Wednesday, January 28, 2009

grumpy mommy

“Are you not feeling well, Momma?” she asks in a tentative voice as we make our way through the six inches of slush into the warm glow of Walgreens. This is code—I recognize it right away. It is her veiled way of asking “Why do you seem so grumpy?” My daughter thinks I’m mad at her. Unfortunately, she has good reason. Despite the happy promise of a snow day, we did not have a good morning together. But it is several hours later, now, and the morning is behind us.

“Actually, I’m not, Bub. My back really hurts from shoveling all afternoon and I want to get home and lay on the heating pad. But I’m not upset, Sweetpea. I’m just in pain.”

“I understand,” she replies in a conspiratorial tone. “My back hurts, too. That was hard work.” I chuckle to myself, remembering her full 30 minutes of shoveling to my three and a half hours. But I smile and say nothing, and we go on our way in search of heat wraps and SAM-e, both for obvious reasons.

I sigh as we get back into the car, and my husband begins doing donuts in the parking lot on our way out. He grins impishly and the kids shriek in the back seat and I, as usual, just sit there. After a morning of whining and complaining over every little thing I’ve asked her to do and an afternoon spent breaking my back (on top of the headache I’ve been nursing since Sunday) out in the cold, I’m not in a very playful mood. And, truth be told, I’m a bit resentful of my husband’s.

Dinner earlier tonight was a replay of a similar and oft-created scene, though this time played on a different stage thanks to the ice-covered circuit blowing up behind our house this afternoon. As we sat in Noodles & Company eating a warm meal and enjoying their heat while waiting for our own to return, I watched my husband banter with our children and struggled, once again, to engage.

I don’t begrudge my husband his playful antics—he comes by them honestly and I’ve been subject to them from day one, over 20 years ago, so any complaints I may try to raise about them are really my own stupid fault for marrying the class clown. No, he is not the issue, though it is true his humor is sometimes, well, how shall I put it? Not humorous.

But he is not the problem—not tonight, not any night. There ought to be laughter at the dinner table, in the living room, in the bathtub, in the Walgreens’ parking lot. The problem is, simply, that I am the only one not laughing.

Most nights, come dinner time, I am a shell of the once-animated and engaged person I used to be. I sit, staring off into space, thinking about what needs done that evening and trying to push through the headache while my husband and my children crack one another up over leftovers. Once in a while I smile wearily—most often I get up to rinse my dishes and retreat to the computer to finish up whatever was undone from the day while they continue giggling and guffawing below me. This is not the person I want to be.

I don’t know how—at any time of day, truth be told—to push past the pain and the pressures and the piles of laundry and simply play with my family. Not in a consistent, meaningful way. Not in the way I desire to. No, I am the “Grumpy Mommy,” and played against my husband’s “Happy, Fun Dad” role, I am doomed to re-create a role I swore I’d never play.

I want recast out of this part. I want to be the joyful one—the one who doesn’t have a constant headache or work to be done on the computer upstairs or pointless arguments to have with children who know better than to argue with me. I want to be the light-hearted one. The funny one. The creative and interesting and dramatic and wild and fun and happy and engaged one. I want to be the one who never gets asked, “Momma, why do you seem so mad?” The one who makes everyone laugh at the dinner table. The one who smiles easily and gives praise readily.

I want to be the one I used to be. The one I know I was meant to be. Made to be. But, unfortunately, more often than not, am afraid to be. I want to be me again. I want to be me…


Lisa Biggs Crum said...

ah, this is why you are such a good counselor. you can truly relate. thanks for being real - for being you on this blog. it helps me see me.

hey, spring is coming! i'm so glad life has seasons. and thanks for helping me shovel out of my winter.

Julie Morrison said...

I'm glad you have us listening to you and that we are all sisters in this motherhood game. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who feels this way, and while it's not an everyday occurence, it does come, along with a mind numbing amount of quilt.
We shall grin and forebear. Somehow.

Krista Fox said...

Oh so gloriously OPEN!
Keep it comin' girl!!

Cindy said...

This started for me the day I gave birth to the first one, July 9, 2000.

It all began with learning how to breast feed...sigh.

debbie brannan said...

oh you are sooo good at writing, at conveying feelings, at explaining what we all feel inside... i'm catching up on your blogs, and like the 20-year-old from Lifehouse speaks to you, your words speak right into me... the way you experience life and motherhood and battles inside seems exactly what i battle with, and you put into words exactly how i feel... the joys and the sorrow... thanks fellow warrior, for being such a close companion on our journey to the High Places. love you, sister.