Today, I’m thinking of Tilile Olsen’s story “I Stand Here Ironing” (except my version of the story would have to be titled, “I Stand Here Settling Arguments” — but that’s another post). Not because I am so much in despair as here narrator is, but because of this passage:
The old man living in the back once said in his gentle way: “You should smile at Emily more when you look at her.” What was in my face when I looked at her? I loved her. There were all the acts of love.
I’ve been wondering how often it is I’ve smiled at my children this week. I’m thinking not too often. The truth is I’m tired. And it’s harder to smile when you’re tired. Still, I sometimes think I should smile more because they don’t see ‘all the acts of love’ — the meal planning and prep, the after-bedtime dishes in the sink, the late-night research on speech therapy options, the setting of limits, the settling of arguments, the sorting of laundry (and, um, well,… I generally don’t iron). They just float through their days, as they should. And even if they saw them, these many acts of love, they wouldn’t know them for what they were: all my best work to raise them up right, to nourish them body and soul, to give them wings and a nest to come home to from time to time.
Reader, it has been hard to carve out writing time. If I get up at 5:00 a.m., I might get an hour in before people wake. Last night I hired a babysitter and went to the library after dinner. I did get some good work done, but by about 8:00 I was just trying to stay awake until after the babysitter had the kids in bed so I could go home.
But I will keep trying because I really believe that having a life of one’s own — a writing life, in my case — is also an act of love, for myself and for the children. Someday, when they’re grown, they will no how hard Husband and I tried (oops, just typed tired :)) to raise them up well. Someday, they’ll also know how important it is to do what you love. They’ll see all the acts of love for what they were. Someday.
For now, I’m going to try to smile more, while I stand here settling arguments, and by hook or by crook, I will submit five packets of poems by tomorrow at 5:00 p.m.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, the ambassador to the kingdom of siblinghood just called. There’s an argument to settle :).