Hard Lines and Hand Holding

At ten past four in the afternoon I made a strong attempt to place my four week old daughter in her baby swing and cook dinner while my older boys played at the table where my visiting grandmother was folding our laundry.

I raced into the kitchen to pull together enough ingredients to make a passable dish called “meatloaf’” and found myself standing at the kitchen island looking at life clutter. Bills I keep forgetting to pay sitting right next to the check book and the pen that I intend to use and still manage to forget about day after day.

My toddler runs past holding an armload of legos falling behind him one at a time in a deadly trail on the floor. I am now cooking in a booby trap and the mission has gone from making a quick meal to keeping my toddler alive while I make anything edible over heat.

I’ve succeeded in retrieving hamburger from the fridge and sautéing half an onion while my mind wanders to my marriage and my husband. We have so much, and we have each other but I wonder in those brief seconds if I’ll ever see him again. See him in the sunlight as it glares in our bedroom window as two optimistic and childfree people sleeping in on a Sunday. I’m not entirely sure if we’ll pass a hump in our life stage of having a lot of very small humans and have new and exciting things to talk about. If his job and my child rearing will be all that we are.  What if this is all that there is and what if that’s really completely okay?

I made a book for my husband as a stocking stuffer this Christmas. It was just a silly little composition book made of recycled materials containing about a hundred blank pages. I did my solemn best to fill those pages with things I love about him and appreciate him for. He still hasn’t read it. He knows it’s there, he gets the gesture and yet he still hasn’t found the time to read it.

There’s some hurt feelings harboring in me and my eyes did mist over when he confessed he hadn’t read it but I stifled the tears before they could brew and steep into a fight. A gift is meant to be opened by the recipient when and if they choose. I have to hope he won’t forget about it the way we forget doctor visits and the obligations that pile up on our countertops, eventually making their way into the trash can.

He’s not life clutter and we are not meant to eventually make our way into a recycling bin.

Three children have been brought into this home and our stories intersect around them and work. Attention to anything else takes planning and consideration. I had a conversation with my husband yesterday about how I want to hold his hand but our hands are always full. Then I took an introspective look at how I became a shrew who constantly wants to know what he’s thinking. We look like a real life Rom-Com starring a realistically overweight postpartum version of Katherine Hiegel and a busy, handsome husband who comes home to chunky under mixed meatloaf. We even have my grandma starring as Alice from the Brady Bunch.

Time is cruel and harshens up the softness we carried in our youth, turning into rough lines that get deeper and deeper with age, with stress and with children.

Romance is putting on our jackets and mittens and taking a walk down the driveway every Monday night to bring the trash to the curb. You gotta make your own breaks. Chips are down…or something.

The sauté pan needs attention and the hamburger is still waiting to go into a pan and be seasoned with something. My baby girl starts to whine from her swing in the other room. We are now down to seconds before I have to shut down this whole dinner operation to breastfeed the upset newborn.

Rather than throw my hands up in Monday/dinner/motherhood frustration and cry over a Chinese takeout menu, I ask my grandmother to cook dinner while I take my time to sit down and nurse the baby. Of course the toddler wanders into the room to demand in nonverbal grunts that I read to him while I nurse. He is shortly followed by his four year old brother who becomes instantly jealous of all of the babies on my lap and chooses to do some insane yelling show off act requiring all of our attention.

I am constantly acutely aware of the Bose noise cancelling headphones that I did not get for Christmas.

All these kids want is me. And here I am stuck feeling like I am not enough for any of them.

Somehow though something always gives and there is always enough.

Some Sunday the light will burn into our windows stinging my eyes awake and my husband won’t complain about his job or waking up with the kids and I will appreciate the gift even more because I’ve been through the passage of time, worn the lines and waded through the life clutter without landing in the recycling bin.

*update: my husband reports he has read the book I made him and it really did cheer him up. Little victories feel big.

25 thoughts on “Hard Lines and Hand Holding

  1. Wonderfully written, I only have two girls (one six years old and a almost 5 month old) with a fresh almost 2 year marriage I can relate to your feelings. Thank you for sharing every victory counts ☺

  2. I’m 24 & I’m already divorced from my first husband & planning to get married to my fiance who is now daddy to my 4 year old daughter since my ex husband is the reason for my PTSD & why my daughter has anxiety & she’s bipolar. Everyday I feel like I’m going to break because of the doubts I have about if my fiance is happy or if my daughter will end up like me. Its nice to know I’m not alone in this massive world of chaos. Thank you.

  3. Perfection. Keeping a marriage afloat with little ones is so hard. The goal is to come out on the other side with an appreciation of what you survived –together. YOU are enough. Awesome in fact. Great post.

  4. You cant write things like this for hormonally charged pregnant ladies (i qualify as a loose interperatation of that word) to read! Now im just sittin on my lunch break crying at my desk. Every word just resonates with how i feel when i think about my family.

  5. Somehow, you just put my heart on here. Unbelievable. I read this while my toddlers are napping (though I hear noises from the other room, so either one is awake or our ghost likes to haunt during the day) and my newborn is falling asleep in my arms. Times like this refresh me-but the dinner rush, the life clutter, the never ending list of things to do “next”, the worries about my marriage, my poorly done attempts at being a mom, a wife, a friend-they wear me down to the core. I go back and forth between doubting myself and watching my children’s exuberant smiles and thinking maybe we are doing ok. Well done!

  6. I hope I’m not repeating myself here, I left a previous comment, but then WordPress didn’t like me, and wanted me to relog in, and so, maybe you’re reading this for the second time, however here I go again…it’s well worth the repeat! I just wanted you to know that your writing is a delight. The image you paint is real, and although I couldn’t wait for those times when my baby was on one boob while my toddler was waving a book in my face on my other knee, and two little boys were wrestling on the floor at my feet, reading you actually makes me nostalgic. People always say that we will regret not appreciating the time when our children are young, and I never really believed it. But now, as I watch my 19 year old take my car keys to go to his job, I get it. Love your brutal honesty. And thank goodness your hubby read the book! It wouldn’t have been a proper ending without that addendum 🙂

  7. Hi! I check in on your blog occasionally ever since your brother told me about it. I’m a bit shy about commenting (can you say lurker!?), but this post captures SO MUCH. I feel very touched by it. My youngest is now 4 (same as your oldest, I believe) and the oldest turning 12 on Sat, so we’re in very different places. But just know that what is so intensely challenging now with your children will eventually subside and be replaced by new struggles. But, hey, different is at least good, right? Something about variety being the spice of life?! Thank you for capturing the raw, very real, time with 3(!!!) young children. Not to mention the husband factor. That keeps evolving, too! Time just keeps disappearing. As the kids get older, and assuming your husband doesn’t do anything insane like try to open a restaurant 😉 slight opportunities for time together begin to open up. I promise. Please, keep writing. You’re awesome!

    1. Hi Amanda! Its awesome to know that someone is lurking! Sometimes blogging feels like typing to an empty space! Thanks for reading.
      Like everything else, writing has fallen to the back of my life while i just try to trudge through the days!

  8. What a helluva writer you are. You’re like a war correspondent, but the war zone is just parenthood. I shouldn’t say ‘just parenthood,’ because it’s more, isn’t it? It is every bit a battlefield though. And the victories, they’re there, but almost invisible at times.

    You make me want to stir a pot or bounce a baby or just step in and tell you to go take a hot, long shower or a nap. But, I have kids who need something edited or signed or picked up and they seem to need to eat every.single.day. You know?

    So one busy parent to another – simply a fist-bump and encouragement. You’re doing it right.

  9. I’m so glad he read your book you made. Keeping that romance alive sucks. After 26 years and two kids, I don’t know my mate at all, nor does he know me. It is crazy and scary and I’d trade those lego mine fields in a heartbeat for where I am today. I appreciate your story-and am going to see about compiling a book for the man I married.

    1. I struggle to prioritize my marriage, but I think as long as I’m keeping it in my mind and my heart it won’t suffer much damage from the abuse of little kids.
      The book was just the kind of gift he needed to be reminded that his role to me is very different from his role with the kids.

  10. I am in awe of your ability to put “it” into words. Not big words necessarily but the right ones. It is a gift. Thank you for sharing that gift. I am in the second phase of this parenting vacuum with two teens and a preteen. Yes, the challenges of time together and limited conversation with my husband are still just as frustrating as they were when I had three kids under the age of 5. I know motherhood is a privilege and a partnership, but some days it is hard not to long for my old self. and to feel I am in it alone. It is a journey for sure with your heart as your only compass.

  11. This is easily one of the most beautifully written posts I have ever read. Thank you for this. I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me and my Wife (who also read and loved this post). You’re one amazing person.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *