There are some conversations in life that make you stop instantly. They make you view everything in a different light, often putting things into perspective at just the right moment. That happened to me on Thursday.
It was a long week, one of those weeks when every day has two or three different activities or events that we had to attend – school barbecue, nursery school and senior kindergarten graduations, a retirement party, two birthday parties, appointments. Even though I love all these things, it’s a bit overwhelming when it’s all happening at once. From morning until night, I felt like I was scrambling, always behind schedule.
To make matters worse, the boys got into an early morning fight on Thursday. By early morning, I mean they were full-on wrestling and shrieking at 6:10 a.m. while I nursed the wide-eyed baby, despite our howling at them to keep it down. This isn’t unusual, except that L. decided to stand up for himself and expel A. from his bottom bunk bed by poking him in the eye. There was a whole lot of screaming and wailing, which set the stage for the rest of the morning. Nobody was happy, the baby wouldn’t go down for his nap, A. was walking around with an ice pack on his eye, L. was sobbing for no apparent reason, I was late getting breakfast on the table and feeling very irritable.
There was a tiny voice in my head saying, “I kind of wish I didn’t have children this morning.” I just wanted to be somewhere else, away from the wails and complaints and never-ending demands, worrying only about myself for a change.
A. went off to school, insisting that his eye was fine, and I took the other two kids to run errands in Owen Sound, forty minutes away from home. While there, I got a call from the school, suggesting I pick up Alex and get his eye checked out, since it was getting worse. I rushed to the grocery store to finish my shopping, feeling frustrated and tired and being very snappish with poor L.
Then something made me freeze in my tracks. I was in the checkout line, and the cashier commented on my boys’ lovely red hair. “I had all boys, redheads, too,” she said.
“How many boys do you have?” I asked.
She paused before replying, “I had three, but I lost two of them. Now I just have the one, and he’s the love of my life, the little miracle I wasn’t even supposed to have. He’s nine.”
I suddenly felt shamed – by the grief and longing for her children that she must feel on a daily basis, by the joy on her face when she spoke of her one little boy, and by the rather unloving, impatient way in which I’d been treating my own kids that day.
Then I got in the car and heard an interview on CBC about the Syrian refugee crisis – four million refugees seeking asylum elsewhere, with many millions internally displaced. It was yet another thing that put my situation into perspective. I have three healthy, beautiful children. I have a clean, warm home in a safe town. I don’t worry about war infringing on our lives, about lack of food or chain-link fences locking my family and me into a refugee camp from which we cannot escape. I have no right to complain about anything.
I picked up A. from school, feeling much calmer than before. The optometrist informed us that his cornea had a big scratch on it, but that it’s minor and would likely heal within 24 hours. Sure enough, it did.
A friend texted me last week, saying, “You can start the day over as many times as you want,” and that’s what I’m trying to do – focus on the bigger picture, remind myself of my many blessings, and realize that a rough start doesn’t mean a bad day.