Family / Kids / Parenting

Happy Mothers’ Day, or How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love Being Trapped at Home

Because I recently heard that exposure to greenery erases brain fatigue, I’ve parked myself on the loveseat on my back porch and spent the past fifteen minutes alternating between staring at my backyard’s canopy of trees and reading bits of David Sedaris’ new book, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.

Truth: I came out here to hide from my kids.

Truth: They’re driving me crazy.

More Accurate Truth: I’m grouchy because the virus festering in their bodies has required me to scrap an entire week’s worth of plans. While I’ve been performing elaborate mental calisthenics, trying to Pollyanna myself into remembering that, in the larger scheme of things, I’m a really lucky gal (Really! I am! It could be worse! It’s only a virus!), I’m also sleep-deprived and therefore in danger of falling headfirst into a cesspool of self-pity.

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As the children’s conditions have upgraded from “limp noodle with fever-glossed eyes” to “sick enough to miss school but well enough to bicker with each other,” my condition has downgraded from “unflappable Florence Nightingale, doling out custom-made smoothies and back rubs” to “if you interrupt my work one more time by asking me for a glass of water that you can very well get for yourself, you’re not going to like what you see.”

No, I did not actually say that out loud. But I did say it in my head. And I meant it. Hence this emergency attempt to erase brain fatigue with backyard greenery. My hope: after twenty minutes of solitude, I’ll emerge refreshed and ready to usher these kiddos through their bedtime routine with nary a voice raised nor a do-it-now-or-else glare thrown.

Unfortunately, my kids have an uncanny ability to detect the exact moment my energy downshifts from get-things-done mode into relax mode.

So twenty-three seconds after my butt squashed this cushion, K-bird decided to practice hula-hooping on the back porch. Then B-man decided to demonstrate every trick he knows on our swing set. Next K-bird promised not to say a word if I let him snuggle up and rest his cheek against my belly, a move he lovingly calls “tummy time.” Then B-man joined in, pressing his cheek to the other half of my belly. And now I’m trying to ignore them, rereading the same sentence six times, while B-man drums on my belly with his open palms and K-bird chants an elfin-sounding tune so catchy that I’m caught halfway between wanting to sing along and wanting to fling these two energy-sucking demons off their mothership once and for all.

I look up at the trees. I take a deep breath. I offer, “Why don’t you guys find a project you can do together?” I think: something that doesn’t involve me whatsoever. I say, “Like you could make a movie maybe?” I think: without any input from me. I nudge, “The camera’s on the bookshelf in the playroom.” I think: and don’t ask me to do a single thing for you for at least ten more minutes or I cannot be held responsible for my behavior.

Greenery

It works. They’re gone, swallowed into the mouth of the house like Pinocchio into the whale. While the giggles I hear spilling through the screen door most certainly mean the resulting film will be more Jerky Boys than Sesame Street, I couldn’t care less. I’m busy knocking back another dose of greenery then reading this description of Sedaris’ mom and her friends at the community pool:

[T]hey were united in their desire to be left alone. Run to your mother with a complaint, and before she could speak one of the others would say, “Oh, come on now. Let’s not be a tattle tale,” or, “You would have lost that tooth anyway. Now get back into the water.”

This gets me wondering, do my kids see me like that? And then I’m wondering if that’s narcissistic—worrying how my kids see me. And then I’m wondering if it’s narcissistic to think I’m narcissistic? And then I’m wondering if wondering if I’m narcissistic means I’m actually not narcissistic, because narcissists aren’t that self-aware? And then I’m wondering if this is one of those sleep-deprivation-induced streams of consciousness I was prone to during the kids’ infancies, the kind that would end with me wondering if, say, Ruth Buzzi is still alive and then worrying that something awful might have happened to her and then, after wrapping up a three a.m. nursing session, logging on to Google to make sure she’s okay. (She’s fine.)

Two-and-a-half minutes later, the kids are back, brandishing a video that includes two fart jokes, two clothed and wiggling butts, and one unclothed, wiggling body part that will remain unnamed. Biting back the expletives that want to escape from my mouth, I peer over my reading glasses at my kids, and B-man says, “I know, I know. We’ll make something more appropriate.”

They disappear. I rock my head back against the loveseat and close my eyes, listening to the opposing forces that have been battling it out in my psyche all week: that smiling, pink-cheeked, At-least-it’s-not-the-plague! gal versus that claw reaching up from the self-pity tar pit, trying to hook my ankle and drag me in.

“At least they’re feeling better!” she chirps.

“You’re melting into a useless pool of sludge,” the claw warns.

“They’ll be back to school in no time!” she sings.

“When was the last time you had five consecutive minutes to yourself?” the claw growls.

Before I can erase the voices with another hit of greenery, the boys are back, “Okay, Mom,” B-man says, “We made another one.” K-bird hands me the camera and presses play. On the display screen, I watch this.

And then the claw drowns in its gurgling tar. The pit closes up like a high-speed, time lapse film of a gaping wound healing. My inner Pollyanna floats away on her pink cloud, whispering, “Aren’t they darlings?” And the brain fatigue . . . What brain fatigue?

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