During the dinner hour, I had occasion to reflect on the different phases of motherhood--at least my motherhood.
I recall that I didn't cook our first dinner until our firstborn was six weeks old because I felt every cry was an emergency that required my full attention. Now, most would still consider me very much a softie when it comes to little ones crying, but tonight I felt much more like a soldier.
We had come home from co-op with the two youngest asleep in the van, where I left them while I started preparing dinner. Chris was sick in bed with a fever, so I avoided calling him for help when the two- and three-year-olds woke up wailing. Mother's experience told me that they were overexhausted from missing their normal nap time and then woke up at the wrong time in their sleep cycles (causing a similar effect as a night terror). When a toddler wakes up like that, there is no consoling him until the sleep cycle has run its time out.
I certainly tried! I stopped cooking dinner for a time. The three-year-old wouldn't even let me touch her, just sat in the van--unstrapped, free to come out anytime--wailing her heart out. The two-year-old was inconsolable, weeping, flailing, hitting me. After some minutes of trying everything--holding, loving, singing songs, turning on a television show, and even bribing with marshmallows--I realized that Soldier Mama was going to have to take over. There were more people depending on me than just those two: there were two hungry big kids and a sick husband. I wasn't proceeding ahead with gourmet nonsense that would take inordinate time: simply with grilled cheese sandwiches, muffins, and store-bought tomato soup.
For thirty long minutes, the two young ones cried, Margaret in the van--through the open door right off the kitchen--and Joseph on the kitchen floor at my feet. They were crying so hard, their red faces were covered in snot, pouring down off their chins, choking them . . . and there was nothing I could do to comfort them.
It's not like it's easy to be Soldier Mama at times like that. I love the little ones and hate to see them hysterical. But it sure was interesting to have to separate my heart and my head, soldier on in my duties for the good of the majority.
This certainly seems overdramatic: I was just cooking dinner, not pulling our kids from a burning vehicle or saving our country. I simply found it interesting to compare how flustered to the point of falling apart I would have become a few years ago and how now I am able to move into a calm, detached survival mode, at least for a short time. It is like a callous on the heart: a bit sad that a callous has developed at all but also a reason to celebrate because the heart can function better under stress now.