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I just watched the Huggies commercial with the adorable happy baby wearing one red sock and giggling, crawling over to her mother, her clean, slender, smiling mother sitting on a vacuumed carpet in a well-lit, nicely furnished room. Commercials like this just make me feel like a frustrated and depressed failure. This wasn't the case when Bryce was a baby. When Bryce was a baby, all I ever thought about was what a miracle his every molecule, breath, movement was. I had genuine appreciation for every stage, every phase, every hair on his sweet-smelling head; as a result, I felt a subtle but compelling connection to parents of babies and children (even fake ones on Huggies commercials). Bryce was not an easy baby, don't get me wrong. Still, I never ceased to be amazed by his presence. Quinn's babyhood was a little different. There was more guilt, more fatigue, more frustration. Most of this was, ironically, related to issues stemming from Bryce's toddler behaviors and, well, Bryce being Bryce - but it affected, much to my never-ending maternal guilt, my experience of Quinn's babyhood.

I remember a fear I had after Bryce was born, that some day I might reach a point where I couldn't easily grasp the feeling I had throughout his early days, that subtle presence of some new connection I felt with the universe, the essence all around that told me daily about the mystery and deep miracle that is life. I was determined not to lose hold of this, but I have, slowly but surely, since we've moved from having one baby-toddler-kid to having two. I've lost it, maybe not completely, but I lose it for hours, days, sometimes weeks at a time. The peaceful quiet murmurs of awe have turned into chaotic, distracting screams, and I've been too weak to stay focused. The kinship I felt with other families or parents has given way to tempations to size myself up against them, or to point to them as more evidence for my sorry lot, for the immense challenges those early peaceful murmurs of mystery never warned me about. A 30-second diaper spot depicting a baby crawling across a clean carpet to a calm, happy mother just reminds me of all the times I haven't sat on the floor with my kids to laugh with them - for many reasons, one of which is that the floors in our house are covered with ground-up goldfish, abandoned toaster waffles, mismatched shoes, sharp toy pieces, I could go on; another of which is that any time that would be appropriate "floor play time" is typically spent addressing some or other major issue around here, including the fact that these days, Quinn is happy for 10 minutes out of each hour and spends the remaining 50 minutes whining, yelling, crying, maybe hitting, and also including the fact that we're currently in the process of re-evaluating Hannah's entire school and living situation in the recognition that neither we nor her current school are meeting her immense and enigmatic needs.

I realize it's just a commercial, and that the Huggies marketing department created it to be an idealistic scene, one that probably doesn't exist in any home anywhere. But the point is, at one time I could watch something like that without wanting to throw a heavy object across the room and shatter the TV screen. And that seems, well, a little off.

There are so many areas in my life where I feel like I put forth unusual amounts of effort and energy, in some assumed attempt to "succeed" or "improve" something about myself or my surroundings, only to find out that my efforts were all wrong, they weren't good enough somehow because HAHA! you're still failing! I was complaining about one minor example of this to the personal trainer at the gym this week. (To recap: I pay him a lot of money, and in turn he tortures me, and then I get to ask his advice on how to do a better job at being tortured.) As usual, my progress, while obvious and evident in areas of strength and balance, is not good enough for my perfectionist self, and I wondered aloud what it would take to get the results I want, results that I know are realistic and not at all out of the question. "I'm in this gym every single day! When I'm not working with you, I'm on a treadmill for 45 minutes to an hour. I write down everything I eat. I've increased my protein, I've increased my water, I've virtually eliminated caffeine, I make sure I'm getting the right number of calories, that I eat enough of the various foods I'm 'supposed' to eat. I've been doing this for several weeks."

"Wait. You're here every day?"


"You're over-training! You can't tear down your muscles and not give them a chance to repair before coming back in here and tearing them down again. Your body just won't make any progress at all. You'll get stronger - slowly, and you'll lose fat - slowly, but you'll have less energy, you'll be sore, and you won't lose much more fat or much weight at all because you're not allowing yourself any recovery time."

"Uh. Hm. Heh. So, basically you're telling me I've been working too hard."


Working too hard. Working TOO hard! What is this craziness? Working too hard? I've been mulling it over ever since. (And today, in lieu of the gym, I'm writing this post.) This is the problem I see in our household right now. We're constantly torn down with something - Bryce's quirks, Quinn's challenges, Hannah's setbacks, our conflicting family schedules, ridiculous demands on our time and energy - and there's never any recovery time around here. I can't remember the last time we just relaxed or "hung out" - with or without the kids. We just don't do that. There is always something to do, always some big list of things we're behind on, always another interruption. I think I've lost my grasp on the ability to watch a diaper commercial without vomiting in disgust and resentment because I'm holding onto so many other things now, and I feel like there's not enough of my grasp to go around. We're only holding steady, rather than progressing. We survive, but we aren't doing much more than that. To get to a point where there's more than just survival or status quo here, we need recovery.

The problem is, it's a lot more complicated than just cutting out a few trips to the gym. And so, I determine once again that there's no place I can loosen my grip, and I guarantee continued dissatisfaction. Yeah, like I said: it's a problem.

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