The Cosby Show is a major source of support and inspiration in our household. In the pilot, the Cosby family had four children, but they landed a new, oldest child by the time the first season began, and of course we love that she was at Princeton. I like the Cosbys because they are New Yorkers, because they introduce interesting cultural figures, and most of all because they have realistic, sometimes difficult, family interactions, and the parents are my role models. They get angry in just the right doses, they are madly in love, they joke with their children, help with homework and respect the grandparents. It is wonderful.
One of my favorite episodes is when Claire is swamped at her work as a lawyer and comes home each night to endless questions from the children. Cliff does his best to cover for her and find space for her to relax, but some things just have to go through mom. At the end of her rope, Claire tells her husband, “I have nothing left to give.”
Our own JM is in that mode right now. She’s not “Juris” mater for nothing, and tonight she is working on legal papers while caring for sick children and juggling some volunteer work into the mix. She has nothing left to give, and so she won’t be blogging tomorrow.
I, on the other hand, have no significant excuses for the fact that I am blogging at 10 pm on my day, rather than drafting the night before or first thing in the morning. “Nothing left to give” has become the default mode of my life this fall.
There is something slightly off about the rhythm of our household lately. I feel like I am working, in one way or another, from before 8 am to after 9 pm every day.
An awful lot of that has to do with food. When people learn that I have 5 boys they often say “oh, wait until they are teenagers, you won’t be able to keep up with the food.” Well, that seems to have come early, and it is no wonder, as the preteen is already 5’7″. No matter how much food I make, people seem to be always hungry. We use a full dishwasher after every meal. I cannot seem to buy enough groceries. It feels like I am hosting Thanksgiving several nights a week.
In between those huge meals, we have laundry, homeschooling, helping with piano, helping with homework, caring for the baby, routine appointments with doctors and dentists, driving here and there for activities and a few errands, baths and bedtime stories, straightening up, and it takes all I have!
Most nights I drop into bed at 10 pm, sleep like a rock until 6 am, and get up to start it all over. If I’m lucky, I will have a few hours of recovery during some point of the weekend. I think that each weekend my husband and I both need a nap, a workout and some personal time (together as a date or alone). If we don’t get at least that, burn out is on the way.
There are moments in there which are flat out wonderful. When I pull out a book and my baby knows to come over and sit in my lap, and I lean in to his soft little head and smell his baby shampoo, I feel incredibly close to God.
When I run around a field with my four and five year old in the fall twilight while waiting to pick up a big brother, and we have to stop, doubled over with our lungs burning from chasing each other around in the cold air, and then somebody points out the first star, I feel absolute joy.
When I walk into the kitchen and find that my ten year old daughter has decided to just do the dishes while I was bathing the baby, I feel blessed and so grateful.
When I watch Princeton score touch down after touch down to win with 59 points on Yale football. (sorry, that snuck in, it has nothing to do with my family, but it was a big thrill).
I hope that those are the important moments, but I also wonder about a life that seems to take so much of me every single day. Is this how everyone feels? Is this how it is supposed to be?
At the end of the “Nothing Left to Give” episode (spoiler alert, in case you missed it in 1984), Claire winds up finding enough left to help little Rudy with her history homework. This is a better ending than having her scream “you are stealing my prime!” at her entire family, which is what I sometimes feel tempted to do, but thankfully I too stop short and usually just dig down and give a little more. Anyway, what else would I be doing with my prime?