Free Write

For weeks, the only time he's been happy is in the tub.
For weeks, the only time he’s been happy is in the tub.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Michael has spiraled downward, steadily but surely, in his crankiness, plateauing at a point where, for over a week, he was happy with no one, but was least unhappy when he was writhing on my lap yelling at me. In the absence of that privilege, he screamed. He’s teething–one molar poking a sharp point through his upper gum, and hard swellings in the other three comparable places–and his nose has been running for weeks and weeks and weeks…and weeks. Six weeks ago or so, I took him to the doctor because he developed a fever, and he was diagnosed with no ear infection, but a sinusitis. We put him through a round of amoxicillin and got one day’s dry nose out of it; then it started again. I threw my hands up in the air and tried to tell myself it’s his second winter, with three big siblings at three different schools bringing home three different kinds of bugs, and after this year it should all be better.

Put a camera in front of him, and he's all love. And you can see the beginnings of Julianna's rash...
Put a camera in front of him, and he’s all love. And you can see the beginnings of Julianna’s rash…

In the meantime, Nicholas has developed a new reaction to being crossed: ear-splitting shrieks that continue as long as the provocation continues, and for some time thereafter. You can’t even get him to shut up long enough to find out what’s wrong and whose fault it is (the answer, of course, is usually “both”). Michael’s developed a habit of hitting, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s with the hand or some hard wooden toy–the level of trauma to the victim is the same….at least, if you judge by the reaction. Toy conflicts and not getting his way in pretend play with Alex? Dittos.

Then of course, Julianna’s developed a mystery rash on her face, which looks…well…let’s just say as I type, I’m also dialing and redialing the doctor’s office.

So as the weeks have gone on, my nerves have gotten more and more frayed, my fuse shorter and shorter. Christian got irritated with me for losing it so completely so quickly, and then we had the whole “BUT I DON’T EVER, EVER GET A BREAK FROM THIS, YOU AT LEAST GET TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE”/”BUT I HAVE DIFFERENT STRESSES AT WORK” argument. And then an old acquaintance lost a baby, and I felt guilty for my profound ingratitude.

Handprints where Michael finishes his morning nursing every day by staring out at the woods. That's a cute moment if there ever was one.
Handprints where Michael finishes his morning nursing every day by staring out at the woods. That’s a cute moment if there ever was one.

I wince at sharing it all on my public forums (Facebook and the blog), because I’m keenly aware that among my acquaintance and loved ones are not only those who empathize, but those for whom these sorts of stories are the stuff of nightmares, that make them determined NEVER TO HAVE KIDS. Or at least, so my paranoia tells me. And I feel obligated to focus on the cute, the bright, the lovey-dovey, for the sake of that demographic.

But then another part of me thinks that if all we do publicly is make believe that the whole parenthood experience is rainbows and unicorns, then we’re doing an equal disservice to that same demographic.  And when they reach this point, they’ll feel betrayed, and failures.

And of course, Lent started last week. We’re supposed to be reflecting and doing activities to break open the themes of Lent. Easter Tree, a slowdown of craziness, a simplification and a return to focusing on what’s most important. Instead, I’m floundering, dog-paddling, running on emergency batteries and still barely staying afloat. I intended to go to Julianna’s Valentine party because I missed her Christmas one; instead, Michael didn’t sleep that morning, and I had to stay home so he’d get a nap during the party.

It all climaxed on Saturday, when Michael finally developed the fever that made me realize this wasn’t a teething problem–but not until both the doctors offices and Urgent Care had closed for the night. Rather than an ER trip for an ear infection, we decided to push through the night on painkillers and hit urgent care first thing Sunday morning. It was a miserable night for the adults and the baby, of course–perhaps the just rewards of being a cheapskate–and then, of course, the only pharmacy open Sunday morning is the one that DOESN’T take our insurance plan, so I couldn’t even fill it until after church.

However, there is hope in this long “bleeding onto the page.” After the first dose of antibiotic, Michael took a 3 1/2 hour nap, which allowed Christian to get some work done at home and me to take Alex out on a “date” to the pottery painting place. And a bike ride. Dinner was not a panic-inducing screaming match in which the baby turned his nose up at ten different options; he actually ate and drank, and I felt sufficiently rejuvenated to actually pull out Welcome Risen Jesus and do a devotional with the kids as part of our mealtime prayer. The mail this weekend helped, too: I got an acceptance on a short story.

Well, I’ve wandered aimlessly past 850 words this morning, so I can’t go on any longer. I haven’t even showered, and I have lessons and play dates and doctor appointments today, not to mention the usual business of writing projects and housekeeping. (Not sure how much I’m going to accomplish on that today, with all four kids at home.) Onward and upward. Hope the pictures, all of them taken during the Hell Weeks, make up for the depressing topic. Maybe someday all I’ll remember is that…but I hope I don’t ever succumb to that oversentimentalization. Sometimes it sucks. But love remains. That’s the important truth of family.