The sun rose red and foreboding–a harbinger of doom.
I should have gone back to bed. Or, I will rephrase that–gone to bed, since really, my husband and I haven’t slept through a night since sometime in the late ’90’s.
But, being the principal of my own private school has its disadvantages, especially when the school is located in your home. I couldn’t call in sick…
But I should have.
(Cue ominous music here.)
My first grave error was to take a shower. I turned on the water, which has to run for a few minutes before it gets warm and proceeded to disrobe. Unfortunately, I caught a glimpse of myself in the giant floor to ceiling, nearly wall to wall mirror behind me (up until that point, I had been able to either a) avoid looking, or b) been so tired I didn’t notice).
Why would anyone put a mirror that huge in a bathroom is beyond me. Maybe it was someone who was intensely beautiful. Or perfect. Or an Olympic athlete. Or someone so incredibly narcissistic that they loved to admire their physique.
I try not to obsess about body image, and one way I do that is not to look for at least three months after I have a baby. But, now, here I was face to face with the reality of my visage. As Maria said when she looked at the giant Von Trapp mansion (which, really, I felt like I was the size of that morning), I said in a near terrified whisper:
Things went downhill from there. I just couldn’t get it together. I tried, I really did. It just wouldn’t work, no matter what.
In the kitchen, I pulled out leftover homemade pizza from Sunday night. When the kids asked what was for breakfast, I responded in a casual voice, as if it were perfectly normal to say:
Pizza or oats and milk and honey.
My 13 year old daughter responded with a half smile:
That is an interesting pairing, mother.
I responded that it wasn’t a joke, that’s really what I decided I could handle for breakfast, as I was trying to feed the baby and hold the older baby and cajole someone into changing a diaper on a three year old who refuses to go in the toilet.
Yes, he knows how to do it. He just doesn’t feel like it.
I tell myself to breathe, but I don’t know if I have time for it.
As I tried to hear myself think over the various commentary regarding breakfast, diaper changing, and the impending horror that is Saxon Math 6/5, 5/4, 7/6, or even more traumatizing–the just-turned-five-year-old contemplating the injustice of having to do yet another “easy” reading lesson from the infamous “Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons Book”…I grew resentful.
Frustrated. Irritated. In fact, I was beyond that.
I was feeling positively degradatated.
Waspish. Shrewish. Disheveled.
I started getting teary as I rememberd the Relief Society lesson on Sunday. The teacher had mentioned that in order to receive revelation and inspiration we needed to have adequate sleep.
I felt so…neglected. Cheated.
Why in the world would that be a requirement if we were also commanded to have children?
My conclusion was that perhaps Heaven did not care about me. Was I a second class citizen or something? How did Heaven expect me to have “exercise, reasonable amounts of sleep, and good eating habits” with all of this going on? Did someone forget that the plan of salvation has a lot to do with raising children and that doing that keeps you from sleeping but that raising children requires more revelation and inspiration than just about anything else?
Then I realized I had no more clean nightgowns, which is what I’ve been wearing lately. And by lately I mean for a few months. So, I went to do my laundry and I opened the washing machine and….
You know what happened, don’t you?
Of course, there were wet clothes in there.
I started to hyperventilate because I was trying to take deep, calm breaths and meditate about a tree in the middle of Africa on a huge savannah where it was quiet and there wasn’t another human being for hundreds of miles.
So, my washer is special because we bought it refurbished, and it has to be respun everytime. Usually, I think it’s kind of a cute, quirky, fun, “cheaper by the dozen” thing that makes us a quirky, eccentric family, but…
Today was not that day.
I began to murmur. And mutter. And I complained. I may have even stooped so low as to call the washing machine “stupid,” which is ridiculous, because it’s an inanimate object. But, as I tend to anthropomorphize everything, I am sure I may have hurt its feelings. After all, it never knew it was going to be called upon to work as hard as it does in my house. It probably had a previously cushy life in a four person household…
A few minutes after the re-spinning occurred, I attempted to move the twice spun clothes to the dryer only to find that…
The dryer was full of damp clothes.
And, that’s when I started to cry and complain at the same time. Because, you see, our dryer is special, too. Out here in cow country, dryers don’t dry on the first run when they are drying a large load (and we don’t have any other kind of load). Nope. You have to dry them twice. And, this particular instance, someone forgot.
But, at the time I think I blamed everyone, and I didn’t limit it to this side of the veil. No, why couldn’t someone on the other side have reminded someone here to re-dry? Was I going to have to wear clothes all day long? I needed my nightgown!
And then I could hear the din of complaints coming from the schoolroom over the sound of the dishwasher and dryer running,
“Don’t help me anymore. You don’t even know what the square root of nine is, chowderhead.”
Where did they pick up the word “chowderhead?” Why are they contending?
“Give me back my pencil. Where’s my pencil? If you don’t give me back my pencil, I’m going to punch you.”
“I despise and loathe Mr. Hake and Mr. Saxon.”
“I! Will! Never! Get! Done! My! Life! Is! Over! I! Hate! Math!”
We don’t use the word hate. What is going on here? Who are these children?
I didn’t want to go in there. I just wanted to run away. I just wanted to go in my room and read an actual book of fiction. I just wanted to not deal with it. But, I went in.
I shouldn’t have.
The schoolroom looked like Wal-Mart’s “Back to School” area the day after school starts. It was a disaster on top of a pile of trash. It was crazy. It was…not what usually happens.
And that’s when my voice went from low to several octaves higher.
I was shrieking. Like some kind of banshee.
It was ugly. And then, I was done, and tried to be nicer. Time for reading lesson.
“What’s this sound?”
“I don’t want to do this,” and the five year old is upside down with her legs crossed, twirling her hair.
“Just say the sound. Sound out the word. Let’s see…what’s this sound?”
“Very good. What’s this sound?”
“Great! What’s this sound?”
“Great! Put it together now. What word is that? Say it fast!”
“No. That’s not the word. There is no “z” or “oo”…You just sounded it out…Let’s sound it out…”
“I don’t want to do this. Can we skip this?”
The baby starts crying. The three year old grabs the reading book. The 14 month old just wants my lap (what’s left of it, anyway…) The kids start fighting again. I am breathing.
Imploding and then exploding.
I keep it in. I will tame my tongue if it’s the last thing I do, so I go to make a bottle for the baby. I have to open a new can of formula powder.
There it goes, all over me, all over the floor. It’s only $6,000,000 an ounce. And it’s sticky and messy. And it’s mocking me.
“Ha. You couldn’t breastfeed this time. What a horrible mother you are. And now you are sticky and messy and you just put on your clean nightgown. Ha!”
And I am trying to make dinner and it’s burned on one side, raw on the other, and I am crying and yelling because I can’t stand it anymore and I just briefly for a second wonder what it would be like to have things quiet for 30 seconds.
To have no one touch me or want me for five minutes.
And then, everyone comes to dinner and they are snippy with each other and grabby and I just take a deep breath and look at my husband and my children and I get up and go upstairs and lie down and then I take a bath.
And I cry.
And I wonder, “What am I doing?”
And then I think, “I can’t do this. I can’t.”
And then I realize that the biggest reason I started out feeling like this was because I was getting revelation and inspiration from Heavenly Father (and I realized that when we are tired for all the right reasons, He makes up for our lack of sleep and still gives us revelation), and it was things I didn’t want to know.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I knew what he was telling me, but, like Amulek, I would not know.
Because on one of my hardest days, the revelation I was receiving had to do with continuing in this work and doing more and I seriously wanted to resign.
I’d like to say I had some sort of Mormon Messages Moment at the end of the evening, but it continued to be hard until everyone fell asleep and I had about 20 minutes of sleep before a crying baby needed me (or me to nudge my husband to take care of it…I love John!). It was just, as Anne Shirley said, “A Jonah day.”
But, Marilla was right:
Now, now. Jonah days come to everybody. God knows best. You used to say, “Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes.” Do you remember? Oh, what a girl you were for making mistakes in them days. Hmm? I used to think you were possessed. Mind the time you dyed your hair…
And I have to laugh, because while I have never dyed my hair green–oh, what a girl I was for making mistakes a long time ago…and tomorrow is fresh, with no mistakes in it, thank heavens. And we all have Jonah days. It’s what makes us human and, hopefully, humble, and as long as they don’t lick us, we’ll be okay.