Swimming Against the Current

It has been a…’stretching’ week.

Hudson is currently trying for a new world record in ‘how long can I keep Mum and Dad up for during the night’. His current personal best is three hours. So much fun.

The lack of sleep hasn’t been great for the immune system, of course, and I subsequently contracted a flu-like illness. Not that I’ve attended the doctor’s to confirm my suspicions because I have to be either pregnant or almost dying to make an appointment for myself. I did take Hudson, not really suspecting he was sick, but hoping that there would be a magic sleeping pill that they could provide that would fix the night-time battles. There wasn’t.

Yesterday, I engaged in another “I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m….OVERWHELMED AND LOSING IT AND FEELING CRAZY” episode. I really need to learn how to recognise the signs before it is too late. You would think that a child who has been up for three hours in the night would at least look favourably upon the thought of rest. Unfortunately not in Hudson’s case. After backing myself into a tight corner and completely losing a ‘you need to take a nap’ battle, I ended up locking him safely in the house and sitting on the driveway wailing into the phone to Dave.

Thankfully, Monica heroically came to my aid, valiantly offering to take Hudson off my hands for a few hours. When children are going through taxing developmental phases, I really do subscribe to the ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ philosophy. My lowered emotional resources were pretty much depleted as far as he was concerned. Dave also compassionately wrangled some carer’s leave to come home early and whisk off the other two so that I really could just rest. It was divine.

I’m not that great at accepting help, or admitting weakness or recognising my limits. Though, I guess accepting Monica’s offer was a step in the right direction, even if it twisted my gut painfully to say ‘yes’. That quote about children and villages is uncomfortably true to my individualistic, self-sufficient mindset. I find that it actually helps so much more when you reach out before you reach the tipping point. After I had completely lost it at Hudson, shaking with rage and emotion, the shame that accompanies that type of episode makes it so much harder to seek help. Dave messaged Monica while on the phone with me, asking her to check in on me because I was too deep in the shame spiral to do it myself.

Taking care of small children when you are well-rested, emotionally energised and motivated can be taxing.  Trying to soldier on when you have limited vocal capacity, a brain fog, blocked breathing passages and aches everywhere is a recipe for disaster. Though this brief taste of incapacitation does give me bounds of empathy towards those who parent every day with an underlying illness or physical ailment. I found a few days exhausting, I can’t imagine living constantly with that reality.

There were a few bright moments in an otherwise dismal period. After attempting to raise my voice at the boys after they were continually fighting with each other, I ended up yelping in pain – my throat closing over with the effort. Eli, immediately concerned, came rushing over to my side to check that I was OK, giving me a supportive hug as I regained my breath. And despite the usual quibbles and upsets, the boys have had extended moments of harmonious playtime together – even up to forty-five minute stretches where I haven’t had to separate tussling bodies, give lectures on kind words or redirect to alternative activities. It has been bliss!

Tonight after dinner, the boys excitedly donned their swimming gear, launching themselves into the rain in the darkening light and delighted in playing in the dirt and stones together. Ivy joined them enthusiastically, pushing the toy mower up and down the deck, chatting animatedly away to herself. They all re-entered half an hour later, covered in mud and drenched to the bone, but brimming with satisfaction.

Dave has introduced me to homilies by Richard Rohr and they are consistently profound. Tonight’s episode on the topic of love mentioned neuroscientific research on the patterns of the brain and how it takes three seconds for a positive thought to slip away. It is like teflon, whereas a fearful or angry thought can take hold a velcro-like instantaneously. Rohr postulates that spirituality is the practice of keeping your heart space open, against all odds and pressures, because if we allow ourselves to just go with the flow it will inevitably be negative.

I get that.

The frustrations and exhaustions of the last few days have been difficult to shake, easy to focus on and ever-present in my thoughts. Bitterness and resentment creeping in, unfair thoughts levelled at the antagonist of the sleep battles, turning away rather than offering unconditional love. Attaching strings to my affection and wanting to enact ‘revenge’ in the form of punishment. All such efforts merely making me feel small and hard-hearted. Letting others in, to help, to offer perspective, turning my gaze outwards and upwards ended up being the antidote that allowed me to soften my heart once again to my otherwise wonderful son. That and the (mostly) full night of sleep he allowed us last night!

There was a thought/prayer by Nadia Bolz-Weber on Twitter this week that is so profound I have been repeating it ever since: “Make me the mother you want me to be and if I already am, please take away the self-loathing”.  Amen.

Though I may still be a little hazy and my eyes hooded, I choose to elevate the positive memories and moments, steering away from chastising myself over mistakes and missteps. Not allowing myself to get swept away by the current of negativity, but choosing daily to remain open-hearted and ready for the challenges ahead. Ahoy! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

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