Friday, March 28, 2003

Maybe it's sleep deprivation, or hormones, or stress, but something about the constant chaos inherent to life with small children just seems to discombobulate the best of us. My friend Merideth describes the sensation as "I feel like I've dropped my brain and it's lying in shards on the ground. If I can just find the piece I need right now, and hold on to it, then I can do what I need to do." To me, it feels like everytime I'm about to get my act together and have a coherent thought, a buzzer goes off in my brain, causing me to lose my place. Too much of this, and you can start to feel like Vivi in The Ya Ya Sisterhood, who uses the metaphor of "dropping her basket" to describe a rather horrific and spectacular nervous breakdown. I don't think I'm on the brink of driving to Florida in nothing but a fur coat, but there are days when I'm a lot closer to dropping my basket than I'd like to be.

Yesterday was one of those days. I was up late the night before, working on a presentation for the class I’m taking, and I still had quite a bit of research and writing to do. Unfortunately I had to schedule this around a full day’s worth of meetings and running around. Oh, and did I mention that the presentation was due last night? What I needed was a chunk of time to sit and think and work, but that's pretty much impossible with young kids. Turns out Lacan really makes no sense if you have to stop reading every 2 minutes to referee a fight, get someone a snack, or clean up a potty accident. The culmination was when I went downstairs to fix the kids a snack and heard an ungodly clatter coming down the stairs. I ran to the foyer with visions of broken backs and concussions to find my office chair resting at an odd angle at the foot of the stairs. Apparently the kids thought it would be funny to push it down the stairs and watch my face split.

I confess that I didn’t exactly use calm, rational Mommy language to communicate my displeasure. There might have been a few “grown-up words” in my rant, as well as those time worn phrases that regularly provoked me to Winona Ryder worthy eye-rolls when I was a child. You know the ones – you probably heard them too, and swore you’d never use them on your children either. “I’m sick and tired. . . .” "What were you thinking?" "If your brother told you to jump off the Empire State Building, would you do it?" “Go to your room and stay there!"

Once the culprits had retreated to their lairs (to plot further mischief, no doubt), I calmed down and realized the futility of trying to analyze academic jargon and 18th century prose while supervising children. I reluctantly admitted to myself that I couldn't do much more in this environment and decided to be happy with what I had. I spent the rest of the afternoon entertaining my children (read: keeping them out of trouble), and trying not to think about my presentation. And, you know, the presentation could have been better - I wasn't as prepared as I would have liked, and I think it showed. But I got through it, no one threw rotten fruit, and I managed to avoid hocking my jewelry and departing for parts unknown. Which is the best you can do somedays.

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