I was with a group of women several weeks ago, and we were talking about core values and peak moments. That which is particularly important to us; times when we feel particularly successful. That sort of thing.
I came up with nothing.
Admittedly, I’m not currently in an especially creative frame of mind. I’m basically in survival mode – just trying to make sure everyone is eating….something, wearing clean-ish clothes, and hoping there are no major health code violations embedded in our home.
The point of the aforementioned discussion was to come up with a symbol that we felt represented us and our values. I thought hard. It has been a year since I earned a paycheck and, even as I strained my mind to remember that far back, I couldn’t recall any major feelings of success or accomplishment. So I thought about the present – being at home, the boys.
I guess I feel ‘successful’ when the house is clean? When the kids aren’t screaming or pummeling each other? When there is order and peace and tidiness in our little world. And we aren’t eating frozen burritos? (Reheated, but still…..)
The only symbol that popped in my head? Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music.
The pre-Julie Andrews Captain Von Trapp. The man who blows whistles at his children when he wants them to do something, and insists they wear uniforms around the house. Not exactly a symbol of fun, creativity or humor. Not exactly an inspired response. ‘I’m a closet German’, I groaned inwardly. Even if he was probably Austrian.
Before I had kids, I thought I’d be a really fun mom. In my mind, I was going to take my (non-existent) children to all sorts of interesting places and teach them all sorts of fascinating facts. Life in my house was going to be a non-stop learning/fun ride.
And then I had kids and I was tired. And there were seven loads of laundry to do. And instead of crazy experiments and adventures, I wanted to vacuum and mop. And maybe sit in a quiet, dark room by myself for an extended period of time with one of those annoying recordings of crashing waves, chirping insects, and badly played keyboard music. While inhaling the scent of a ylang ylang candle.
But just when I find myself dreaming of a perfectly clean house where everything is in its place, that ridiculous Cat’s in the Cradle song pops into my head. Reminding me these rugrats will grow up all too soon and vacate my messy house. And move on to demanding careers as soap opera actors; leaving me with plenty of time to vacuum and mop. And get my house interior-decorating-magazine ready.
So Saturday came. And the weather was nice and, seeing as it was the 26th of September, I was faced with the reality that it could possibly be the last pleasant day for the next seven months.
So, though the dirty laundry covered the floors in two bathrooms and one hallway, and the ‘playroom’ looked like it had been bombed, I decided to take the boys out on a date. Separately. Which, with three boys, I came to realize at the end…is a rather lengthy endeavor.
I took B3 for a walk by the river. Admittedly, his date was the least child-centered of the three, since I really just wanted to go for a walk and took him along. But it’s not like the baby and I spend a lot of time together, alone. So, though he slept the entire time, I’ll pretend our date really meant a lot to him. Even if he’s just four weeks old. And seems to spend most of his awake time staring intently at my forehead, rather than my eyes.
But he kind of smiles at my forehead, so he must like the looks of it, or at least recognize it as his mother’s forehead.
When we returned, I traded in the youngest for the oldest and we headed out for some errands and a nature walk. To collect leaves. So we could sit around and make some art.
The point, I thought, was to use one of the leaves as a ‘model’ and make a watercolor painting of said leaf. But the Gort got carried away and added a road and a house and a sky and probably a car and a burning building as well. Captain Von Trapp wanted to bark at him that he was not following protocol….but I silenced him and let the artist be. Even if it was driving me crazy.
After the nature walk it was the Hen’s turn for a solo adventure. We went to the playground at a nearby elementary school. One of my least favorite things to do: traipsing behind someone at a playground. But I sucked it up and went down the slide at least fifty times because that’s what he likes to do.
When we got home, I was worn out. Earlier, when I was walking by the river with the baby, I’d thought: we should do this once a week. By the end of the day I’d tempered my goal…. to ‘maybe once a month.’
After all, I’m pretty sure that song is about a preoccupied father, not mother.