I. Am. Exhausted.
I am cursing the aluminium casing of this Macbook Air because it adds another level of cold to my cracked hands and frostbitten fingers. My nose has started to drip like a tap, and under every sneeze is the rumble of a coarse, chesty cough. Not that I’m surprised. This is what happens
in winter when a fluey three year old is coughing in your face for five out of six hours every night for six nights, and leaving traces of germ-infested drool all over your pillow case. This is what happens when said three year old refuses to leave you alone, and spends what feels like every waking moment under the same roof demanding your affection and at the same time refusing to listen, cooperate or wipe his own damned nose.
Ergo, right now, I am exhausted. At the end of my tether. On EMPTY batteries.
Have you ever, ever felt like this?
This morning, just before leaving the house, we were having what was probably our tenth argument within 30 minutes, which went something like this:
Me: Mr 3, we’re about to leave, can you check if you need to go to the toilet please?
Mr 3: NO!
Me: You know the rules. You try to go before we leave the house.
Mr 3: I’M NOT GOING! I DON’T NEED TO! [He runs to the toilet and stands in front of it, but refuses to pull down his pants. Eventually sits on the toilets and wees while screaming:] I DON’T NEED TO GO TO THE TOILET.
Me: Ok, can you pull up your pants now please?
Mr 3: I AM NOT GOING TO WASH MY HANDS! [glares at me, then beams] Can I have a cuddle?
My husband was at the front door and caught me glaring out our kid while I scoffed down a chocolate bar and asked me what was wrong. I replied, “Your son is being a brat.” And I immediately felt horrible, because I knew Mr 3 heard me, and that it was unfair and unloving to call him names.
Sure, he has being demanding, irritable and downright stubborn. The flu seems to bring out his very best, class-A brat behaviour. I know he’s not always like this. It’s just, when he’s sick, he’s like this about 97% of the time. In the past week, he’s coughed up phlegm on my face, spewed up his lunch all over my leg, wiped snot on my chest, pulled my hair, strangled me with a scarf, jumped onto my shins without warning and kicked me in the back for about 5 hours of the night… but within five seconds of completing his assaults, shamelessly brings out the “I need a cuddle” plea, complete with puppy dog eyes and crocodile tears. He’s done this so many times that I’ve just become desensitised.
(In fact, as I write this, he’s standing outside my bedroom door, and is crying “Muuuummmyyyyy!!! Muuuummmyyyyy!!!” But there are three other adults in the house willing to pay him the attention and affection he so desperately wants, so I’m willing to keep the door locked – at least for long enough to finish this post.)
I know it’s not his fault. He’s sick, tired and feels weird and probably doesn’t know what to do with himself. And I’m sure (or at least, I tell myself), that there will come a time when I am going to miss being so desperately needed by my children.
This motherhood $#** is tiring
It took 3 hours to get him down for a nap yesterday. That long, even though he was clearly tired and yawning. My mother-in-law caught me tip-toeing out of his room after he finally went down, and all I could do was smile meekly. What I really wanted to do was shoot myself in the head. Or crawl into my own bed and pass out. Instead, I opened my laptop and squeezed in a few hours of work — the work that I couldn’t do earlier this week because Mr 3 literally would. not. get off my lap.
Whenever I feel that frustrated I wonder what it is I’m doing wrong. Surely it’s illegal to feel this exasperated at an innocent child? I wonder if it’s my fault that he’s being so contrary (I have a niggling feeling that stubbornness is hereditary and I can see my mother reading this and laughing at me as she recalls what a brat I
was am). And I especially wonder if, by giving in to my son’s relentless demands, I’m just creating even more of a brat.
Every day, I find myself strapped into a roller-coaster of emotions — grateful for his kisses but saddened by his rudeness, warmed by his cuddles but hurt by his aggressiveness, applauding of his curiosity but ashamed of how demanding he is. He is sweet one moment and abrasive the next, generous one minute and dismissive the next. It’s no wonder that by the time I am trying to get him into bed, I’m running on empty. All I crave for is a minute to be alone. To restore my sense of self. To find a renewed sense of energy. But it rarely happens that way.
Someone I know felt this way
I was standing in Mass today, trying to work out how to comfortably carry all 15kg of this squirming little boy in my arms while trying my best to listen to the priest read the Gospel. It was a passage from Mark 6:
30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognised them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
As I listened, something reminded me of where this passage takes place in the Gospel of Mark. It was just after John the Baptist was beheaded. It is also immediately before the miracle where Jesus feeds 5000 people. I remember, reflecting on this chapter years ago, a priest asked me to consider how Jesus felt that day. He had just found out his cousin was brutally murdered. He would have been distraught, heart-broken. All he would have wanted was time alone. Time to grieve, reflect, and come to terms with his pain. Time to recharge his batteries.
So he and his apostles got in a boat to make their way “to a desolate place”. But he never got there. I imagine what Jesus felt as the boat neared the shore and he saw thousands of people waiting for him to teach, heal and help them. Not unlike the feeling you get when you think you’re about to get a good night’s rest but the cry of your kid wakes you and half the neighbourhood. Just when you think you’re about to get “me time”, there is always someone who demands even more from you.
I wonder if Jesus resented those people at that moment. Did he think to himself, “For the love of God, the king just killed my cousin. Can’t you people just leave me alone?” If Jesus did, I think he could have also easily said no. He could have turned the boat around and gone somewhere else. Heck, he probably could’ve made it rain and forced everyone to walk home. But he didn’t. Instead, he felt compassion for them. And he pushed his exhaustion to the side and, in one beautiful act selflessness, paved the way for one of the biggest miracles of his life.
That little we have left is enough to make a miracle
The miracle that follows today’s Gospel – where Jesus feeds 5000 people – was achieved by two acts of selflessness. One by Jesus, who gave his attention and time when all he wanted was solitude, and the other by the little boy who gave Jesus his lunch, when really he could have kept it all for himself. Five loaves and two fish doesn’t look like much. Getting up in the middle of the night to comfort a sickly child doesn’t either. Nor does biting our tongue and holding back a torrent of screams, or going in for a cuddle when it’s the last thing you want to give someone who’s just thrown up on you.
Those little acts of selflessness — giving when you are certain you’ve got nothing left to give — are the acts of love that create the little walking, talking miracles that are our kids. It’s the constant calling of every mum and dad. It’s one that I was reminded of, loud and clear at today’s Mass.
We think we have nothing, but really there’s always a little bit left over.
And that little bit — no matter how small you think it is — is more than enough.