Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

This Is How It Is

Last night I broke a streak of nights with five hours sleep, went to bed without writing, and got more than eight hours sleep. It was great.

This morning, as I was gradually working my way towards consciousness, the children trooped in to collect their allowances from my wallet so they could go attend yard sales up and down the street. I put the pillow over my head and went back to sleep. Half and hour later people had apparently latched on to the idea of having our own, unplanned yard sale and began collecting things from all over the house to take outside. At this point, it seemed that perhaps it was time for me to get out of bed.

The old records and National Geographics from the attic failed to attract any buyers but we did unload four old trunks for twenty dollars. Flush from this success, we purchased three aluminum baseball bats from a neighbor for a total of two dollars and decided to go out for hamburgers tonight. Then it started raining. And it wasn't yet 10:00 AM, so the day still lay before us.

I don't know if that sounds like a fun and inspiring family morning. The reality is frustrating in away that gets you down. One box of vintage clothes didn't make the yardsale because some animal of the house proved to have peed in it. Drama ensued when it turned out the kids had harvest all the squash from the garden but then left it somewhere in the house and can't remember where.

Some years back I remember a parent whose children were getting older saying that you're given exactly enough grace to get by at any given time, but that it never "gets easier". In an odd negative way I find that comforting, in that it suggests that it's not just because we have six kids and a massive old house and two somewhat defective cats and a couple of novels in progress that everything seems chaotic and maddening. In all probability, even if we had 2.5 kids and a new house and dutifully watched whatever the newest show was, it would still seem maddeningly difficult.

Perhaps one of the prime ways that my own personal Screwtape tries to get at me is by suggesting all the time, "If it weren't for this," or "If you only had this," it would all seem easy and peaceful and decorous. If we had a new couch. If the floors got picked up more often. If we weren't up to our necks in children. Just some one, not-quite-attainable little thing and it would suddenly become Me World, in which everything happens to Darwin's ease. There is no such world, of course. But I constantly find myself tempted by the notion that there could be.


Jenny said...

"There is no such world, of course. But I constantly find myself tempted by the notion that there could be."

I have the same general problem of thinking life would be better if only this one thing were different so I understand the internal battle you are fighting, but there are objective things that make life easier that when you don't have them, life really is harder.
It is harder to be chronically sleep deprived than not. A long commute is more stressful than a short one. Going to work early in the morning with pregnancy sickness (not that you have had that problem :P ) is harder than staying in bed or not being pregnant.

So yes, life is always going to feel hard, but I think it is okay to acknowledge that there are things in life that really are harder than others. The key is to not allow yourself to wallow in the genuinely difficult things you have to handle and to not feel sorry for yourself (says the pot to the kettle).

Abigail said...

Ha! Me too!

I'm about to have baby number 6 and have started freaking out that this is going to be the "thing" that pushes me over the edge. My mantra has been "The parents on Swim Team I've seen that only have 2 kids look just as bad as me. Any number of kids take up 100% of your time. Two kids is not the "magic" sanity number, get over it!"

Best of luck with your novels!

Rebekka said...

We have two kids, reasonably spaced (that is to say, almost 3 and 7 months), live in a 1000 sq f apartment (which, I hasten to add, is comfortable by local standards), and I haven't gone back to work yet. It's chaotically insane. I think family craziness is the same as house size - no matter how big or small it is, you'll fill it ALL the way up.

sdecorla said...

I have a different perspective. It seems like everyone loves to tell parents that it “never” gets easier, and I find this very discouraging. When I was struggling when my first was a baby, those kinds of comments made me want to jump off a cliff! I have honestly found that for me, it *does* get easier as kids get older. A LOT easier, in fact. Our oldest is ten, so I know that it really, truly does get easier. For some reason everyone seems to think that “easier” means “easy,” or even “absolutely perfect in every way.” That is not what I mean by “easier” at all, and I don’t know where people get that from. It’s like, if I ever lament that my life will be SO much easier once all my kids are in school, or sleeping all night, and so on, someone always says “but don’t think your life will be PERFECT!!” Um, did I say I thought it would be “perfect?” Where is this coming from? The thing is, even though parenting older kids isn’t always “easy,” at least with older kids and teens, everyone is sleeping much better, kids are in school, and you have much more time and energy for exercise, hobbies, socializing, volunteering etc. Having the time and energy for these other activities makes it easier to deal with whatever problems arise with your kids. Whereas if you have many small children, it’s much harder to find time to relax and therefore harder to deal with problems, even if the problems themselves may in fact be more trivial than what you might have to deal with when you have a teenager. Does that make sense?

Darwin said...


Yes, I understand the perspective as well.

I suppose a lot of this had to do with what types of concerns one is trying to answer. This post came out of my persistent temptation to think "If our family weren't this way, it would all be easy." It would be different, but it wouldn't "all be easy".

However, things do honestly get easier or harder in various ways, though I think we mostly adjust to experience them as normal. The five older kids can basically get themselves ready to go somewhere, with us mostly just having to deal with the baby. That's a big change from the days when we had a baby, a two year old and a four year old. Often it seems like even the younger ones are more independent in some ways than their older siblings were at the same age.

On the flip side, some of this is just that your parenting muscles get stronger over time. I remember feeling like having our first baby was really hard -- whereas these days if all the older kids are off somewhere and we just have the baby around it seems like we have oceans of time.

Bernadette said...

I used to think that if I were just holy enough, my life would become serene and untroubled, drama free, like the portraits of Mary and the saints on holy cards. Then one Advent I realized that Mary was a pregnant teen who had to run away to visit her cousin because her fiance/husband wanted to divorce her. Then when that got sorted out, she had a last minute major journey when she was almost 9 months pregnant, gave birth in a stable because no one could find better accommodations, and then had to flee for her life to a foreign country with her newborn son. Then later there came all the fun when her son gives up his steady job (which presumably also supported Mary) to become an itinerant preacher, eventually getting arrested and publicly executed. You can't tell me that there wasn't lots of drama and fuss and "You did *what* now?" moments in there, and she was the holiest woman who ever lived. That was when I started to realize that loving God does not mean a serene, untroubled life - in fact, just the opposite! I take a lot of comfort from that some days.

Art Deco said...

Last night I broke a streak of nights with five hours sleep

Welcome to my reality.