In the middle of a fragmented conversation Joey and I were trying to have, he looked at me and said, it's like drowning and I just can't come up for air. Everywhere I turn, the waves keep crashing down on me. How uplifting. I was holding Cally, who probably needed to have a nappy change or to eat, while Joey was trying to read a story to Ella and play with Buddy at the same time. The morning had already been turbulent. Joey decided to do a fun paper mache project with our older two. It ended with frustration and a flour-water mixture in Ella's hair and all over Buddy's body.
In the days since Joey made his remark, I've thought a lot about his analogy. The same could also be used for adjusting to one baby. There isn't a moment to breathe. I guess he's partially right. It's not easy. Each child wants attention at the same time and there's still normal daily stuff to get done - meals, baths, school correspondence, etc. Sometimes, I feel like getting to use the toilet in peace and remembering to brush my teeth before noon makes it a triumphant day.
But when Joey said he felt like he was drowning, I was initially upset and disappointed. Did he really feel that bad? Are we so awful? I love my children - and so does he - so how could he feel like being a parent is like drowning? I wanted to think of this same analogy in a more positive light. If parenting three children is like navigating the crests and valleys of the waves in an ocean, I wanted to think I was in control and surfing. Of course I know that Joey is entitled to feel the way he does, and since Sunday, it's kind of become a joke. Every time one of the kids calls out for him, he looks at me and says crash! They are very good at repeating what they say until one of us comes. So it is like that repetitive motion of waves crashing. Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!
And, as optimistic as I try to be, there are days when I, too, feel like I'm drowning. Sometimes, when I least expect it. Like last night. Cally was content in her floor gym. Buddy and Joey were watching some Chinese yo-yo you tube clip. I had read Ella a story and had stopped to notice that I'd messed up some of my knitting. The next thing I know, Ella says, Mummy look! I turned around to see Ella carrying Cally over to me. She'd somehow gotten Cally out from under the gym, lifted her up and brought her five steps to the love seat where I was sitting. And all without Cally making a peep. She had wrapped her arms around Cally's body, while Cally's feet were touching the ground and was holding her out in front. It scared the shit out of me!
And, when I scooped Cally up, I could see that Ella realized - probably by the look on my face and my panicked reaction - that she'd done something wrong. I had to console her while at the same time explain why she couldn't carry Cally. I also tried to explain the difference between carrying her and holding her with a grown up to help. I was so thankful that Ella hadn't tripped, slipped, fallen on or dropped Cally on our hard concrete floors. She loves her little sister so much, it would have been traumatic if she'd hurt her. Every time I think back to last night, I shudder with thoughts of how terrible it could have been.
I know it won't always be this way. Soon, Cally will be able to sit up. She'll be wriggling around on the floor, eager to go. I'll have my hands free a little more to help with Buddy and Ella so Joey isn't so overwhelmed. By then I'm sure we'll have new waves to surf. But, I know it's not sink or swim. It's really about finding balance and maybe just a peaceful moment every now and again. Time to breathe. Tread water. And look for the next wave we can ride.
Postlude. I just read what Soule Mama wrote on her blog today. How fitting. I find her inspiring, so it's comforting to read that she struggles with parenthood like I do.