My boys are laughing their heads off watching another episode of Impractical Jokers while I sit on the floor sorting and folding laundry, working hard trying to ward off the bad mood that’s been hovering around me since morning. None of my three sons asked if they could help, in fact, I’m sure none even considered it. I sigh. It’s annoying but I only have myself to blame. In my efforts to take care of everything for them, I made my bed, and now I am making theirs as well.
But look at them. They are so beautiful. And smart. And good-hearted. And they are happy which makes me happy. I go back to the laundry, basking in that proud mama glow until my oldest interrupts. “Hey Mama, can you make me some popcorn?” The other two immediately chime in. “Yeah! And bring us some M&M’s,” says my middle. “And drinks!” adds the youngest.
My boys ask me to wait on them
They request all this without so much as a glance in my direction, intently focused on the four men on the television making asses of themselves for their viewers’ amusement. Looking at my boys’ faces, their eyes lit with delight, their mouths agape and ready for the next laugh, I’d say they were succeeding. But I am not amused. Pop goes my bubble of pride. “Get it yourself boys,” I snip, annoyed again, just like that. “You have feet,” I say, sounding like the kind of mom I never liked.
Grabbing a pile of neatly piled clothes, I march off and leave them transfixed by the television, frozen in delight. They haven’t even heard my little temper tantrum, which is probably a good thing.
It’s days like this when I struggle to find the balance between happy and sad. My knee throbs in an exercise class, but I modify and get it done. My son gets admitted to the college of his choice, but after the celebration I’m overwhelmed that our time together is almost done. The new Star Wars movie is out, but my father is no longer alive to see it. I wonder if middle age is just like that. We’re mature enough to appreciate what we have because we know that it could always be worse, so we are always teetering on that tightrope.
Keeping a lid on my temper is hard
Staying balanced isn’t easy. Especially on crappy days where we’re feeling overwhelmed and under-appreciated. And bloated. And snappy. And by the way, the world, from the ecosystem to Korea to mass shootings seems poised to plunge off the deep end. Thank you world affairs mixed with soaring and plunging hormones.
It’s just one of those days. Or maybe it’s the February blues. That time of year where I’m supposed to be feeling the love, but really, I’m just tired. And cold.
I trudge up the stairs, stopping halfway to catch my breath. That’s something new, the having to pause midway up the steps. It doesn’t make sense because I’m physically fit and work out at least five days a week. I consider for a moment whether it’s normal, but then the smell of cat poop interrupts any thoughts. Purrfect.
After dropping the laundry in each of my boys’ rooms, where it will sit on the floor getting stepped on until I yell at them to put it away, I bag the poop and head back downstairs. Somewhere between steps five and nine I resolve that it’s time for the boys to turn off the television and do something more productive, but when I walk purposefully into the living room, I am surprised. They are eating popcorn with M&Ms and have bottles of water besides them.
My twelve year-old turns to me beaming, a smudge of chocolate on his cheek that I secretly hope isn’t also on my couch. “I made it for us, Mama,” he says, clearly pleased with himself. The fourteen and seventeen-year-olds also turn their attention from the TV jokesters to bless me with amused smiles because they have found themselves a new gofer.
I can’t help it, I smile back. There they are again. Beautiful. Smart. Good. And there I am again. Happy. Proud. Thankful. Studies show that dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when you smile, and it’s true. I can literally feel myself relax.
Don’t let stress consume you
Taking a deep breath, I decide to go with it. Stress is a part of life but I try not to get lost down that rabbit hole too long. Of course, It’s not always easy, but I know stress is not just a mood killer, it’s also bad for your health. So, despite the nightly news, it’s in our best interest to keep looking at that glass half full (and make it a nice Cabernet, please).
I sit down next to my youngest. He cuddles up to me, and for the next 20 minutes at least, we all watch the goofballs on television and laugh. It’s exactly what I need.
Alisa Schindler is a mom of three boys and wife to Mr. Baseball. She schleps children, burns cupcakes and writes essays that have been featured online at the New York Times, Washington Post, Kveller, Brain, Child, Woman’s Day, Parents and Good Housekeeping, among others. She is currently a regular contributor to Northwell Health’s The Well. On the side, she writes sexy suburban fiction novels. Find out more about her at alisaschindler.com.
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