So, of course, the holiday season is upon us, with all that it entails. As luck would have it, Middle Child ended up needing to have her tonsils and adenoids removed right now, just at the beginning of this already hectic season. The surgery was Monday, now it's Friday night, and she's a miserable heap of teenager, complete with fever and throwing up.
I feel really sorry for her. But I feel a little bit sorry for ME, too. I'm not a natural nurse. I'm empathetic, to be sure, but there comes a point where I have NO idea what to do or say. She calls me, and she's in the tub, crying, and she's just barfed, and I have no idea how I can improve this situation in any way. I mean, here's what I know about nausea: it helps to drink ginger ale and eat saltines, neither of which she can do right now. Therefore, once I've given her the anti-nausea medication they prescribed, I'm out of ideas.
I hate being out of ideas, too. I pride myself on being resourceful, and it rankles me that she's in need and there's not really anything to be done. I get frustrated.
Today I was extremely frustrated. I had every intention of having a really productive day, but got hung up on a research project last night, that ended up pushing my "real" work back until really late, and I ended up with close to no sleep before I had to get up again and help MC with her pain meds. The Man let me sleep in, which was wonderful of him, but it also meant I started the day behind schedule.
I was trying to play catch up while my internet lagged, Small One was needy, and MC was weeping in pain. The phone rang, and just as I answered it I heard a door slam downstairs. Stepping into the hallway to make sure Small hadn't left the building, I discovered that MC had decided to take a bath, and had somehow sloshed enough water onto the floor to create a lovely babbling brook through the upstairs (carpeted) hallway and into Small's room.
When I got off the phone, I cleaned the carpet, found Small, (she was in the downstairs bathroom crying because I hadn't heard her calling me while I was on the phone), wrestled the internet some more, and by that time I was out of sorts, and my morning had slipped away. I needed to shower, I had errands to run, the house was chaotic, both girls were crying, and I was fussing at people. I took a breath and said a little prayer, for calm.
In that moment, it dawned on me. I remembered a conversation I had with a dear friend, maybe a year ago, and she said this brilliant thing: "the mother sets the emotional tone of the house". It was like someone turned on the light for me. I looked at Small, and said, with a new found calm, "Come on, Sweets, let's go get some lunch!" I settled her at the table with a cream cheese and date sandwich and a glass of milk, then ran upstairs to check on MC. Assured that I'd done all I could to help her, I returned to the kitchen, where I sat looking through a cookbook and discussing with Small One, in a calm, quiet voice, which cookies we should make for Christmas presents. Once she was finished, I sent her into her room to pick out some books, and I hopped in the shower. By the time I got out, she was ready to settle down for some reading and snuggle time.
It was amazing. The minute I decided to change the tone, it changed. The house was still a wreck, MC was still miserable, Small was still over tired, but no one was freaking out about it any more. Everything was calm. The girls napped, I took care of business, and when they woke up, I gave MC her medicine, packed Small into the car, ran my errands, came home, made dinner, and baked cookies. It wasn't an early night, but it was ok, because it's Friday.
I have to remember this. There is this choice, and I often make the wrong choice, because I'm not paying enough attention, or I'm tired, and not thinking clearly, but the choice is whether life happens to you, or whether you live it. I have to remember that being the Mama doesn't just mean I'm responsible for the well being of these people, for their food, clothing and shelter, but to teach them how to live their lives. And I do remember that, on the big picture things, but I need to remember it on the day to day things too, because teaching them how to live life includes teaching them how to set their own tone. And what better time to choose peace and calm than during the season of Advent?
"Let everything about you breathe the calm and peace of the soul." ~Paul Gauguin