There are black mascara lines streaking downward from both my eyes. My cheeks are flushed red and my heart still beats a little too fast. It was 4H tonight and I was hell bent on making it work to go even though Chris had plans and that meant I would have to go alone with six children. I had my reasons, it only meets once a month, our oldest two have presentations to give tonight and so on. By dinner time it had already been a tough day on multiple fronts and all signs pointed to “don’t do it”. But I didn’t want to disappoint our responsible, studious oldest daughter who had her puppet show all prepared and handouts freshly printed.
Being a mother means sometimes having the responsibility of doing things alone with your kids. It’s just part of the gig. Depending on work schedules and kids activities there might be lots of things you manage to do by yourself. We rock Costco every two weeks or so, the kids and I, because we need to. Same with the dentist, the orthodontist, choir and co-op classes. We either figure it out or we stay home. And then there are a few things that require two parents for success. Those include church, the aquarium, any place that involves jumping or bouncing and 4H meetings.
We were 4H bound. We managed to leave early so we could score a good parking place. There may have been crying about jackets but all in all, we departed. The meeting went off without a hitch and the presentation was stellar. Their audience laughed and smiled while they acted out the life story of a sea turtle. I watched while I nursed the baby. Meanwhile, Phineas was dismantling a part of the piano, shutting himself in the dog crate and barking, abusing his ice machine privileges or trying to find a way into the sealed cookies that were for snack time later. While I tried to keep tabs on him, Liberty was busy spitting up all over their carpet. Still, in general we were surviving. Then Finn took the closet off its hinges with his brute two year old force. All the kids were in an uproar and found it exceedingly hilarious, which led him to believe likewise. He brought me by the hand to show me what he’d done and then promptly said he was sorry. I may have laughed and then said “we need to leave before we break anything else!”.
My heart had wanted, earlier, to either stay home or put enough pressure on the hubby that he would give up his plans and come with us. But I didn’t like that feeling. I wanted the best of both worlds, he could go out with friends and I could be supermom and tackle 4H with grace and charisma. Perhaps that’s called pride? Or ignorance? I’m not sure. I am sure of one thing, I should have listened to myself.
After I sent three kids out the door with express instructions to go to the van, which was just outside said door, I ran back inside for Liberty who was in the arms of a friend. When I opened the front door, my boys were running up the driveway hill toward their younger sister who was standing in the dark nearly on the white line of the country road (read: no sidewalk, barrier or bright streetlights). They were laughing and bursting with energy. And I startled the poor baby in my arms as I screamed for them to come back. They hightailed it to the van, knowing instantly from my tone that they’d made a very bad judgement call.
I cried all the way home. For so many reasons. Mainly two. I was terrified. Seeing my little girl standing at the road far beyond my arms reach made my heart stop. That kind of fear has to be the worst kind. And second, I knew it was too much but I went anyway. There are things I can do and things I can’t. But I’m less than okay with the “can’t” list. I don’t like it. I want to be able to manage without my husband for most any task. I’ve been pining away for spring and summer projects, dreaming big dreams that are giving glimmers life and light to a heart that is heavy with challenges we’re facing with one of our kids. Trying to find ways to do them on my own and do it most efficiently, so that I don’t add to his already significant workload, thinking I’m helping and doing right by doing it myself.
The reality is we are meant to figure out how to do it together. All of it. When the need for independence and being able to ‘get the job done’ trumps the cohesive nature of marriage, no one wins. As I tried to drive home tonight, unable at times to see the headlights clearly through my tears, I slowed down and called Chris. I had to. I couldn’t keep driving without hearing his voice. I tried to tell him what had happened, that everyone was okay but that it was so scary, that I should have stayed home, that it was too much for me to go alone. And then I said what my heart really felt, really feels if I’m honest…
I need you. I need you to talk to me. I need you to tell me it’s going to be okay. That we are okay.
My independent-prone self wants to not say that, wants to feel like I can make it work, sort things through, find an answer to any dilemma, tough it out, hang in there, muster up the grit to keep on….and I usually do. There are great strengths to being that sort of person. But just ask my husband, there is great weakness too. The partnership that marriage was designed to be doesn’t work as smoothly as it could when one party or both act like they don’t need the other. It isn’t the “helpful gesture” that I think I thought it was. I think dreaming my garden dreams or debating the necessary size of meat bird pens or designing kidding pens for our pregnant goats might be better thought through and hold more value for both of us if I wasn’t doing it by myself.
Taking some deep breaths here and vowing to make sure my (amazing) husband knows how much he’s needed and allowing myself the space to say “I can’t” when I need to. Want to see my favorite picture of him from last year? It was the Easter parade and he toted 5 goats in the back of our van in a tarp (and five of our children as well…not in tarps), wrangled goats and children all the way down Main Street for hundreds of onlookers and always with a smile.