This morning I watched Ruby at war with her socks. They were inside out and she was battling to flip them right side and get them on herself. I gently offered some help. Immediately she snapped back a response I was all too familiar with: “No! I can do it myself!”
They say in parenthood you get back whatever you gave your own parents as a kid. As her words ring in my ears and our shared frustration rises (her with the socks, me with my inability to help her with her socks) it occurs to me how annoying this trait must have been to my own parents when I was Ruby’s age. How annoying it actually still is to function this way as an adult. To walk around like robo-mom with a pasted on smile telling anyone who will buy what I’m selling including my family, friends, husband and myself that I do not need help. I got this. I can do this on my own. I can make the bus on time and feed the baby all night long and pack the lunches and make the homemade dinners and do fun projects with the kids and I can do it! I can! All on my own! Seriously, I got this! No, seriously, I do!
Except when I don’t.
So here is the truth of it: it was a long, hard week. Phil is finally home again after a Monday-Friday business trip. While he has travelled this long once before since Hope has been born, this is his first time being gone for this long, after all of our wonderful extended family and help have long since left.
I have been alone. With all three of them. I am on all day. I am on all night. I am the human, mothering equivalent of a 24 hour cable news cycle. I go constantly. And often repeat myself. Seriously, I’m exactly like CNN.
Phil left around 8AM Monday morning. Somewhere around noon that day I realized I was going to have to take things down a notch. Laundry might get done but would never get put away. It would just accumulate in soft billowy mountains throughout the house. We might make the school bus. We also might not. If we drove, we would make the first bell. We would not be late though in no scenario would we be early. Homework would get done. The children would be fed. Even if that meant scrambled eggs most nights. When Ruby, during our Mommy/Ruby day home together, asked why we weren’t doing anything (because Mommy is tired! Because Mommy hasn’t slept more than 4 hours, and not consecutively, in days!) I rallied to do a cooking project with her and you know what? We made hamantaschen for Purim. Actually we made six hamantaschen to be exact; one tray’s worth. It wasn’t much, but it was something. And we did it together.
But somewhere around Wednesday, I realized my new mantra of low expectations wasn’t going to see me through it. I was going to have to do something even more drastic. I was going to have to accept help. Or even more terrifying, I might have to ask for help. I might have to actually admit that I couldn’t do it on my own. Just picture Ruby all pissed off at her socks but as a grown up and way worse. This is how I felt admitting I needed help.
And so when the neighbor asked if he could walk Dylan to the bus stop, I said yes.
And when the friend called and asked if she could bring over dinner, I said yes. And I went and ate that delicious dinner for at least 2 nights. And just maybe for at least one breakfast.
And when my friend asked if she could bring Ruby home from piano class, I said yes.
And when another amazing friend asked if she could snuggle Hope so that I could take long, slow sips of the large coffee in front of me on the table with both hands, I said yes.
I said yes.
One little word. Life-changing. How humiliating that it took me 36 years to figure it out. And that one little word and all those wonderful people got me through to Friday, to this moment when my wonderful husband finally walked back in the door and understood that I needed to walk out of it to grab one hour alone with this beer, these fries, no little ones who I love more than life itself. Who I need space from more than anything in this moment.
As I grab my keys I yell up to him, “Need anything?” to which he responds, “Just you.”
“That’s easy,” I reply.
“I’ll go get her. Be back with her in an hour.”
I need him. I need her. I need them, all of them. Yes.