Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's just 4 laps.

Quinn's still sleeping. And Madeleine too. So this is it. This is the time I get to myself today, but it doesn't feel luxurious. In fact, the feeling is reminiscent of those moments before a race, when I ran track in 8th grade. The nauseating, anxious feeling that I'm about to embark on something that will be exhausting, and ultimately rewarding, but will have me wishing I could quit at every step. I could just fake a hammy pull - nobody would know! Or I could just step off the track and say fuck it. Walk away forever...

I ran the mile in 8th grade, and I set the junior high school record, but I hate running and I don't have the physique for it. However above everything else, I'm competitive. I had to finish, to get the best time, to kill all those little wispy girls that trailed so far behind me... So I put one foot in front of the other, chanting my mile-mantra "fuck this fuck this fuck this" for 4 consecutive laps. And that's how parenting feels sometimes.

Clearly, I love my children. I love my husband. I even love the damn dog. But this? This life where I follow tiny bodies around, cleaning the detritus of their good times? This life where every sickness, developmental stage, sleep and food deficiency causes these little people to go violently fucking crazy? My life revolves around the mood swings of a 4 and 1-year-old, and all the parts in between involve me wiping something down with a sour rag. Cleaning and catering, cleaning and catering, cleaning and catering.

I don't take showers unless I can get two other people in the stall with me. I don't go to the bathroom with the door closed. I don't eat adult food, or any food for that matter, that can't be prepared in less than 2 minutes. And I don't get to read a book or the newspaper or write words that form complete sentences unless it's 11 pm. Those other posts from the last few weeks? They resulted in all of the CDs being pulled from the 300-disc changer or babies crawling on top of dining room tables and eating orange peels. Or me just completely ignoring Madeleine while she's trying to learn to read. And then I feel guilty. I am guilty. Some things I can let slide, like orange peels. But that last one? Bad mommy.

So here's where I am now: I think I'm on the third lap, which is the hardest. My chest hurts and each breath feels like a sob. With the lack of oxygen, I'm not thinking clearly, and my thighs and calves are burning, but my coach just called out my time and I'm off by 10 seconds. So I've got to kick it up a notch, I've got to devastate that little blonde bitch in the pink that thinks she can keep up. But what if I just pretended to trip and fall? Then I could stop. I could get out of this race if I just rolled an ankle and keeled over into the thick, soft grass. But I'm kidding myself. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other... fuck this fuck this fuck this....


Anonymous wordgirl said...

I'm right there with you, Mignon. Even though my kids are older...the detritus is still there. I feel like all I've done in the last 17 years is pave the way for other people's accomplishments and good times and it's left me an empty shell. I felt this way yesterday. It was the lowest I've felt in quite a while. If I was there, I would bring a bottle of wine and--for one day--we'd be day drinkers while the kids napped. Maybe I would bring paper and pencil and we'd map out a strategy for feeling better. I'm thinking about you.

8/30/2006 8:59 AM  
Blogger Esereth said...

Somehow it just balances, a post like this one with the many other "I luv my crazy kids" posts. Comforting even. You're actually a human, not just a born mom, and still, with your humanity and all it's muss, love being a mom. I'm glad you wrote this.

I mean, if you didn't have days like this you'd be a possibly mentally ill freak, right?

8/30/2006 12:18 PM  
Blogger lildb said...

god, Mignon, your metaphors are brilliant. BRILLIANT. I am loathe to try and write for days after I read your posts.


also, yeah. fuck this.

hello, sweet relief of my trip to SF for four days. (where I'll probably pull most of my soccer-mom-highlighted hair out due to the serious withdrawals I'll feel for the lung pain of my personal endurance marathon. how pathetic.)

8/30/2006 12:59 PM  
Blogger Tink said...

Sometimes it's hard to understand that there is a real, living, breathing, struggling person behind the mask of a blog. And then there are posts like this, that bring it home and make it human again.

I love you more for it.

I don't have kids. But I remember what it was like for my Mom. I remember her crying because she couldn't take a shower without someone needing something. It's so tough. It's so unfair!

We're here for you. Vent away.((HUGS))

8/30/2006 1:15 PM  
Blogger mamalujo1 said...

Ours were two and a half years apart. Tag team chirren.

Good times.....good fuckin' times.

8/30/2006 1:48 PM  
Anonymous mamatulip said...


Oh god, yes.

8/30/2006 3:54 PM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

I'll chant with you:

Fuck this, fuck this, fuck this...

Is it appropriate to say that at the same time I'm sending you a hug?

8/30/2006 3:58 PM  
Blogger Montana1 said...

You need to get a part time job, even if you come out "even." Your sanity depends on interaction with real, live adults (not just blogmates.) No offense meant, but the face time will save you. Always your soccer bud...

8/30/2006 6:56 PM  
Blogger Louise said...

I don't have kids, though I was a nanny for years and know what it is like to be a "baby keeper"- feed, wash, play, sleep, clean, clean, clean.

That said, at the end of the day, I could always go home to my quiet bed and my blissfully alone toilet.

I take my hat off to you.

BTW: when you feel more like a mummy and a baby-keeper than an individual human being, think of the best t-shirt I ever saw: "I had a baby, not a lobotomy".

8/30/2006 7:36 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

Wow. That was amazing. I'm so in awe of your writing and most importantly your honesty. I'm already worried about the kind of mother I'll make and of course convinced I'll be crap. I LOVE that you put it out there so perfectly, and you sound pretty damn great to me.

8/30/2006 7:52 PM  
Blogger Arabella said...

Mignon, you're awesome.

I'm already starting to feel this way a little, what with basically giving up my freedom of movement to get bed rest and "be a good mother." I feel like I have no control over my body, and I'm terrified about raising TWO babies at the same time when they finally do emerge from either my sore, overworked genitals or an incision above them.

You don't sound like a bad mommy to me. It's impossible to be fully engaged with your children twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It sounds like Madeleine is old enough for a little bit of quiet time while her mom does some computing, and if Quinn has to amuse himself by taking shit apart so you can get a few pseudomoments to yourself, it sounds like a relatively small price to pay. It's not like they're setting the house on fire or being unsafe. They know you love them and that you're there for them.

Plus, it'll get easier as they get older, won't it? Won't it??? WELL????

Please tell me it will, or I'm calling dibs on Wordgirl's bottle.

8/31/2006 6:26 AM  
Blogger Orange said...

Yo, you've got a 4-year-old who is learning to read? Don't sweat it. If you're ignoring a 6-year-old who's having trouble learning to read, that's one thing. But sheesh, if Madeleine doesn't master reading on her own at age 4, there's always kindergarten. Give her books and see what she does on her own—you don't need to fret about not helping her.

Adult contact is important, though. Find other people at the park, or take the kids to something recreational (though it's tricky to find something that accommodates both ages). Is M. going to preschool this fall? You can take Quinn out for a mom-and-tot thing and find other moms to talk with. Mind you, they probably won't be as cool as blogger moms, but you'll find good people. My quality of life improved greatly when we started hitting the school playground each afternoon after kindergarten let out for the day. Actual grown-ups! Who make conversation! You need it to stay sane, Mignon.

Plus, reliable birth control so the next refrain doesn't come in two more years, with a schoolgirl, preschooler, and baby??

8/31/2006 7:22 AM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

When my kids were that age, I felt like the pooper scooper at their parade.

I still feel that way sometimes, when everything revolves around keeping them entertained, educated, challenged, exercised and socialized--while my own needs for the same things are unmet and I wallow in guilt along with resentment.

Like you I used to be a track grrrl and ran the mile and two mile. One step at a time. One second at a time. You'll make it.

8/31/2006 9:36 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Wow. That's an amazing metaphor. But you know what? You're an amazing runner. You're gonna make it to that fourth lap.

8/31/2006 5:08 PM  
Anonymous LetterB said...

Ugh. I hate endurance tests and that's exactly what the mother trip is. Some days I feel the same way, that I just want to throw in the towel. My sister has had recurring fantasies about a painless hospitalization or a short stint in federal prison since she became a mom 11 years ago. I used to think she was nuts. Now, I understand completely. Great post.

8/31/2006 9:19 PM  
Blogger V-Grrrl said...


Maybe we should knock off a liquor store with Mignon so we can enjoy the easy prison life for a while. Ah, you can sleep all you want, and with all our experiences dealing with violent, irrational two-year-olds, we'll be fully capable of handling the population.

9/01/2006 9:08 AM  
Anonymous kathie said...

Hey Mignon, this post is hilarious. I love the mile analogy--fits perfect. I was a swimmer and for some reason the word "nutmeg" would plow through myhead repeatedly during races. Not practice, just at meets. I have no idea why, but I think it translated to "fuck this." Very weird, I know. HOpe tomorrow's mile is one of those impossibly easy ones that is as shocking as a really rough one.

9/01/2006 11:54 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I only just reclaimed my shower time this spring. I admit until then I showered with Emily, and her bumpy bouncing body, with the unauthorized touching and commentary about my "big belly" or "arm fat".

But yes. Your analogy is truly poetry. Mothering is an endurance race, in a series of endless track meets. Sometimes you might get a day to rest in between, but usually not. Events are back to back, sun up to sun down. You generally smell not so fresh, and have several people yelling competing directions to you. Maybe someone throws a cup of water at you...or not.

Sometimes you catch your stride, though, and the thing feels do-able...

Your stride will come back.

9/01/2006 2:12 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

It's a thankless job most days isn't it? And a lonely one too I bet, which is why it's especially sad that you can't always make time to connect with yourself more less others. Keep trying though Mignon. It's important. And I'm always here if you get a break at 11pm and want to talk.

9/05/2006 10:33 AM  

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