Crash. Burn.

October 25, 2010

It was a rough weekend at our household, and I humbly admit that my own funk contaminated the rest of the family.  In my own defense, I’m on the tail of my annual bronchitis-palooza that has translated into coughing spells only about every 45 seconds or so for the past 17 days.  I’ve actually thrown my own back out, coughing.  Needless to say, I have not exactly been at my best for awhile.

That being said, I simply reached my limit on Saturday.  In a good faith effort to keep my children occupied while my patient husband gallantly offered to vacuum and shampoo our carpet, I decided I would keep the kids and their grubbiness out of the house, and give the carpet a fighting chance to be clean and dry before our return.  The day was easy enough to schedule around this — I gathered the gang up for a visit to the library, then off to a birthday party where the entertainment duties were off my shoulders for 2 1/2 hours, then took them to Mass that evening.

I don’t know when it all started to go down-hill, but at some point during the day, I could feel my blood pressure rising, the volume of my own voice increasing, and my will to live plummeting.  I had enough.  By the end of the day and the end of Mass, I was feeling very outnumbered  3 to 1, and decided God would understand if I just needed to leave after Communion — which I NEVER do, usually —  I quietly put our few books and distractions in my purse and prepared to make my exit as non-disruptive as possible, and suddenly found myself in an argument with my (usually) sweet son Max.

“Please put the blanket in the bag,” I whispered.

“No, I want to give it to Timothy.”

“Please put the blanket in the bag.”

“NO!  I want to give it to Timothy!”

“Blanket.  Bag.  Please.”


I was gritting my teeth.  I was hot.  I was pissed off.  All the whining, demanding, and bickering of the day — and yes, it had been like this all day — came to a head right then at that moment and I reached my limit.

I’m officially pulling out of the election for Mother of the Year.  I think I’ve disqualified myself.

By Sunday, I was pretty sure that it was either them or me — someone needed to go away and regroup.  I chose me.  I left them all behind, in the capable-enough hands of my patient husband.  (In his defense, he is used to me running the show where the kids are concerned.  It’s probably the result of working-mommy guilt, I really do want to be the one to do it all with the kids, even though this weekend would show that it can wear me down to a whimpering nub.)

So he’s a bit out of practice.  He counts on me to do it all, and I count on him (and hate to admit it) to pick up the pieces when I crash and burn.

Even though I knew their afternoon would pretty much be spent watching TV and eating goldfish crackers and popcorn, I got out of the house for a few hours.  Inhale.  Exhale.  And repeat.

And, eventually, I missed them.  And I went home.

I arrived back at the house to find a very sober group of short people.  And my husband admitted, “I actually thought, just once, ‘I wonder if she’s coming back.'”  He knew I would, but it was a passing thought that came up.

The rest of the afternoon was subdued, and people were quick to listen to what I asked, and responding the first time, instead of the typical 5th or 6th time.

I have very mixed emotions today, about how I handled all of this.  I have to admit I’m human and that there is a limit to my patience and my ability to manage this family.  But I’m sorry I reached it, and that my children paid a little bit of a price, and they did feel a little sad and maybe a little worried about what was going to happen next.  I’m glad I had the self-control to stop myself before I said something to my husband or kids that I could never take back.   I’m sorry there are children out there, far too many children, who do truly suffer at the hands of parents or caregivers who weren’t able to find a way to stop themselves before they lose control of their tempers.

After a little time away, knowing my children were safe and sound with their father, a little time to rest and get perspective, and I was ready to go again.  We took a little walk last night, and everyone apologized to everyone else for our various mistakes and missteps.

As I have said many times, this life really does take endurance.  I must remember to pace myself, physically and emotionally, so that I can be in it for the long haul.  I will remember to ask for help, and not push away the one person I probably need the most when the going gets really tough.  I don’t want to be a single mom, and I hate that just when I clearly do need him the most, I tend to be the hardest on my patient husband.

I get one chance to raise these children, and I know it’s my privilege to be their mom.  Some days, it’s just not easy.


One Response to “Crash. Burn.”

  1. Kellie LInden Says:

    Very well done Ellen, thanks for sharing! You are a wonderful mom. The years of raising children go by so fast, but sometimes when you are in the trenches it doesn’t seem to be flying by! Congratulations for completing your degree that is quite the achievement when you have a family, work and school going on all at the same time! Job well done!

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