It starts with a burning in my midsection, my stomach. Anger? Frustration? I breathe three deep breaths, both visible and audible to the young children surrounding me.
It’s still there, the burning. I count to 10 in my mind. I speak through gritted teeth, but at least I’m speaking quietly.
“Do the next one.” Nothing. No movement. No obedience.
I grab my son’s arm a tad too forcefully. Why? I don’t know. Do I really think it’ll make him fill in the spelling word? I take another three deep breaths because I know my physical lashing out will never work.
I push the burning down and change my tone. “You can do this. I know you can. You’ve got this,” I say to him, my voice dripping with forced positivity.
Nothing. He doesn’t even move.
I turn to my left now and look at my other son. He is staring into space, a sad, defeated, vacant expression on his face. I’ve already told him the answer to the math problem-literally said it out loud to him-but he hasn’t written it. I try the counting-to-ten strategy in my head. My anger stubbornly returns.
I gather my things from the homeschool table hurriedly and with no smack of patience at all. I spew out some tirade about “come find me when you’ve decided to have an attitude of diligence” and “I’ve had enough.” I retreat to the guest room.
As I sit on the guest room bed, I notice the window is open. I listen to the birds outside chirping, and I’m completely gutted by the juxtaposition of the cheerful chirping and the vicious storm inside my home, inside me.
This is nuts.
I feel as though I have been here before–on the ground, face down, knocked down. Again and again, this has happened to me. But each time before this, I have mustered the strength to get up and face what’s next. This time, I’m not so sure.
My confidence waning, but also worried the kids would completely fly off the track if I don’t return to them, I gather my things from the guest room and head back to the schoolroom. I sit down, open my computer, and say, “do your work. If you need my help, ask. Otherwise, figure it out.” I know it won’t work. I know they won’t do anything if I’m not pointing at it to indicate their next step.
My feelings run a roller coaster as I gaze straight ahead, across the table. My oldest, a daughter, is diligently doing her work and holding the baby. I can barely do that, but somehow, she manages. My heart feels like it’s splitting in two because I feel like all my anger; all my frustration is causing her to feel she has to fix things for her mama. I am not ok with this.
I feel the house of cards wobble. It’s all so fragile. I begin to cry. I feel the cards fall, in slow motion, one by one. I have failed. I am terrible at this job. I haven’t even seen my littlest two babies today because I’m so wrapped up in the chaos of schooling my older three. I can’t keep going. I may need professional help. I am carrying too much. It’s just too much.
I don’t know the way forward. I don’t know what the answer is. It’s a mess.
This is nuts.
A walk. A phone call. A coffee gift card. Prayer. Surrender. More prayer.
I feel myself moving forward despite the storm and the mess and the thoughts.
Because there’s only one way to move and it’s forward. Time rolls forward. Children need to have dinner and be put to bed. The sink must be emptied and washed.
I sit in the quietness of the next morning. Time moved forward all through the night. I sit with my journal and Bible open in front of me as I sip on fresh coffee. What now? What does it look like to run back into the battle when your legs have been cut off the day before? How can I fight this from the ground? Maybe I just lay here and allow healing to happen before I start running again. Maybe I don’t fight today. I don’t strive today. I don’t believe the lie that I have to do everything or my home, and kids and husband and friends will fall apart. Maybe I just lay here, still and quiet and I stop listening to every should and shouldn’t, all of the urgent-unimportant.
In the stillness, in the laying on the ground, I begin to feel freedom from the lie that I am a bad mom. Freedom from the lie that I have failed. Freedom from the lie that our life is chaotic, and that’s bad — freedom from the lie that our life has to look like any other family’s life. Laying on the ground, I feel surrendered to the concept that I actually can’t keep going like this anymore. Surrendering to the idea that I may need to reach out for professional counseling. Surrendered to the fact I may be carrying too much and I need to put some things down.
I close my journal and Bible and hear the footsteps of son number one coming down the stairs. He’s always the first down, and it’s usually before he’s allowed to be. This particular morning, it doesn’t seem to matter at all that he’s bending the rules. He comes to me, eyes a bit sleepy, feet a bit too big for his body, hair askew. He snuggles next to me on the couch and tells me how warm I am. Yesterday’s battle seems so far in the background after laying in the warmth of freedom and surrender. Marching orders seem anachronous to the unstructured moment playing out before me.
Yes, this is nuts.
But this is us.
Featured image by Hill Smiley Photography
Lynne Patti is a stay at home, homeschooling mama of 5 vibrant children. A member of the editorial team, Kindred Mom serves as a fulfilling break for Lynne from the every day mom-tasks of Cheerio pouring and fixing “funny socks.” In her adulthood, she has found that God is real, gracious, and abounding in love. She lives in Los Angeles with her family where, after 16 years, big city living has become their jam. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.