“I know it’s only 9am, but can I have a do over?”
We ask this when our days spin out of our control and we haven’t even managed to feed everyone breakfast. We beg for this on the days when we can’t understand how every side of the bed can be the wrong side, when our skin aches from the internal pressure that is simmering as we try to keep the lid on.
I get to the end of the day and wonder, “how did this day get so far away from me? When did I lose sight of my good intentions?” I intended to have a peaceful day, to be present and accounted for, and to teach my kids important lessons that will make them better people. Instead we brushed by each other as sandpaper on stone. The erosion is both slow and piercing as my daughter and I fail to understand one another, probably because we understand each other too well.
Sometimes the world is too loud for me. Every sound latches onto a nerve ending and weighs me down so slowly that I don’t notice it’s happening until I’m supine, looking up from the bottom of an overwhelm so deep that the light looks dim.
Sometimes I am amazed at the sheer amount of need that comes at me from every direction, all day long. The exhausting feel of being always on duty, of having every decision and action feel monumental to the development of my kids. Measuring not if I am screwing up, but to what extent.
My daughter seeks me as a touchstone to her own fears and to help her regulate her own big emotions. Her sandpaper fingers crave the smooth calm of her mother, but they frequently find that my outer layers have already worn away, leaving the rough center of not right now. The tiny spikes of because I said so omg please stop talking because I may go insane.
She too is made of limestone and granite, both anxious and defiant. The puzzle pieces of our personalities are sometimes too alike to sit flush as our sharp edges scrape at each other. I wish I could make her understand that I am lost too, that my 28 extra years on this planet have only confused me more. But I can’t, because she needs me to be the stone that doesn’t crumble. She looks to me because I am the adult and she is the child, and I am the one who is supposed to have the answers, to know how to behave, to set the right example.
There are no do overs, but perhaps I can find the reset button.
For a long time I was sure it was hiding in plain view, lurking under a furmbleweed (tumbleweed made of fur, of course) or discarded art project. I sought it out as I tried to extinguish my restlessness through movement and order --- rearranging furniture or sudden, unsustainable, bursts of organization. It lives under the visual chaos of toys and dinner dishes. Sometimes I think I’ve found it, moments before it is back-filled by the minutiae of daily life.
Maybe it isn’t a button after all, but a series of small movements designed to help us put our puzzle together. If only we can find all the pieces.
This weekend I am going to look for those pieces in a plane, a hotel, and restful alone time. I am going to search for them on the underside of my eyelids, in a rental car that lacks the Cheerio charm of my own, and in a series of uninterrupted deep breaths. Maybe I will find one while sitting on a toilet without an audience.
This weekend I am going to spend time remembering what it’s like to be me. To act more than I react. To remember how to take a deep breath and find tangible answers to fix what feels broken.
It will never be easy, and I will never become a person well-suited for the decibels of parenthood at its most chaotic. There will never be enough time or money. It’s too much to ask of myself in the span of one weekend to create a permanent and pervasive change that will carry through even the most frustrating tantrums and open defiance that a six year old can muster.
I don’t want to “find myself” on some grand, cosmic, vision quest scale. I just want to remember who I can be, and try to channel her the next time my daughter and I grate each other to the bone. The next time I feel sure I may explode into a million pieces after another refusal to throw away that trash and for the love of all that’s sacred please stop asking me the same question over and over.
Humpty Dumpty was a mother and she didn’t fall, she exploded after the 265473th demand for a snack.
She was put back together in a hotel via a glass of wine and a few minutes of silence.
How do you pull yourself out of a bad groove?
Rhiannon Giles is an overwhelmed mother who only occasionally considers giving her children to the circus. She has a sarcasm problem and writes regularly at rhiyaya.com. To keep up with new posts and see some of her favorites, join her on Facebook and Twitter.