when we are weak

Posted by on October 6, 2010

When we are weak, we are
strong. When our eyes close
on the world, then somewhere
within us the bush
burns. When we are poor
and aware of the inadequacy
of our table, it is to that
uninvited the guest comes.

By R.S. Thomas

* * *
This morning has been like many recently: disjointed. I have to remind myself that my children are too small to find any rhythm or phase that could be expected to last for very long. Things might feel settled for a time. Then they hit a different phase and are once again unsettled and the minutes of the day pass in a disjointed and clumsy fashion before everyone adjusts to a new pattern of relative predictability. I can only hope that a newer and smoother pattern will emerge again soon.

Because I can tell that right now I am in a season of anti-pattern with my children. The youngest is finally, at long last, dropping her morning nap. Only, the word “dropping” does not depict the situation adequately. She could be said to be dangling her morning nap on a string. She throws it out sometimes but other days seems to think better of it and pulls it back, keeping me in suspense about whether or not she is going to cross the line into a hysterically tired state at any point in the morning.

But that is only one example of the forces of chaos at work upon the average day. There are dozens of these kinds of things going on at the same time between the two of them–shifting and disparate needs. I might also mention that I feel like a human snack and drink dispenser, given the frequency that snacks and drinks are requested between the two of them.

I wonder if there is such a thing as hard lefts or hard rights with children, or, for that matter, anything that could be described as “efficient.” The corners that they turn are long arcs that take a while to straighten back out again. Sometimes I feel as if I am sitting in a car, being pulled sideways and just waiting for the pull of the vehicle to abate so that I can resume a normal posture in the back seat. Then I might be able to take up a hobby or something.

Another aspect of imbalance lately is that my four year-old is always just a little too happy and my one and a half year old never seems quite happy enough. I cannot seem to take five steps in any direction in our apartment without hearing a cry of discontent from Elsa for some reason or another. Meanwhile, the effervescence of my four year-old is bubbling up to the ceiling and pushing me against the wall until I am squeezed to the point that I might implode.

All summer I have had the luxury of a pressure relief valve. By that I mean the front door. When either one of them becomes too much, I can open it and send the human cyclones outside to our fenced in playground, which seems to fix everything. My four year-old’s energy can bubble to its farthest end and never reach the domed ceiling of the blue sky overhead. My one and a half year-old is always instantly distracted from whatever is ailing her as soon as there are no walls within sight.

But I know that very soon the same playground will be as hard as ice, the domed sky will be the color of zinc, and our apartment will feel like the sealed quarters of a submarine. I am not certain what I am going to do when October is over. I am venturing into the realms of new questions, like whether or not being home with children is actually the right thing–the best thing– for me, or for them. I am finding it good for me right now to start thinking in different directions and different possibilities, and realize that this– my current situation as it stands– is by no means a closed case. I am beginning to poke around at other possibilities. In any case, just for today, I am here. This is my job, however inadequate it makes me feel at any given moment. I like this poem by R.S. Thomas. It makes me think that there could be a burning bush somewhere in all of this, or a special guest coming to my table. I need that.

Poetry Wednesday


We ended up having a nice day today, mainly because we all went outside and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather (what can I say?). But later, after dinner, Esme and I made this drawing together (see above photo), with me imitating her on the opposite page, per her careful instructions. The drawing is of “disguises,” with “stripes and stingers” on them and eyes, but no mouths because they do not have mouths. I have no idea what inspired such a drawing, but it was good to get down on the floor with markers and paper and to give her an excuse to boss me around for a little while.

  1. Molly Sabourin
    October 6, 2010

    I am going to tell you candidly that I almost didn't survive that intensive stage of motherhood you are describing (I so adored your second paragraph involving Elsa's "nap on a string."). This one line, I think:

    "In any case, just for today, I am here."

    will ultimately save you.

    That, and your writing, of course, which, as you proved again today, is phenomenal. : )

  2. Kris Livovich
    October 7, 2010

    That poem. I have been made all too aware of my inadequacies lately.

    I hope you are able to follow the ideas and ventures you have. As mothers we are pressured in so many different directions it is difficult to find what is best for all. Sometimes the day to day swallows us up before we are able to take a breath.

    And I don't draw with my babies enough, glad you did it.

  3. Beth
    October 13, 2010

    I am seeing this late but thank you for it. I really completely understand your situation, the intensity of it, the feeling like you might implode. Unfortunately, I often explode in ugliness. Oh how I love my children but I tell people that nothing has driven me to end of myself as these little creatures. Sometimes I feel like I should just open a vein and let my life drip out. I seize the moments of peace and goodness and try to remember them during the times of chaos. And oh grateful I am to get outside for how it changes the mood in their lives and mine. Sorry for so much blabbering. Prayers your way and glad that your day turned out well. Love, B

  4. Anonymous
    October 14, 2010


    Beautiful poem. I needed that. And your whole post. Thanks!

  5. ray
    January 16, 2011

    R.S.Thomas…. a fine poet, but an interesting person! I have just been reading an autobiography of him, called Furious Interiors.
    Gripping stuff!
    I liked that song about the Owl. I like your candid admission that looking after kids is hard work.
    As the poet Horace said a good while ago, you can't do everything, but you should do everything you can.
    Easy for him to say… I don't think he he had every tried child-rearing!
    Best wishes from Ray