I want to talk about the awesome week I just spent in Ontario with my mother’s side of the family. I want to talk about potato canons, and drunken mistakes with chinese lanterns, and 1000 piece puzzles, and the weirdness of hanging out with a bunch of cousins who share many of my nerdy ways.
But I can’t get up the enthusiasm because I’m too exhausted.
That week WIPED me. And I clearly didn’t have a lot of energy going into the vacation.
Oddly, the exhaustion is not directly due to the fact that I spent a week in a cottage with 20 relatives.
A significant portion of my mother’s siblings and their children are introverts. So while they enjoyed each other immensely, no one was surprised or disapproving if you wanted to disappear to your bedroom for a while, or take a book down to read at the beach (I walked down to the beach with Owl one sunny morning and found SIX relations reading on lounge chairs and no one in the water).
But I was trying to do several things at once:
1) Enjoy my cousins.
I don’t have brothers and sisters. All I have is those cousins. The one I am closest to, Owl’s godfather and my honorary brother, was there. Another was my friend and playmate from his birth until I moved out of Ontario at age 9, and I haven’t seen him since my wedding.
Then there were the British cousins, who I haven’t seen since they were tiny tots, and it was amazing to see how they had grown into awesome people. So when they stayed up late drinking by the camp fire, or playing an epic battle of Risk, did I go to bed early? Of course not!
I stayed up. I played Risk. I sang Baby Got Back by the fire with a glass of port in my hands. I helped assemble puzzles.
I retired at 2:30 or 3 am in the morning, often still leaving the others awake.
2) Parent a two year old.
Just a few hours after turning in to bed, when all my cousins were still slumbering peacefully, I was scavenging breakfast for my toddler.
PH’s depression being what it is, and the fact that he was an introvert in a house crammed with 20 in-laws, meant that he found the entire week incredibly difficult. What little energy he summoned was sapped within moments of coming downstairs and in the mornings he slept the sleep of those who never want to wake up.
I would bring him a diet Pepsi and some medication mid-morning, and he’d emerge a couple hours later. Then he’d feel down on himself for being so absent, even though no one minded.
My family was just happy to see him whenever he felt able to show up. PH was a HIT. I had multiple people come up to me and say “PH is AWESOME!” or “there’s a rumor going around that PH is good at EVERYTHING – is that true?” And it made me feel good, to know that my family saw in him what I see in him.
But that didn’t help me with the toddler.
I was staying up late every night, and I was getting up early with Owl the next morning.
Not to say that PH didn’t parent when he was awake. He DID. Heavily. He played ball with him and fed him and took him to potty.
But ALL THE INLAWS would wear him out and he’d need to retire again for a while.
I did have other help. My mother entertained Owl with sticker books, and played with Owl for an hour at the beach while I read undisturbed, and I deeply appreciated it. My cousins took him out and tossed a ball around with him while I sat and chatted with my Aunts and Uncles, and I was grateful.
But when a someone else is taking care of my child, I feel a level of obligation. I keep an eye on the kid. I feel the need to step in and remind him to be polite when I hear him making demands without a “please”. I keep myself in sight in case he needs to go potty.
Because at the end of the day, he is MY responsibility, and not theirs.
For example, there was the hike incident.
My cousins were planning a hike, and I wanted to come. They said they would be happy to have me and Owl along, so we got ready to go. But we ended up being delayed (it’s a long story about my mother getting panicked that my Dad wasn’t back from HIS hike yet and us having to go look for him etc etc).
By the time we were ready to go, it was close to Owl’s nap time and he was getting clingy and cranky.
So I had to tell my cousins that they were going to have to leave without me after all.
I never did get to go on a hike. Apparently there were some lovely walking trails around. I had to take people’s word for it, because I had a toddler.
There was a lot of that – things I couldn’t do because Owl needed me. Like the marshmallow roast. I LOVE roasting marshmallows, but I missed it, because I had to put Owl down to sleep. By the time I managed to escape, it was done. Stuff like that.
But really, thing that did me in was…
3) Thinking about the might-have-beens
I spent the week operating under a layer of chippy resentment, because I felt like this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. When we first organized this trip, I pictured it very differently.
I expected to be nearly 6 months pregnant at this point. Even though it was in no way healthy to think about, I couldn’t help getting images from an envisioned alternate universe – one in which I did NOT lose the baby:
- Me, big and unwieldy, getting people to put their hands on my belly so they could feel the baby kick.
- My female cousins all plaguing me with questions about pregnancy.
- People telling me not to get up, offering to bring me things.
- PH, happy, playing with Owl and caring for him while I put my feet up.
So even though I had lots of help with Owl, even though I had a fantastic time with my cousins (and got to DRINK, which I wouldn’t have been able to do in the alternate universe), even though being pregnant would ALSO have precluded me from hikes and possibly even from staying up late with my cousins, the bitter “this-is-not-how-it-was-supposed-to” feeling interfered with my enjoyment.
If I could have shut it off I would have, because I knew it wasn’t healthy or helpful.
And I did have a really awesome time.
But I am still very tired… and a little bitter.