Thursday, February 07, 2008

a woman undone

Cross-posted to

It was not my finest moment as a parent.

But before I tell you about it, allow me to relate the day that led up to screaming.

I try to protect the Mondays before chemo as days to get myself ready, emotionally and physically for the slog ahead. I go to yoga, go for a walk, try and do some writing, get the house cleaned up a little, do some cooking. Actually, I always tend to start the day with to-do list that is longer than the number of hours in the day.

But the best laid plans, as they say can easily go awry when you are dealing with a bunch of variables that are mostly outside your control (OK, so maybe they don't say that, exactly, but you know what I mean).

It all started when my oldest son, nine year old S., came downstairs clutching his stomach.

My spouse had been sick on the week end (during our night away from the kids, something I was none too pleased about, I can tell you) and I hadn't been feeling too well myself so I knew right away that he would need to stay home. I called the school and said I would have him home at least for the morning.

The morning turned into a full day, and while he's really very good at occupying himself (and the gravol and tylenol kept him really quiet), I did have to shelve plans for getting much done in the way of writing.

And yoga was out.

I did a pretty good job of telling myself "it is what it is." And then I called my spouse to advise him that I would be heading out for a dog walk after he was home in the evening.

In the afternoon, I had a dental appointment. I set myself back when I lost track of time while writing my blog post, updating my new year's resolutions (one of these was called 'get organized.' The irony is not lost on me).

When my spouse came home I was still in my pajamas, with only minutes to go until the bus was due to come by. I got ready and out the door in record time and raced down my driveway to see the bus (two minutes ahead of schedule, by my calculations) sitting at the stop just south of my house. I took off at a sprint for the next stop, a couple of blocks north of my house and made it by the skin of my teeth.

I boarded the bus wallet.

The driver, impressed with my athleticism my complete lack of grace my dogged determination, took pity on me and told me that I could stay on the bus.

With great relief, I plopped myself down, still panting heavily.

Only to realize a few minutes later that with no wallet, I had no way of paying the dentist and no way to get home.

There was nothing I could do about it right then (I still have not got around to activating my new cell phone) so I took out my book. And became engrossed (it's Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life. Very good). When I looked up I was five stops past my dentist's office.

I hopped off the bus and broke into a quick waddle (running again was completely out of the question), stopping along the way to call my spouse from a pay phone and ask him to deliver my wallet.

I endured the dentist (a man who does not stop talking the entire time you are in the chair. It's excruciating. He is however, very gentle and genuinely concerned about causing his patients as little discomfort as possible. That makes up for a lot).

My spouse, sick son and I then proceeded to run a couple of errands and pick up my youngest from day care. At some point, my spouse informs me that he will need to go back to work to finish a proposal that is due the next day. When I grit my teeth and ask him how late he thinks he'll be, he replies, "I don't know" (now to be fair, to him, this is the first time that he has done this without advanced notice in the seventeen years of our relationship. And I should also admit that, when I was working I did that to him at least a couple of times. But this did nothing to mitigate the effect on my already frayed nerves).

By the time we arrived home, the kids were hungry, cranky and enormously demanding. And they were fighting continously with each other and bringing their complaints to me.

I rushed to change my socks (the slush had soaked through my shoes and I'd been running around cold wet feet), feed the yowling cat, make dinner (OK, so I was only up to heating up chicken fingers and throwing some salad greens on plates) while the crescendo of laments, yelling and tears built around me.

As I was on the phone, checking in with my spouse, I could hear my youngest in the next room, yelling, "S., stop looking at me that way! S., stop looking at me, like that!" After a couple of minutes of this, my four year old came running into the kitchen in tears, yelling that S. was looking at him and he didn't like it. S. followed on his heels, yelling over him, "I don't know what's wrong with him. I was just making faces!" And proceeded to demonstrate.

He had been scaring his little brother.

I lost it. I forget exactly what I said but it was along the lines, of, "I have had it!" (repeated several times) and "I have had enough of the fighting, complaining and the yelling. You are both behaving very badly."

Except that it was all screamed at a decibel level that makes me glad we live in an old detached house with very thick walls. The kind of screaming that I would have been embarrassed to have anyone witness, even those folks who know me very, very well.

The children were shocked into silence.

We ate dinner very quietly, plates were cleared without asking and my oldest even helped with his younger brother's homework (I forgot to mention that my four year old had reminded me that he had overdue homework that needed to be handed in the next day).

Together, we brainstormed ideas for how to decorate a paper snowman. The boys decided that we should make a snow-spider, with yarn for legs (D. told me where to put them but I had to glue them on. Heaven forfend he should have to get his fingers dirty) and buttons for eyes (our research revealed that spiders have either six or eight eyes. Ours had seven). D. added bright orange paint-spots.

When we were done, D. turned to me and asked, "Mama, are you still sad?"

I sighed and said, "No, I was just frustrated that you and your brother were doing bad listening and fighting so much."

"I'm sorry, Mama. Do you need a hug?"

We hugged, I put him to bed and then collapsed on the sofa.

My spouse came home at 10:30 and the poor dog didn't get his walk (and neither did I).

Some days don't go as planned.

But they do make good blog fodder.


Anonymous said...

Am laughing...with you. Sounds like a day I had about 3 weeks ago. The fighting amongst them really gets my nerve going.

Anonymous said...

I have definitely had days like that.. aren't you glad when they are through!! Hoping you don't have too many more like them!

Babz Rawls Ivy said...

Sister Girl-friend and the problem would be?..what excatly. Welcome to my REGULAR world! The fact that you find this so NOT your routine makes me hopeful that everyone doesn't live like this!
You continue to amaze me. I love you.

Het said...

Oh my, that's a doozy of a day. Seems like most of my days lately...

I hope the rest of this week goes well for your sanity... you deserve a great week.


jacqueline said...

gosh, not being a mom i feel so badly about laughing through most of this. from the moment you left the house to, well, up to dinner. then it was a slippery slope towards heart melt. it was the familiar procrastination (still being in your pj's) that started my genuine amusement.

the only time we ever caught hll when we were little is when we were fighting- and that was always the straw that broke the camels back.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Some days are like that -- you need a break from the days that were supposed to be a break!

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurie

I just found you via the CWY guest book! Hope you remember me from the ICYEP! I was laughing as I read your above post. It sounds like one of my days! I too have two boys, 6 and 2 and live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I also read that you are on your way to Florida. How I wish I'd known earlier! We live within driving distance. Next time we must plan better :-) I hope we can continue to stay in touch. I just read two posts and then was so excited thought I'd write to you before going back to read a few more. Look forward to hearing from you.

Bhuvana said...

Hmm wonder why my contact came up differently in the previous post. Apologies for being so tech unsavvy...or should I blame the "mommy brain" :)