We occasionally find ourselves dissatisfied. Not unhappy, just — blah. We feel like we are failing. Our whole lives are on display and in the way at all times.
We have a small kitchen that has been blocked by gates since moving in over two years ago. The dumping ground it has become makes us feel bad. As has the general disarray of our modest home tasked with holding the detritus of a life being lived by two toddlers and two parents that both work full time.
The fridge is a mess. There is a paper explosion starting in a basket on the counter that bursts forth perpetually until it occupies half our counter space, at which point we just plow it back until it so overwhelms us that we take a day off to organize, starting the process over. There’s been an empty bottle of olive oil on the counter for weeks, months perhaps. The bags that sit inside the gated area reach out into the room and are scattered between the edge of the kitchen and the door leading to the garage and are so permanent that any topographical map of our little home would have to include them as permanent features.
The TV’s on. The monitor’s on. Every godforsaken screen is covered in dirty, sticky toddler finger prints and I won’t guess what lurks in the back of the cabinets. The top of the fridge. Oh, the top of the damned fridge.
Adding to this is the general unwellness of parenthood. It’s true. Your spirit soars with the magic of new life, new life designed to inspire your heart to give up on all self-care in order to bathe this child with love and affection and the endless hours of work it takes to present them clean and fed and rested to the world, leaving you 36 hours from a shower in either direction, at all times. This defies all logic, but it is so. Your back is in constant pain from the terrible posture required of you nearly constantly. You are fat from a diet of kid’s foods often, healthy grown up foods rarely and copious amounts of coffee. Coffee binging that leaves you so dehydrated that it hurts to pee and you say things like, “man, I really need to start drinking some water.” You sip another coffee, pour the water and put it down only to find it the following weekend. In the very place you’ve been looking past all week. Full.
Then there is the noise. It keeps you a bit crazy these days. Exhaustion has a sound, and it sounds like whining about how tired you are to everyone in ways you find embarrassing way too late. You are a cliche, and that hurts when you’re aware enough to notice it. But how could you when you are so distracted by your obsession with avoiding mirrors. I mean, you look grey. There, I said it. I’m fat and I’m grey. To cope with this I eat candy. Lots of it. So what. The only people I’m starring for are my kids and they don’t care. Well the lady of the house too, but she’s in this with me.
My children’s voices and the things they say take my breath away dozens of times a day. They are magical, truly special creatures and I assume my honesty in writing is about the only thing that can keep each of them from being re-elected as President of the United States. But I seriously wouldn’t be surprised if they overcame that too. They’re that amazing. But the reality of each day is that your toddler can be amazing 36–48 times a day and still leave you with hours upon hours of really challenging behavior. Challenging behavior that comes with tears and maniacal comic-book-villain laughs and screams just to scream, just to startle you into looking, only to find a giant ear to ear grin on this little boy that just screamed like he was being stretched by Prince Humperdinck’s henchman. All to the soothing sounds of the most infernal and dastardly aural creation the world has ever known: The Fresh Beat Band. Actually we haven’t really watched them in a couple years, but I still hear them. Everywhere.
The mess. The exhaustion. The noise. The work. This hum that so annoys me each day. This hum that I can’t stand at times. This hum that causes my wife and I to lose patience with each other far more often then we’d care to admit. This hum that we so desperately wish to quiet will one day fully dissolve. Already the nights are longer, and the boys are bigger and if pressed I can become sentimental about 3 AM wake up calls for feeding and tiny fingers that looked like a doll’s.
The thing about this hum, this hum that I have a really hard time embracing and complain about far more than I ought to is that it will someday disappear. The corners will be clean, as will the counters and the floors. The TV will be on to entertain only us and the noise of a full house will dissipate and be replaced by more pleasant and welcome noises. We will be allowed to enjoy silence, sweet sweet silence. The exhaustion won’t ever fully go, but it will get more manageable.
The hum will fade, like all other things, to history. When it does I suspect I will relish the clean and the quiet. It will allow me all the free time I’ll need to look back and appreciate all that was done here — to appreciate the times I couldn’t appreciate fully in the moment, and to fully embrace and love the hum that I’ll never get the privilege to be enveloped in ever again.
Joe Medler lives in New Jersey with his wife, who is far too good for him and his too sons, who are far too active for him. His work has been featured on Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Mom Babble and Sammiches and Psych Meds. You can follow him on Facebook and read more of his work at Developing Dad.