I’m sitting in McDonald’s this morning, sharing Cinnamelts with my nine-year-old son. He should be at day camp, as that was most assuredly the plan, except that two days ago he broke four bones in his foot. He fell from a swing set, and he cracked a jagged line across the bones of his instep. He is in a wheelchair full-time for the foreseeable future, we are waiting for a CT scan tomorrow, and then he will have surgery next week. In other words, I feel like I could title this whole scenario, “How To Ruin Your Summer Plans in One Leap.”
We are the epitome of discouragement. So long, football camp. So long, mini-vacation to the Great Sand Dunes. So long, afternoons at the pool. And—lean in so I can whisper this part—farewell to my introverted hours of solitude this summer. I had an agenda for writing essays, blog posts, book reviews, and the pitch for my third book, but instead I’ll be looking for meals, games, and altered plans to keep my athlete from going stir crazy. In other words, so long, sanity. But I can’t say that last part out loud, because someone might think I’m not equal to this task of meeting his every need in what may be the longest summer of our lives.
The thoughts inside a woman’s head are one tangled mass of cooked spaghetti. The noodles wrap all around one another, and it’s tricky to pull one long strand from the bowl without getting lumps of marinara on the placemat. Everything connects to something else. It’s hard to set boundaries, boxes, or even perforated lines around the things we think and feel, because most of us don’t usually think and feel in a linear, organized fashion.
If we are honest with ourselves, there are things we might admit if only we could be sure they would land safely apart from the thoughts that surround them.
If she tells you she wishes her car got better gas mileage, that doesn’t mean she wishes she’d never learned to drive. If she tells you she didn’t like the middle of the book, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth reading. If she tells you she doesn’t love her job, that doesn’t mean she won’t come back tomorrow. If she tells you she needs a few hours by herself, that doesn’t mean she’s not committed to her family.
If she tells you today was hard, that doesn’t mean there was nothing to smile about. If she tells you she’s tired, it doesn’t mean she’ll never find rest. If she tells you this is harder than she thought, it doesn’t mean she’s done. If she tells you she doesn’t love the tasks, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love the role. Sometimes it just means what it means.
I don’t love doing laundry; I will, however, make sure my children have clean clothes to wear. I’m not always good at forgiving myself; I can easily share grace to others. I’m utterly exhausted; I do not wish someone else had kept the night watch over my son and his pain. I don’t love the tasks of motherhood; I dearly love being a mom. I need a break; this doesn’t mean I want out.
Those get tangled and messy, and when a woman says, “This is harder than I thought,” she follows it up, with her hand on your arm, saying, “I love my children. I do. I love my children. I do. I love them. Know that I do.” Because saying that we don’t love serving someone else every minute of everyday is dangerously close to saying we don’t love them every millisecond in between.
And we do. Know that we do.
It just gets messy sometimes. The laundry, the dishes, the tasks, the spaghetti, and the thoughts. I think we could all breathe a little easier if we just let ourselves say it sometimes. It’s harder than I thought it would be.
(But I love them. I do.)
Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I have to renew my subscription to Netflix and cancel this month’s membership to the pool.
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