There is a difference between being tired and being exhausted. I can tell one from the other based on how I respond to little aggravations that pop up unexpectedly. If I’m tired, I tend to have little energy for them, typically opting to not react at all. But if I’m exhausted, especially mentally exhausted … well … my reaction may be a bit different.
Yesterday was exhausting. I was already tired from the week, but after running to meetings all across the city wearing my “entrepreneur” hat and shifting to make it to carpool line just in time with my “momma” hat, I knew that I didn’t have the capacity to manage much more. But … like many of us know … just because I didn’t have the capacity didn’t mean that there wasn’t more to manage.
I had two hours to make the night run smoothly. I had two kids to help with homework (and, if I can be honest for a minute, 2nd grade math is HARD for this momma!) and had to navigate getting each of my three kids a snack. No, they couldn’t wait an hour for dinner! Believe me, I asked them. I had to figure out our dinner menu as well and ensure that there was enough time between dinner and my oldest son’s final baseball game so that he would have time for his food to settle before his game. Oh, and we had to actually get to the game on time as well.
It was a lot for me to accomplish already but toss in some unexpected stress regarding the house my husband and I are building, and I hit my limit. Exhaustion was at a new time high. And my tolerance tank was near empty.
I have come to learn how important it is to find a way to recharge before reacting during times like this. The best way is for me to take myself to a quiet spot so I can think through the entire situation and determine the best course of action. Yesterday, that spot was on the front porch of an old 1800’s farmhouse that we are currently living in while we await the thumbs up to move into our new place. Nestled in the corner of the full-house width porch is a swing with a cushion my body knows all too well. You see, I have found myself on that swing too many times to count here recently.
With each sway the wind took me on the swing, I tried to get better clarity on a situation that was downright overwhelming me. Yesterday as I sat on that swing, my oldest son, Eli, decided to join me. He pulled up a wrought-iron chair and together, we talked about everything. We chatted about school and the crazed afternoon we had to get through. We spoke about life in general and about our dreams and aspirations. And as we did, I started to realize that he was helping me find my inner peace.
Out of nowhere, I decided to ask him a question. Immediately after asking, I realized it probably wasn’t something I should have asked a 7-year-old, especially not mine. “Eli, do you ever just want to scream,” I asked. “Right this second, I just want to scream!” I had felt like screaming would help release some of the pent-up frustration I was battling. A good, deep, from the depths of my lungs scream. Holding it in wasn’t doing anyone any good, so I was debating if letting it out would give me some reprieve.
To my surprise, so matter-of-factly, Eli looked me straight in the eyes and said, “If you want to scream, Momma, then just scream. Just do it!” He kept repeating himself as if he were a broken record until I let out a little growl. It wasn’t enough for him. He told me to scream louder. And after two more attempts, I finally let everything I was holding back out into the crisp fall air. Then, together, we laughed.
The release helped get through the evening in one piece, but my morning was greeted with new worries, stresses and irritations. As I sat on the front porch, sifting through the new reasons I would be in need for a massage appointment soon, I found myself seeking my sweet little boy who had been whisked away to school earlier in the morning. For some reason, I couldn’t find the solution that the evening before was so simple to my son. It was as if I needed him to give me permission to scream again … or maybe it was that I wanted him to scream with me.
My son proves to me daily what matters most in life. It’s not about the constant errands or endless chores. Life isn’t about building a new house or even our careers. It’s not about any earthly demands that steer us down paths of frustration. Instead, it’s about being there for someone when they need you most. It’s about loving people, even if they need a good scream. And, sometimes, it’s about screaming with them.
Our kids teach us much more than we could ever teach them, that’s for sure. And for those of us (myself included) who needs permission to sit on the front porch swing and scream until everything you’ve been carrying doesn’t feel quite so heavy, I’m confident that Eli will give it you. And if he isn’t around, I sure will.