Needing the Quiet
I’m not sure I’ve ever endured such actual physical chaos. I’m wild-eyed, ready to pounce. Watch out. I’ve got a sharpie marker and a tape gun in my back pocket. Before long, I’ll start tally marks on the wall in that permanent ink. Line line line line, scratch. That’s how many times today I’ve said to my children “Just stop touching each other, and no more talking!”
The closing date on our house was today, but then suddenly it got moved to a day that is soon but unknown. Moving is so squirrelly, and the controller in me doesn’t like squirrels. I’ve strung about 4,000 metaphors together concerning these things, and I’m sure they will eek into my writing someday, but for now I’m learning to breathe. No really. I’m a half-held breath away from a panic attack. I’m laughing, yes. And in fetal position.
So while I try to calm the mama drama down with some poetry, I thought I would share that lovely book of poetry with you here. You may also lean toward drama like I do. You may love a poem now and then, especially when they catch you by surprise like that cardinal I saw yesterday through the kitchen window.
Sarah Park just published What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children, and she wrote it for such a time as this.
Today she’s sharing a post and a poem with us, and I am so grateful. Soon I’ll be back to normal here. I can’t promise I won’t be coo coo for cocoa puffs, but I do miss this crew so much. Soon!
Now enjoy, Sarah:
I find that in the middle of a chaotic day, it’s only too easy for me to forget the deeper purpose behind the hard work of mothering. My perspective narrows in scope until all I can see is that my three children are melting down, the volume has risen to intolerable levels, and I want to quit.
To be honest, many of our days are marked by power struggles. I’m not in control of them — that much is clear. So I try to remember, in the moment, to take the long view, to pick my battles carefully, and to let the most prominent messages I send be ones of grace and love. But I know that on many days, I don’t succeed.
On days like those, the saving grace comes when the kids have all finally fallen asleep. In that time of quiet, I make the rounds to check on everyone. For the first time that day, I can actually hear myself think, and I can pray long enough to be reminded of who they are and what I’m doing.
You know the biological mechanism by which babies and small children are naturally “cute”? The one that triggers the caregiving adults of the species to provide protection for their young? Sometimes I feel as though the evening quiet acts as a similar mechanism. I’ve had days of turmoil that were only salvaged by the fact that they were capped by a nighttime — when I could finally recall just how much I love this family.
My poem, “Night Rummaging,” is about one of those difficult days, and the gift of evening quiet:
“It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for the next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day.” —J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
I crack the door
to noisy mouth breathing
and see her head thrown back,
Her limbs are improbably
arranged, an elbow up there,
legs curving behind and back,
as if in mid-spring
to the moon.
Today she stared me down
when I issued a command
and then crumpled
when I finally
Now her floor is littered
with wadded socks,
the day’s smeary shirt,
a pair of pants pulled clear through
to inside out.
I leave them there;
this moment must not be
for my straightening hands.
I merely breathe in
the uncanny peace,
for such peace to dwell
in every drawer
of her mind
and exhaling my gratitude
for making it to this point,
when I get to right
the ransacked corners
© Sarah Dunning Park, 2012,
from What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Sarah Dunning Park is the author of What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children
She lives in rural Virginia with her husband and three daughters. Visit her at sarahdunningpark.com.