Charlie ran a marathon in 2004, a few months before the triplets were born.
He told me that he "bonked" at the 20-mile mark. I hear this is quite common with marathoners.
They're running along - and then - they hit the wall of complete physical exhaustion.
I think that same phenomenon happens in parenthood. I'm sure of it, because the exact thing happened to me, this past week.
I totally bonked.
I was exhausted and overwhelmed. My body ached. I felt a lot like Wiley coyote, trapped underneath a huge rock. I couldn't get out. Worse yet, I didn't want to get out. All of the motivation and adrenalin that I had been chugging along on, was spent.
What was the point of doing laundry? There would only be more to do, tomorrow.
What was the point of bathing the kids? They would only get dirty again.
What was the point of cooking any meals? They wouldn't eat them, anyway.
Why bother watering the plants? The kids are sure to kill them.
Why get any one, including myself, dressed? We'll be going to bed, again, later today.
Why mop? Why vacuum? Why dust? Why break up fights? Why put toys away?
Why bother doing anything?
The energy required was so great and it was nearly impossible to be successful. I might as well try to hold back the tide with my hands. Or blow out the wildfires.
When I imagined myself as a mother, before we had children, I always envisioned a clean and tidy house. I could see our well dressed children that sat down, orderly, and colored with crayons. Or cooperatively built tall towers out of blocks.
Well-balanced meals that our children would actually eat magically appeared on our dining room table, which was free of sharpie marks. I looked beautiful. I was always well dressed and had abs of steel. I preferred carrot sticks over a bowl of ice cream and craved a pitcher of ice tea over a carafe of wine. My arms were never flabby, nor did they jiggle for a full second after I stopped moving. We would all sing "Doe-Ray-Me" over and over again. When the phone would ring, I would answer it with good cheer.
Last week, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw a person who looked old and haggard and aged beyond her years. My smile lines were overshadowed by frown lines. Around me, the house was a disaster. There were mounds of laundry. The kids would sit down to color and then break all the crayons. They were throwing their blocks at each other, smacking one another in the head. The only food they would eat were graham crackers smeared with peanut
butter. They would drink milk and spit it on the table.
Not a single person was singing "Doe-Ray-Me".
Instead, I was running around in circles yelling "Holy crap, what now?!"
The baby was crying. The kids were crying. The phone was ringing off the hook.
I didn't want to talk. I didn't want to listen. I didn't want to do anything, but sit in the corner and get past the first chapter of my new book "Eat, Pray, Love."
While shoving my face full of chocolate.
That's all I wanted.
But I didn't get it. Instead, I got abbreviated naps and another day that was worse than the one before. When we finally did get out of the house, I was approached by a woman at Target who said "Look at all those children, are they yours?! I could never imagine!! How do you do it?!"
Instead of graciously smiling and giving a witty response like "Prayer and wine!" I responded "Of course you would do it, if you had to. Seriously, what are my options? Can I turn them out on the street and say 'You are free! Go fend for yourselves!'? I'm pretty sure I'd get put away for that."
The woman gave me a look like I was loony. Which I was.
I know a Mexican woman with 12 children and she never complains. She is so darn happy that she has clean water and a roof over her head. Nothing seems to faze her. She is like a workhorse, prodding along, day after day. She makes all of her food from scratch, including tortillas. She never screams. She always smiles. She doesn't even drink tequila.
I really don't know how she does it.
Parenthood is an incredible adventure. There are times when it's not at all what I imagined it would be. There are days when it's a million times better than I expected, and there are days when it's a million times more challenging.
Honestly, I didn't think it would be this challenging and our kids are still in diapers.
Quite often, when you're at the bottom of the mountain, you can't see the top. There is no end in sight, just a long, long, long trail that seems to go straight up. That's when having a positive attitude is more important than ever.
Now where the heck did I put mine?! Or did the kids break it, along with the remote?
Actually .... this week is already looking much better for me.
The air has cleared, the sun is shining.
Our home was spared from the fires.
The Red Sox are the World Series Champions.
There are only 1,035 days left until Kindergarten. Or, 670 if I decide to start them early.
We got out of the house first thing, this morning. I ran the kids until they couldn't run any more, and then I fed them a picnic lunch. Then I brought them home, washed their hands, changed their diapers, read them a story and put them all down for a nap. Including Henry - who screamed blue bloody murder for 30 minutes before falling asleep in his own crib and not on my chest for the first time, ever.
It isn't always easy. Actually, it's very rarely easy.
But I know what to do and I know how to do it. Although sometimes, it is damn hard to grab yourself by the bootstraps when you're stuck under a rock and the world around you is burning to the ground.
That's when it really helps to have a supportive husband.
And a freezer full of Rocky Road.