Besides accidentally leaving Zoey in the car and forgetting to buy milk at the store I really thought I was doing Ok. Demetri came home. Zoey gave him her huge welcome home smile. We went to pick up the farm share basket — full of corn and blueberries and yellow squash. We began to fix dinner, all of us together in the kitchen. Zoey was playing with tupperware on the floor, I was peeling garlic, Demetri was shucking corn.
I was Ok. Until I wasn’t. Demetri took too long to answer a question. Zoey accidentaly scratched my leg. The cat was underfoot. Then — then everything was bad and wrong. I had no patience left, for even the smallest thing. I couldn’t be in the kitchen anymore. Demetri wasn’t slicing onions in the right way. He wasn’t talking enough, or answering fast enough. I was a bad mom. A bad pet owner. A below average writer. A terrible wife. And the worst part was I couldn’t even hold my badness inside. I became mean.
We ate dinner in mostly silence. Except for things directed at Zoey: Do you want more chicken? Do you like the corn? Don’t tease the dog. Zoey’s responses of Ahhhhh! Blahda! Ooooh! made us almost smile. She kept looking at me with worry.
After dinner I lay on the couch, a sniveling mess. I listened to my husband load the dishwasher. The clink of dishes, of silverware made me think of when I was little. Already storied and tucked in bed but still awake trying to listen for the comfort sounds of my parents moving about the house. Demetri took Zoey and the dog for a walk. I stayed on the couch watching dusk settle, watching the tree outside our window deepen from green to grey. My family came back. The dog panting, jingling his collar. Zoey making her soft sounds — the crinkle of the diaper as she walks, her tiny shoed-feet on the hard-wood floor. Demetri quiet, his warm summer scent seeping back into the house.
I stayed on the couch for the bedtime routine – diaper, pajamas, milk, stories, songs. ‘Tis a gift to be simple, ‘Tis a gift to be free, ‘Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be. I thought of other moms out there who can do what I sometimes can’t — make it through the day. I thought of social work school where I had the same feelings. How are people doing this? Seeing the worst of things, the most hopeless? How are they still whole? I thought of the professor who, saving me, said, Your empathy weighs heavily on you. He some how made that OK. Made me OK. But last night I was left wondering if motherhood is ever something one gets good at, feels competent at. There are good days, yes. But there are also days that break me. Some for good reason. And some, like yesterday, just because they can.