The In-Between

‘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’. 

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  1. Love and frustration are always doppelgangers, Emma. Though we have no children, having over 20 special-needs dogs might give me a point of understanding.

    Today, for instance, they went nuts every five minutes, for no discernable reason, barking running madly about, running into each other, and running into me.

    One even decided to take the TV remote and hide it in her bedding.

    And then, as quickly as the storm broke, the seas calmed, and thre were quietly wagging tails.

    31 at FMF this week.

    1. I had no idea you had so many special needs dogs, Andrew! That actually sounds much tougher than four children, I think!

  2. You’re so right we do live in the in-between. I love your perspective here frien. There are days it is hard to see through the fog of parenting but you are doing a good job. Happy Mothers Day! I’m over in the #7 spot this week.

    1. The fog is such an accurate description… and then it can lift in a moment and all seems beautiful again. Love it!

  3. What a wonderful description of the joys and trials of motherhood! As I can relate as a mother of (only) two sons, I can only imagine how the chaos multiplies for you mothers of more children! Be assured, these days pass quickly; much to our relief and disappointment. Mine are young adults who haven’t yet “left the nest”, but that day is coming quickly and they are already “leaving” in their hearts as they mature into responsible young men. You are blessed and a blessing.

    1. I often say that I feel like it doesn’t matter how many children one has, it always seems to feel just a bit overwhelming! Thanks so much for your perspective on the passing of time – I think it is so important to remember and hold onto that fact… it can really help on those difficult days…

  4. this is very beautiful. I only have two and lived the similar frustrations just yesterday. I sometimes feel so inadequate but also undeserving of the great blessings of motherhood.

    1. It can be such a mixed bag, can’t it? I think you are more than deserving and I’m sure your beautiful children simply adore you!

  5. I guess in between is the real default setting in life, faith, relationships…hang in there! May you discover lots of little perks and blessings in this new reality of in between!

    1. It really is, isn’t it? Yet so often I expect clarity or definitiveness either way… and it just doesn’t seem to be forthcoming… so many things to learn!

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