I’ve been really irritable lately. I’m still off the coffee, so it can’t be that.
It all started about a week ago, when Sophie woke me a couple of days in a row around 3 am. Each time she a plausible excuse at the ready:
I ran out of toilet paper.
I’m too cold.
I just wanted to see if you were still there.
Each time, the turn of my crystal door handle and the pop of the latch bolt freed from its strike plate, severed me from a dream. A quick death of my other universe.
The violence of it made my heart pound in my chest. “What?!? What is it?!?” I sit up.
I am ready to wrestle a bear. But it’s only her, looking very small in just her watermelon underwear, clutching Snakie-Pie. I fight the special gravity that holds me to my bed at 3 in the morning and resolve the issue.
I turned off the air conditioning.
I’m right here. Mommy’s always right here.
But by the time I climb back into bed I am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed awake. If only I could feel this good at 7 am, when I am obliged to start my day. I pick up my phone and make moves on all seven of the Words with Friends games I have going on. It is my sedative.
Just a few days earlier, a friend sent me a note, “You haven’t played in the middle of the night for awhile!”
I take one last look at the clock, a half an hour has passed since Sophie busted in. And, then, two and half hours later, she’s back.
“It’s too early, go back to sleep,” I moan.
“But it’s light out mom.”
“But I’m hungry.”
“But I’ve been waiting for hours and minutes!”
After a few days of this, my body, ever accommodating, has decided that this is our new schedule. So, though Sophia is back to sleeping through the night, and waking closer to 7, my eyes fly open at 3 and then again just before 6. It is so unfair.
If the disrupted sleep has made me edgy; Sophie’s subsequent resistance of her morning routine pushes me head long into anger.
“Pick out something to wear.” She pretends not to hear me. Picks up a book.
“You can either wear this or this,” I say, holding up two of her favorite dresses.
“I’m not getting dre--essed,” she says in a defiant sing song voice. Then she sticks her tongue out at me. And then she rips the dress out of my hand and throws it on the floor.
So it’s going to be like that, is it?
What should do: walk away.
What I do do: “YOU ARE GOING TO GET DRESSED RIGHT NOW. THERE WILL BE NO BOOKS UNTIL YOU PUT THIS DRESS ON. IF YOU DON’T PUT IT ON, I’M GOING TO PUT IT ON YOU MYSELF. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.”
The anger gets me nowhere. She escalates. Slamming doors. Screaming back, “You’re not being nice!”
And then, like a child I answer, “You aren’t being nice to me!”
What am I doing? I am fighting with a four-year-old. Like she was my sister.
I finally remove myself. But my heart continues to pound, and my mind goes into instant replay overdrive. I should have done this. She should have done that.
My husband finds me in the kitchen, hacking away at a banana. I don’t look up when he walks in, which lets him know what kind of a morning it has already been. I can feel his disappointment. He wants me to turn, smile and kiss him. I just want to murder defenseless bananas.
I am living somewhere in between our past argument and our dismal future breakfast, which is anywhere but the present.
If I was in the present, I would be able to step away from my suffering self, observe my irritation, and, in effect detach myself from it. I would understand how fortunate I am. How silly I am being. My anger would dissipate like smoke. I would let it go.
My anxiety is driven by the fact that I am deeply attached to my schedule. To what is going to happen next. I devote so many precious hours to imaging potential futures and then worrying about them. I spend entirely too much time perceiving the present as a problem because it is interfering with what, I believe, should be.
Sophia has no schedule. She is blissfully unaware of time. Tonight, just before dinner, she looked up at me and asked, “Is it still morning?” It’s not simply that she doesn’t understand the past, present, future continuum—because she does at this point—it’s that it’s not on her radar. She doesn’t keep track. She loses herself in the moment.
When do we lose this ability to be immersed? To forget the world? To play and delight in simply being?
There are moments when I watch Sophie and, instead of being irritated by what I perceive to be dawdling, I am charmed by her deep interest in everything in her path. When I allow myself to slow down (and quiet that voice within, shrill with the threat that I’ll be late), I can join her in that blissful place. Right now, it is fleeting, my hyperactive brain will only allow me a minute or two. But I am certain that with this newfound awareness, I can extend my visits to the present. Abandon the false future. Forget the troubled past.
And parent in the now.