Last week, I threw a bowl of ice cream.
Actually, I dropped it. But, with a lot of force.
Still, it resulted in a broken bowl and a splatter of chocolate Ben and Jerry's all over the kitchen floor.
It had been a long day, for everybody and when, after several failed attempts, the bean finally fell asleep around 9:30, I snuck out of the room. I was dirty and stressed and totally empty.
I tiptoed into the kitchen and scooped two scoops. I pulled out the chocolate sauce and felt my shoulders start to relax a little. My mind went straight to the anticipation of collapsing on the couch, bowl in hand, and letting my weary body sink into the cushions as I shoveled the sweet and creamy into my mouth.
Just as I'd put the spoon into the bowl, Willa wailed. Not just a whimper, but a full-on wail.
I remember thinking, "I should just throw this bowl." I wanted time to stop for a second, just a second, and somehow, I thought the shatter and the force of a breaking bowl might achieve that.
And so I threw it. And it did.
I calmly called for Jacob's help and he helped me with the mess, both the screaming baby mess and the mess of ice cream and ceramic shards on the floor.
You would think it was a loss of control. But, I think maybe it was an attempt to regain some control.
We've been under so much pressure lately. Part-time job, full-time Mom, part-time farmer and full-time cook and keeper of the house, the finances, the schedule, the diaper bag (do we have sunscreen? blanket? hat? bug spray? phone? wallet? ... you know the drill. Getting out of the house takes a spreadsheet and an engineering degree these days.)
By the end of the day, we're all so exhausted that when sleep is a fight, it's just enough to get us all right there, at the edge of cool and crazy.
The ice cream that night took me straight to crazy.
I waited a few days before I told Jacob that I did not drop the bowl, as he assumed. And, I didn't tell anyone else either for awhile. I was slightly, and maybe still am, terrified of what that act says about me. Am I out of control? Am I violent? Do I have some sort of anger management issue I need to work out?
Finally, I confessed to a few Mama pals.
They all had the same reaction: Oh honey, I've been there.
One told me she allows herself her own toddler tantrums. She waits until her little one is asleep, then goes outside and screams and jumps up and down and flings her arms -- the whole bit.
She also says her real urge is to run, as fast as she can, down the lane and just keep running.
Another tells her kids that Mama is being bad and needs a timeout. Then she locks herself in the bathroom.
Another tells me she has moments like these every day, sometimes several times a day.
Often, all you hear when your babies are little is how to not let a moments go by, that this will be the happiest time of your life, that you'll turn around and they'll be grown -- so savor every moment.
What you don't often hear from mothers is the pressure, the chaos, the power battles, the anger, the loss of control. And almost never do you hear about complete and utter emptiness you can feel after a full day of giving to your children.
It's as if talking about it might mean you're taking your child for granted. That maybe, if the word anger comes out of your mouth, it might make people think you don't love your child.
Or, maybe we're afraid someone might hear all this and find us unfit. Or worse yet, maybe we're afraid if we say it out loud, we'll find ourselves to be unfit.
But parenting is all about losing it, and regaining it, and losing it again.
Where there is love this deep and when there this much giving of oneself, there is bound to be an unraveling of the self. In fact, the unraveling may be the only way to give the way a parent gives.
Never have my emotions been as deep and thick as they have been since I became a mother. And if that means a broken dish here and there, so be it.
In other news, after the ice cream incident, it was even more apparent that our trip to Minnesota for a Farmer's Union leadership retreat came just in time. The day we left, we were both freaking out. What terrible timing. And really, would this be worth it? Why are we leaving the farm in the middle of July?
But, oh, how we needed a break. We got lake time, met some new friends, gained some really valuable insight and generally, were able to just check out of the farm for a two days.
When the retreat organizer asked us all to write down what we wanted out of the weekend, I replied with:
Space from the to-do lists and the deliveries, from the turkeys and the dishes, from the house and the seedlings and the work and the stress.
Space to talk, to actually relax a little, to play.
I'm hopeful it recharged us enough to last the rest of the season.
Note: As you can tell from Jacob's farmer tan (see photos above), we are not water people. I've always secretly wished I was a water person. People always seem to be having so much FUN in and around water.
But, we're dirt and mountain people and thus, a little wary of the water.
Which is why I was totally freaked out about taking Willa on a boat. At the last minute, I told Jacob we were going to skip the boat ride. Earlier in the day, someone mentioned that in some places, they make you put your kid in a car seat in the case of a boat wreck.
That got me thinking about boat wrecks and babies and ... by the afternoon, we were not going on a boat. Out of the question.
But at the dock, Jacob very nicely told me that while he understood my fears, also, they were a little crazy. He put Willa in the life jacket and told me what a great time she would have experiencing the wind and the water and the sun. And so we stepped onto the boat, me holding Willa so tightly she was in more danger of suffocation than drowning.
Then the minute we got out on the lake, both Mama and Baby relaxed a little. I released my grip (but not too much) and let both of us feel the breeze. We both needed it.
It's hard to know when your mothering instinct is right and when you're just being absurd.
Good thing I have a husband to help me tell the difference.
Out of all of this, two questions for you:
What do you do when you lose it? (Please tell me and make me feel better?)
When do you know you're being fearful just to worry and when your worry is actually an instinct you should listen to?