My pants are smeared with boogers. My shirt is streaked with tears. Theirs, not mine.
If my tears could flow, it would be better. But they’re stuck. My tear ducts feel rusty like an unused pump. A good hard cry would do them good. But the well is dry. I can’t give any more… not even to myself.
Most recent crisis: The baby spit chewed up carrots on the bed. So the 4 year old bit him.
Of course he did. His teeth left the most horrific purple bruise. Four scraping tracks culminating in a blood-blistered welt. The 4 year old had to be pulled out from under the bed where he hid. He knew he had done wrong. Then both boys sobbing in my lap. One little limp head on each clavicle bone, and two sets of hot tears spilling down my chest, puddling between my saggy breasts in the bottom of my sports bra.
How is it possible to love a moment so fiercely and to wish so hard that there was just, for the love of all that is holy, an OFF RAMP?
O God, I would give anything for a secret hand signal to the universe… An SOS flare. I promise to use it wisely… A red flag on the play… “Aaand, Scene! House lights down! Close curtain! We will be taking a brief intermission. The show will resume when I’m feeling less like murder.”
As I write this, the 2 year old struggles up my leg into my lap. His naked butt on my calf. As smooth as butter. And for no clear reason he is licking my arm. Layers of spit. Drying crusty and rewetting, damp. Moist.
How is it possible to cherish the tenderness so dearly and feel like I might actually explode if I don’t hurl myself through a wall?
Panic is rising.
The 4 year old keeps attacking my mind with meaningless questions and I ask him (with all the tight control of an overwound clock), “Please let mommy have just a few minutes of quiet.” He doesn’t understand that a tiger is crouched behind my patient eyes and kind words, barely restraining a lethal roar. He doesn’t understand that I am not only his kind mother… I am an amazonian warrior princess full of rage. A suppressed princess. A tired princess.
A dull desperation is pushing up. A limp loneliness. An anger with no where to go.
Then the 4 year old falls off a chair.
Then the 2 year old attacks the window glass with a wooden spoon.
How, in the space of so little time, do they manage to barrage the fortress of my sanity with so many missiles? It is 4:15. My friend Sheila and I call this “Crap O’Clock.” The Hell Hour. The time of day when Satan dances over our broken spirits. At 6am, we pressed “play” on this film reel. Started the crazy. It has ticked on mercilessly since then. And at 4:15… There is always more crazy than patience. Always more laughing life threatening leaps toward immanent death than there are deep breaths to calm my nerves. Always a pool of meaningless squabbles deeper than my reserves of ambassadorial diplomacy.
We all lay on the bed together. Their hot heads on my chest. Their genuine cries have been reduced to pantomimed moanings of self-pity. Much like my own internal howls.
I cherish every moment. And I hate them.
This is the Warp and Weft of motherhood… the strong vertical lines of love holding the wildly varying horizontal lines of tenderness and loathing. This is the fabric we create… an imperfect tapestry. If we judge it by the hour, by the day, by the week, it looks like an utter wreck. Let’s just cut it off the loom! Throw it away! We’ve made a hash of it. We had a chance at a life and we filled it with insanity. We had a chance to create something smooth and clean and beautiful. Worth remembering. Worth framing. But now it’s full of knots and unevenness and dirty underwear and worn out maternity pants and stretch marks and bite marks and tear stains and spaghetti and spare tires and guilt. But as it spools on and on, layer upon layer, thread upon thread, turned toward us on the beam of time… we are building something. It’s not what we expected. But it’s ours. And we must never, never let go of this hope (I really believe it is true)… that when we unspool it, we will be surprised by its beauty. For what we tangle in the cords of love will always be beautiful by and by.