‘There are just too many kids here!’ The thought went unbidden through my mind earlier today. I was trying to feed Harvey while bending down to help Ivy put on her third pair of shoes for the past hour, calling out to Eli to go around through the garage while he repeatedly banged on the back door to be let in. Hudson and Dave were working studiously outside to organise the hard rubbish… just out of earshot.
Adjustment is hard.
Dave and I are hovering just above the ‘battery low – plug in now‘ point, and the unexpected difficulty hasn’t necessarily been the night feeds, playing handball with the unsettled infant but the emotional rollercoaster that is the other children. One child has decided that a whingey voice should be her constant new tone. She will decide that she desperately needs a cuddle just when we are frantically attempting to organise everyone to race out the door, and then fiercely decline any hugs or kisses actually offered to her in the calm points. Our eldest has set a new record in being highly strung – finding irrevocable offence when we mishear what he says or cannot focus on his latest picture/treatise/spelling of sentences at the exact moment when he is ready to deliver it. Dinner time has been fraught with emotional meltdowns – children refusing to eat even a mouthful of dinner, others being sent to their rooms in exhausted frustration after their screams threaten to overwhelm even the most patient of us.
In some ways the acclimatisation has been easier. We were already outnumbered, the kids are that much older now and can help out by retrieving needed objects and they are experts at carefully holding a baby now. When Harvey is content to lie peacefully on the playmat – gazing up at the hovering owl with wide eyes – it almost feels easier than when I was pregnant. But there are those moments – the ones when four emotional little people are demanding your attention at the same time – that it can feel almost impossible.
Being a mother is crazy sometimes. Unspoken or unrealised expectations of behaviour or schedules can be my undoing. That third time when I have to ask anyone to do anything suddenly resulting in an explosion of frustration, oozing heat onto all in the immediate vicinity. The crunch times when we have to all be dressed, fed, packed and out the door in an impossibly tiny number of minutes. It threatens to overwhelm, to capsize, to overthrow.
And then there are the piercing rays that break through the fog. Holding a lean, strong boy tightly as the beautiful strains of ‘See the Love’ by The Brilliance plays hauntingly in the background. Watching the tiny smile of wonder overcome her face as she carefully caresses her baby brother, laughing in surprise as his little hand brushes her face. Seeing his face when I walked in late to the Mother’s Day picnic at his Kinder – the high tide of relief and comfort flooding in.
I am love… and frustration. Contentment and overwhelm. I marvel at the ever-growing bodies before me… and lament the plodding pace of time. I see through a haze of fatigue, and then piercingly clear as it all aligns for just a moment – peace, perspective, exhilaration.
The thought of each movement I make having been done for me, the decisions I falter over – the latest in a long line of parental anguish stretching back through generations. It humbles me. One day I will watch my own children stumble through the haze of newborn life, growing imperceptibly as they tackle the challenge, face the fears and sacrifice their own needs.
We live in the inbetween.
This post is inspired by the Five Minute Friday writing challenge. Each week I join with this talented group of writers, free writing for five minutes in accordance with a prompt. Today’s prompt is ‘mum’.