). I dried my hair, and when I turned off the dryer he was still complaining. I made my bed. I picked up my room.

In short I did what I wanted to do. Those things that I used to do every morning, before Number Three came along. Those things that, even if I don't get another damned thing done this day, make me feel as if I've accomplished something-- petty as though it may be.

Then I went to save my baby from his crib-prison. He smiled at me, and I smiled back.

This is my life right now. It's a small world which I currently occupy, defined by bed-making and laundry-doing and child-feeding. Big Questions are beyond my grasp, which I sometimes find disappointing. But for now, it's mostly okay. As long as I can occasionally say that I've done these little things on my terms, I'm satisfied. For now.

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