A Welcome Detour

Photo by Fuyoh!, via Flickr

Call me dense, but I just realized the other night that the ability to multitask has a downside. Namely, a person who can split hands into one task and brain to another is never fully engaged in either…which means she (read that: “I”) cannot block out distractions.

In the last few weeks, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to concentrate on my work, when it’s time to work. (Yeah, right.) Everything came to a head on Thursday, when I was trying to knock out a rough draft of an assignment that’s been causing me trouble. I don’t want to spend my life repeating I HATE age three, so Friday I resolved to take a day off work and just focus on family and home.

I probably started in the wrong place: two hours in the grocery store and several dozen variations on the words “Julianna, STAY HERE.” Then it was lunch and a conference call about our new local Down syndrome parent network, and up to school to go to Stations of the Cross with Alex. Lo and behold, the day was over, and not one lick of housework had been done. Suddenly I realized why it’s been so hard for me to make headway lately.

And then, of course, there was the swing.

Our wind-up swing is a hand-me-down that looks like this, only with a vinyl seat cover. I love it because it does NOT require batteries, and the wind-up status prevents you from going off and ignoring your child for long periods of time. It’s a tool to be used when Baby really needs movement and Mommy really needs her hands.

I love this swing. So, unfortunately, do the kids. Unfortunately, because a swing that old is not replaceable. The mechanism jammed once before when we over-wound the spring, and Christian spent almost an hour working on it before he got it fixed. So ever since I pulled it out a week ago, I’ve been trying without success to keep little hands off it. We had several battles on Friday, two more at dinnertime–during which Nicholas pushed it higher than it ever swings with a baby in it–and when I went to put Michael in it while I did dishes, it was jammed. Christian tried to fix it, but the old plastic parts inside snapped. Bye-bye, swing.

My frustration reached epic levels. I sometimes call Nicholas a “Destructicon”–rip books, turn off computers, get things out, throw them on the floor, break baby gear. I just want him to STOP IT. But I also know me choking on rage isn’t going to make it happen. I want to enjoy parenthood, not stew over what cannot be changed. And I remember that when Alex was going through this stage, I was the one who had to change first. Only…how? How do you take perfectly justifiable frustration and simply turn it off?

“Tell you what,” Christian said that night, as I vented about the project I couldn’t finish and the kids who break everything and the desire to simply bury myself in a hole where nobody could demand my attention. “Tomorrow I’ll take them to the park for a couple of hours so you can get this writing project done.”

Saturday morning, we tore into housework while we waited for it to get warm outside. And at 10:00, they left. Michael fell asleep, and without two little screaming children in the house, he stayed that way. I sat down at the computer with one final prayer for divine help…and I got the darned thing drafted.

When my family returned home shortly before noon, I felt like a new woman. I hadn’t realized how heavily that particular project was weighing on my stress level. For the rest of the day, I didn’t fret over deadlines or the length of my to-do list. I actually felt like I was taking a day off. I cooked up a table full of unhealthy appetizer goodies to accompany a family movie. I gave baths and got kids ready for bed without once raising my voice. I enjoyed a nice evening with my husband, and at bedtime I felt only lightness and gratitude, where for so long there had been murky, bilious ick.

Sometimes, you just can’t do it by yourself. Thank God I have such a wonderful man to share my life (and my frustrations!) with.


Sharing my gratitude with Ann’s community at A Holy Experience