For the past few weeks I’ve been exhausted. Lethargic. Under the weather. My thoughts are largely consumed with me-me-me: I feel awful; I’m so tired; I just want to crawl back into bed.
I find it very challenging to parent when I feel like this.
My self-absorption when I’m sick leads to unrealistic expectations of S. He’ll be calm and quiet so my head won’t ache any worse; he’ll entertain himself so I can rest on the couch. He won’t fuss or whine, and we’ll be able to get through the day as best we can under less-than-ideal circumstances.
Funny how he never gets these memos.
It’s understandable, I know. He’s an energetic toddler with a perfectly normal (read: short) attention span and perfectly normal (read: large) need for love, supervision, and distraction. But when I don’t feel my best physically, I find it incredibly hard to be the kind of parent he wants and needs. Frankly, I want someone to mother me instead: to let me spend the day curled up in bed, to bring me cups of warm soup, to take care of all the household chores I let slip.
Work doesn’t feel as daunting when I’m sick, for some reason. It’s a welcome distraction for my mind; it gives me something to focus on that pulls me out of myself and forces me to meet deadlines, be productive. I’m not sure why I can’t translate the same positive energy towards the work of mothering, but I’m simply overwhelmed by the constant demands that caring for a child requires.
Early this Monday morning I was laying in bed, dreading the day and another long week stretching out before me. I knew I had to bring a better attitude and energy towards caring for S, but I wasn’t sure how.
I tried to pray, but frankly I’m lousy at praying when I don’t feel good. I start to pray for the strength to bear the discomfort well, and then I slide into guilt that so many other people in the world are suffering worse than I, what right do I have to pray for feeling better, I’m really so blessed, blah blah blah. Next thing I know, my prayer has trailed off and my mind has slipped back into woe-is-me mode. After a few more futile attempts at morning prayer, I gave up and went looking for distraction instead.
I came across a reflection on riding the waves, on letting go of our attempts to control what life sends our way and simply releasing, trusting in the knowledge that God will carry us through.
God calls us to big things sometimes, I realized. Bigger than we would ever choose for ourselves. Again and again, He might allow us to be tossed about and thrown helplessly onto the shore. But our job is not to control the waves—only to ride them. To trust. To let go. And to know that through it all, He holds us.
I think back to that girl on the beach and I want to tell her that she was glimpsing only a tiny bit of what waves could be like, but also only a shadow of God’s mercy and grace.
But then, I know she will figure all of that out in good time. She’s still figuring it out.
The author’s words reminded me that the way I’m feeling right now is just a wave. It feels huge and daunting at certain points in the day, and it unsettles my status quo. But it will crest, and then it will subside. There will be a stillness, and a spreading out, sinking back into the gentle rhythm of the way things were.
And truly, it’s just a small wave. I’ve ridden bigger before, and larger ones will loom after. But this is the only one I have to handle today.
Her words put my feelings in perspective, too. I’m still figuring it all out – mothering, marriage, maturing into the person I’m called to be. But I’m wrestling with it all under the shadow of God’s grace and mercy. That may just be the hope I need to make it through the day.
(As S wails from the other room, refusing to sleep during what was supposed to be nap time for both of us. Release, release and ride it out…)