Sunday, April 28, 2013

Becoming Un-Done

Ten minutes is not a nap.

One minute was enough time to track mud through the kitchen yesterday. Five minutes was long enough to argue with a child before she stormed out of the room last night. Eight minutes was the time it took to flood a bathroom this morning. Ten minutes is long enough to lose it and reconsider why you became a mom.

But it is definitely not a nap.

“Parker!” The blood pulsing in my eardrums competed with the cries of the baby. “Stop it right there,” I grumbled through clenched teeth and grabbed him by the arm as he made a last ditch effort to run past me. It had taken twenty-two minutes exactly to put that over-tired baby to sleep. I watched the clock tick with every ache in my back. With a controlled breath out, I slowly relaxed my grip on Parker’s arm.It’s been a long day and it’s not even lunch so pull—it—together, I told myself.

“What were you doing in the baby’s room?” I asked, in stiff, measured syllables. I squinted my eyes, trying to drown out the crying baby and the exhaustion that had been building all week.

“I need socks for soccer practice,” he said, his mouth left open, like, duh.

“Why on earth would your socks be in the baby’s room?”

“I don’t know. I was just looking everywhere.”

“Well, the baby’s room is off limits.” I let go of his arm already heading toward the baby. Parker followed, still asking where his socks were, trying to squeeze in and walk side-by-side in the narrow hall.

“Look in your laundry.” He turned and ran back down the hallway. “Your laundry in your room, not the stacks on the couch,” I called after him.

I walked reluctantly into the baby’s room, feet moving slowly like the Little Engine That Couldn’t. Looking over the rim of the crib, I stared at my crying baby girl, lying on her pink crocheted blanket, her pacifier clutched in her frantic fist. I don’t know what else to give you, I thought. You’ve been nursed, burped, changed and rocked to sleep and now I have nothing. I hadn’t realized I was crying until I saw my tears mix with hers on her flushed cheeks.

“Mom?” a small voice called from behind. “Mom, I hungee.” I felt small hands wrap around my leg.

How long had I been crying? Where are the children? What are we going to eat? My drained mind filled with questions as I picked up my baby. I didn’t know what to tell my 3-year-old daughter, Camille. I hadn’t been to the store for a week and the cupboards and fridge were bare. “Apples,” I mumbled, picking up the still crying baby.

Heading for the kitchen and already wanting to call it quits, the state of the family room put me over the edge. The furniture was covered by clean clothing that had, minutes before, been folded in a basket on the couch. I followed a trail of socks through the family room, into the kitchen, like a prisoner on a death march. Each step released any resolve or strength I had held in reserve. I was done, finished. It was over. I was as empty as the overturned laundry basket.

Camille held out an apple with a bite taken out of it. “Yucky,” she said, through pinched, disgruntled lips. Without breaking the rhythm of my march, I opened the fridge to get her a new, un-desecrated apple. Five apples in the produce drawer and every one of them had already been sampled and placed back into the fridge.

I didn’t blink. I didn’t care. I was already done. I stared at Camille, my eyes wide and vacant as she looked back at me, expectantly.

The doorbell rang. Wiping a fresh pool of tears from under my eyes, I answered the door to find my visiting teacher, Joyce.

“Hi Karin,” she said, hesitating before handing me a plate of cookies. “If I don’t give these away, I’ll eat them all myself.”

I rearranged the loosely swaddled baby in my arms to take the plate but Camille beat me to it, rushing back into the kitchen, already pulling the plastic wrap off the plate. My eyes lingered down the hall after her, relieved that she now had something to eat.

“Are you OK?” Joyce asked, pulling back my attention.

“Yes,” I smiled, nervously, unsettled by the confused looked on her face. “Yes, of course. We were just getting hungry around here so thank you so much for the cookies.” I tried to push the image of the family room buried in laundry out of my mind, wondering how long and loud the baby would cry while I cleaned it up.

“Are you sure?” she asked again, smiling wider.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I smiled, placing my hand on the door, indicating it was time for me to get back to my family. Joyce took the cue. “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you,” I recited along with her in my mind.

I closed the door and let the emotion wave over me again. Five minutes was too long to put on a show today. My eyes drifted to my reflection in a decorative mirror in the entryway and I stared, paralyzed. Squinting, I leaned in to get a good look at the face in the reflection. Red eyes stared back, blank and baffled. Mascara ran down my blotchy cheeks.

Everything I tried to hide was running down my cheeks, calling my bluff in dark, wet streaks.
This is ridiculous, I thought, embarrassed at being caught in my own deception. “I’m done being done,” I told my reflection. “I can’t do this alone.” Who am I trying to fool anyway? And why? Empowered with a strength born of humiliation, I called after my visiting teacher.

“Joyce,” I called. “I’ve got a laundry basket I need to fill and I could use some help. Do you have a minute?”

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