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:


01-01-DVD1 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:

Night Rummaging

“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,
face slack-jawed,
cheeks baby-full.

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
lost it.

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,

wordlessly asking
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
of mine.

© 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


About me


Reply May 28, 2013

thanks, amber. i think i love this woman....

Southern Gal
Reply May 28, 2013

She's been peeking into my heart.

Sarah Dunning Park
Reply May 28, 2013

Thank you, Kendal and Southern Gal! I'm so glad you connected with it. I'm honored to be here on Amber's site today!

I'd love to give away one copy of my book, too, to a reader here. So comment away, if you'd like to win... :)

Reply May 28, 2013

This is beautiful! And so true.

Megan R
Reply May 28, 2013

So clearly spoken from the heart. And spot on!!

Reply May 29, 2013

Such beautiful word pictures! I can so relate to this poem, and love the call to make things right. So challenging, and so needed!

Reply May 29, 2013

In my morning wanderings on FB I came across this hauntingly familiar poem. Although my children are a bit older now and the night time breathing happens in the morning for me, since age precludes sleep in our home, the slumber is the same. My silent wish for my son is an inner peace that never comes in his waking hours, a calmness of mind and body that he only now experiences in sleep. At 15 his mind and his body struggle with emotions and movements that frighten and frustrate. I know that it's time to begin our day, but I can't bear to turn it on, so I sit here on FB basking in the silence just a little bit longer.

Reply May 29, 2013

This is lovely. And I think you must have been in my house last night. :)

Ashley U.
Reply May 29, 2013

I love this - you nailed it! Glad I'm not the only one. ;)

Reply May 30, 2013

I can't even tell you how much my heart needed to read this post first thing this morning. Praying that my day today is defined by grace and love. Thank you for sharing your heart!

Reply June 1, 2013

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh yes.
This is, indeed, it.
I have had several days in a row this week, when I hope I love my children, somehow, but I certainly don't like them. Any of them. Even a little bit.
The days have been dreadful, and the night-time walk round them has been almost all that has kept me here to face the next day.
Thank the Lord today has been much better - I know I love them, and I definitely like them, most of the time!
Love your work :)

Reply June 2, 2013

Ohhhhh my, Sarah, a BIG ol' Thanks from this veteran mama who still feels like a complete newb SO often! And to all you fellow-sojourners: We are, indeed NOT alone!
Once many many moons ago I uttered a phrase to my twins (who probably couldn't have been more than about seven) which I never would have imagined myself saying.
My disclaimer I LOVED being a mom, and still do... from day one AND BEYOND!)

This particular moment however, I remember realizing I needed to withdraw from the situation. I had caught myself just before that moment hit, you know the one: That teeth-clenched-lazer-beams-shooting-out-at-my-lovely-babies-from-the-deep-brown-pools-which-normally-only-embraced-them-with-joy-and-empathy!...moment.
I uttered in tones just above a whisper, and still able to muster just a touch of humor with a hint of a smile, "I love you very very much, but I just need to not be Mommy for five minutes."
It was more of a cry for help really, and obviously misdirected; the kind of thing I probably should have been saying behind closed doors to a trusted friend. Or to Jesus!)
But they got it, I think more than I did. My mini-retreat of silent fit-pitching and slow- breathing into my pillow might have lasted ten minutes. I emerged and went about the beautiful business of my life, humming happily as I worked. Until I heard my girl's sweet low voice, just a bit smaller than normal, ask matter-of-factly, "Are you ready to be our Mommy again?" Her brother hovered just a few steps behind in the doorway. It was nothing new for my little strategist: sending his more outgoing sister first into the fray.
My exact words are long forgotten, but not the guileless look of understanding in their little wide eyes. Not the overwhelming recognition of the impact of my words on these, my beautiful first-born little humans with whom our Maker had so richly blessed me. It's a lesson I guess I'll always be learning to some degree with them and with my two more little precious ones. I never want them to think I don't want to be Mama and yet I want them to learn the value of each of us as individuals with dreams and hopes and emotions. The twins? They've just completed year one of their higher learning pursuits (YAY!) but have yet to hold a real job or learn to drive (UGH!.. I was in a crash w/ our two little ones just when they were to start driving practice). Yesterday we buried their doggie... just two months after their Grandpa died. Plenty of new challenges in Grace, and lots more learning on the way for this Mama Newbie of 20 years;]

Sorry so long; obviously my frustrated-inner-writer took over a bit! I just wanted to let you know that in my two decades of motherhood I am not sure I had ever seen something that could help me explain to my husband that end-of-day need. He still may not understand, which is okay. Either way thank you for this grace-filled offering. I'm going to print it out and post it somewhere, just for me!

Sarah Dunning Park
Reply June 4, 2013

Thank you, everyone, for your incredibly encouraging comments! I'm relieved that I'm not the only one who feels this way at the end of a long day... This mothering thing never lets up, and seems to only get more complicated — but richer, on the flip side of the coin. So glad to not be alone on the journey!

Beck Gambill
Reply June 8, 2013

I'm packing and neglecting my children too, my daughter just hollered from the living room "remember I'm thirsty and hungry!" Five days until closing, so ready and so not! I enjoyed my visit, it's my first, to your blog.

The poem, Sarah, was perfect! A blend of sweet and sour, thankfulness and confession. I've so had those moments.

Dena Dyer
Reply June 10, 2013

Amber--and Sarah--I am so glad to have read this today. It really struck a chord with me, and I know it will with our readers at The High Calling. I'm featuring it tomorrow on our "featured posts" page, which I hope will bring more readers to both of you! Blessings to you!

Reply July 6, 2013

Excellent post! Thank you for sharing! :) ~Mike

Heather M.
Reply August 2, 2013

yes. to the poem and the feeling it conveys.

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