The day started a little after 5 a.m. I spent some time praying, writing, returning emails, and sipping cold brew, nothing out of the ordinary. The kids all joined me one at a time, emerging from their beds with disheveled hair and creased faces, and the mommy-routine began: milk, diapers, cuddles, clothes. It was a morning as usual after that: speech therapy, the park, lunch, quiet activities, a TV show (which is when it all when south for mama), dinner, bath, book, bed. The day as a whole had resembled many, if not most, of our days in this season.
Well, except that I fell asleep in the middle of it: just after 3:30 p.m., on the couch, three kids in the room, with Super Why on PBS in the background. It was only a minute, but I can assure you I was asleep, unaware of the entire world for those few short moments. Cannon, my three-year-old, crawled up on my lap and started poking my eyelids, which was a kind reminder that a four-, three-, and almost two-year-old are not exactly ready for extended unsupervised time. Mamas don’t sleep, his little fingers seemed to tell me. Wake up, wake up!
I want to tell you that one of my kids had been up the night before with a cough, or that another one woke up exceptionally early needing something and did not go back to sleep. I wish I had been at some late night gathering the night before, chatting with girlfriends and enjoying sangria like I did a decade ago. But none of those things are true. All of my kids slept through the night, like they usually do, and by 7 p.m., I had no bra on so I certainly wasn’t sipping sangria on a porch anywhere. At this point, five years and three kids into motherhood, I am actually sleeping more than I have in a long time. I’m not nursing, not pregnant, and have three very reliable sleepers.
Why on earth am I so tired?
I think it is because for a mama, the day is so much more than what makes the list of things we did.
At speech therapy, my heart got pulled in two opposite directions: hope and heartbreak. A glimpse of emerging words followed by a whole lot of silence. Carrying the emotional load of special needs is exhausting. The wondering, the fear of tomorrow, the elation of small steps of progress and the daily surrendering of our own plans. It is a wonderful journey, but it takes a lot out of you. And driving to and from therapy is just the start of it.
We did get to have fun at the park, but for mothers of young children, any place without a fence is the opposite of restful. Because in addition to pushing kids in swings and catching them at the end of the slide, my eyes were never in one place, but always on the lookout for a toddler who had walked too far or a stranger who had come too close; echoes of the latest scary news article I saw on Facebook still haunting me just a bit. You forgot to bring the sand toys, the four-year-old not-so-kindly reminds me. Sorry, child. Make a friend and ask for theirs. And don’t talk to your mom with sass, please. I wanted my children to have fun, and I wanted them to be safe, and I wanted to at least ask my friend two questions about her life while we were both in the same physical space and dang, my mind cannot do all of those things at once.
Lunch came next, but in between the park and lunch, three kids and six shoes and a plethora of towels and water bottles did not make it back into the van by themselves. They also didn’t get there without some strong reminders about listening ears and grateful hearts for the time we did get to spend at the park. I could blame the sun and the hunger and the quick fall from the high of playing with friends for a bad attitude, but I’m still responsible for parenting one. When you care deeply about the kind of human beings your children become, you spend a lot of time working on the kind of children they are. Discipline is worth every second, but we all know it takes a lot more energy than looking the other way.
By the time our lunch plates were put away and the baby was finally down for a nap, I could feel the sleepiness tip-toeing its way in. I should have known better at that point than to sit down with my kids while the TV was on. I should have made a small cup of coffee, or done some pushups or ... anything but sit down. Alas, the couch looked too cozy and the idea of just not moving for a minute overtook me. Shortly after, I felt those little fingers poking at my closed and heavy eyes.
We did plenty of good things that day, but that’s not why I was so tired. I’ve been doing plenty of things my whole life without falling asleep before the evening news comes on. Life is different now, and not just because I have a diaper bag slung over my shoulder. Between the places we go and the tasks we accomplish, there is a whole host of things I carry. No one else sees them, but the weight takes its toll on me. Things like hope and worry, vigilance and patience, fear and laughter, unanswered questions and anxiety. It all gets heavy after a while. Did she drink enough water? Will he ever talk? Is he behind the slide? Are we all safe? Did you leave your new shoes on the bench? Why is he crying? Will insurance cover that? Why is her attitude bad? Am I even doing any of this right?
That’s motherhood. Even when our bodies rest, our minds rarely can.
So at the end of the day, I think I’m tired because we had so much fun, and I’m tired because I had to discipline 28 times. I’m tired because this is a wonderful, scary world we live in. I’m tired because three kids and one mama usually means four opinions and my decision fatigue is off the charts. I’m tired because of a full therapy schedule and I’m tired because I am still trying to be a wife and a friend and a writer and a professional, too. I’m tired because I am busy, yes; but the busyness in my heart far outweighs my to-do list.
But mostly, I am tired because I am giving this beautiful, complicated life and these growing, changing kids my very best.
Aren't we all?
Maybe being tired is not a sign that we are doing anything wrong, but simply evidence that we are doing something very, very right.