Sunday, August 11, 2013
The children have learned the concept and expression first world problem. So when my brand new super duper smartphone was lost, then run over by a car, they repeatedly reminded gloomy me that this was a first world problem. This is not really a problem. This is a hiccup, an annoyance.
Next day we had a flat tire at Trader Joe's. Two of their stellar, cheerful employees came out and put the spare tire on for me while the three children squinted at all the equipment involved in the middle of the parking lot.
What else? A nasty cold, family-wide. The car wouldn't start this morning (AAA came and proclaimed the battery very, very dead). The baby went on a nap strike, which blanketed everything for me, all week, in a gauzy layer of stress (fussy and tired out of the crib; screaming and yelling inside of the crib). The strike began after I took away the swaddling blanket, which I had found doubled tightly around the newly-mobile crying baby's neck. (Oh good lord. It was a scary scene.) Needless to say the nights are not so great either; I'm running on fumes.
On Friday I had a long meeting at my new job (which begins For Real this week). I came home to find the sitter and the children looking dejected on the couch. The baby had refused to eat or sleep for four hours and everyone was a wreck, having listened to her inconsolable crying for a long, long time.
A series of first world problems, people. No real problems to speak of. (But am I complaining? Maybe a little). Nonetheless, at the lowest point(s), I had one (or a few) of those moments when all you can do is cry, and that insidious, undermining query presents itself: what if you can't do this? What if this life you have chosen is simply too hard?
After I came home and relieved the traumatized sitter on Friday, Gabriel told me how he'd gone to play in his room because he couldn't bear to be around Beatrice when she was crying so much. "I kept thinking," he told me, "I kept thinking if only Beatrice could see Mama's face. Not a picture, but really see her face. Then everything would be better."
As I tell him every night during his bedtime ritual (which is the story of a darling dear named Gabriel and what happened to him that day), he is indeed a darling dear. But I confess, I felt a bit queasy when he said that. I love to be needed and wanted as much as the next person - probably more - but oh, the sheer enormity of the responsibility one takes on as a parent! It is your face they need to see, it is your touch, your voice, your smell. How beautiful; how frightening.
So here is when things began to look up, at least internally for me (because you know I couldn't tell you all this if I hadn't found at least a little distance from it): when I woke up Saturday morning after a rough night and told Mike (who had been in the throes of the cold, and who I hadn't wanted to burden) that I needed help. That life has been a bit grueling lately, and I need help. What kind of help exactly, I didn't know, but I knew I couldn't hold it all myself.
He helped. We did chores as a family with a strikingly cheerful attitude while the baby napped (hallelujah!) and the concrete gesture - the all-hands-on-deck work of it - made me feel that I wasn't alone. But I had to ask! The asking was the most important part, and the thing that got me out of the funk. It can be hard to ask when you're the mama, the strong center of things, the face that comforts. Next time life throws us a slew of first world problems, hopefully I'll have the grace to ask a little sooner.