The ultimate endurance sport
Ironman, Superman, Batman – you don’t impress me. I’m a mother of four kids now, and this I know for certain: You can never keep up with me.
Take the other day, for example. It starts a few minutes after midnight, when my 4-year-old creeps into bed with me – and by “creeps’’ I really mean he stumbles and kicks his way in noisily. Thirty minutes after that, my 2-year-old cries in a panic, unable to find her pacifier. Less than an hour later I am awoken again by my newborn, who needs yet another feeding.
Two feedings later, it’s morning. And a Saturday, which means no ayi, and no husband either – he’s at work. Bleary-eyed, I drag my carcass into the kitchen to make pancakes for the kids. The baby cries from her bouncy seat, but the other three miraculously behave for as long as it takes me to whip up breakfast. Only when the pancakes arrive at the table, warm and fluffy, does the bickering begin: How come he gets more? Why are mine browner than his? She just gave my last one to the dog!
Alas, it’s only 7am. I take a deep breath and manage to remain calm, reminding myself that this is a marathon with much more ground to cover. Next come the diapers to change, the jammies to wash, a baby to nurse, a rash to examine, dishes to clean, lunch and dinner to plan, and a Lego contest to judge. There’s tea to be made for a break that never arrives, then more diapers and more feeding, dog bowls to fill, fights to break up, a spill in the kitchen (Note to self: Buy a refrigerator lock), and all this while holding a fussy newborn who refuses to sleep anywhere but on me.
Suddenly, a lull: The 2-year-old is taking a nap and the two boys are playing with friends upstairs. Thinking maybe I’ll have time to check my e-mail, perhaps even type one myself (if I can do it one-handedly while the baby continues trying to sleep on me), I turn on my computer. But just as suddenly, the world shifts. “Mooooommmm!” comes the bellow from upstairs. “Aidan just threw up on my pillow!”
This is when I enter the stage of exhaustion that extreme athletes worldwide refer to as “hitting the wall.” But I can’t just pull out of the race and go home. This is my life, and I’m in it till the bitter end. So I plunk the newborn into her crib. Her eyes pop open instantly and she commences to scream, while I go to find Aidan in his room, surrounded by a puddle of vomit, looking at me with sad, sick eyes before barfing bits of hot dog on my feet. And my carpet. And the wall. Then he pukes the whole way to the bathroom, strategically hitting the rugs rather than the wood floors.
This is, of course, the exact moment the 2-year-old decides to wake up, which is then followed shortly by the chime of the doorbell. I take a sacred moment to peer out the window and see the maintenance man outside, whom I called earlier that day because the air conditioner has broken down – again. Hands full and unable to go downstairs to let him in, I hear him ring the bell incessantly. Meanwhile, the newborn screams, the 2-year-old calls from her crib, the 4-year-old upchucks and the 8-year-old disappears (probably taking advantage of the commotion to steal cookies from the kitchen).
In the middle of all this, I can’t help but wonder if I have time for a nervous breakdown. But the answer, I know, is no. There is much more vomit to be cleaned up, many more diapers in the hours ahead, and miles to go before I can sleep.
So superheroes, you don’t scare me. Nothing intimidates me much these days. Except hot dogs. Which I won’t be serving again for a long, long time.
Donna Scaramastra Gorman is a freelance writer and mother of four (Ainsley Annmarie Doll Gorman, not pictured, was born on May 7). Her work has appeared in Newsweek, the Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor.