Running on empty, then refueling

by threegirlpileup

It was a busy day yesterday.  A new piano teacher. Peanut butter playdoh.  Girl Scouts organizational meeting.  A lot of driving.  A somewhat ill-advised trip to the craft store with the kids. Gymnastics.  And more than anything, Steve is gone this week after also being gone last week, so this mama is running on empty.  Empty.

All of this resulted in a less than peaceful evening around here, as I felt especially ill-equipped to deal with the usual late-day antics.  Both my sense of humor and my flexibility had left the building, and things just weren’t going so well.  I even managed to have a cranky conversation with Steve in which we were both complained about how tired we were.

So I find myself fantasizing about getting into bed early, or at least carving out time to deal with some of the physical chaos around here…the dishes, the clutter, SOMETHING to make things feel more calm.  Or a little time doing something just for me, reading or crafting or just watching TV.

But bedtime duties call, and before I know it, I’m lying on my bed with Anna taking a running jump onto me, wrapping her arms around my neck in a typical Anna death-grip love squeeze, as she says, “I am so happy all over you, Mama!”   And then soon I’m in bed with the two girls, reading Owl at Home, complete with exaggerated sobbing as Owl makes tearwater tea.  And the smiles and laughs and giggles and kisses start.  I am still tired, still overwhelmed, but just like Bartholomew in I Love You Just the Way You Are, I felt better.

I’m realizing that when I feel tired and overwhelmed, my tendency is to retreat from the girls.  Either I try to carve out a little time and space for myself, or I attempt to tackle some of the mess that’s contributing to my feelings of craziness.  And while those retreats can sometimes be helpful in restoring my center, it’s almost impossible to catch up around here–especially in the midst of a stint of single-parenting.  But when I can manage to do the (for me) counterintuitive–jump right into the midst of the girls when I feel like I have the least to give–I am almost always rewarded with the overflowing joy and love that they are.  And while that doesn’t cure the fatigue or wash the dishes, it fills up my heart and suddenly I’m feeling better and more able to manage.

It seems obvious that these little girls are this astounding font of irrepressible energy and love, and they want nothing more than to share it.  At my stressed-out moments, though, I forget it entirely, noticing only how much they seem to need from me.  If I can do a better job of following their example, and keeping my heart open, life will be better for all of us.

And having Steve come home today won’t hurt either!