Gathering up the pieces / by Christina Rosalie

The morning was unassuming enough. Out of routine, because of the rain and the fact that Bean woke up nearly an hour earlier than he usually does. No morning walk, but cinnamon toast instead. The newspaper. Coffee. The essentials were all there. And Bean took a nap, like he normally does, but woke from it suddenly, fussy. And then the day went careening off kilter. Bean gradually fell apart. As did I. One of those days where darkness seems to fall early because of the weather; when the house feels hot and tight. My body pent up and sluggish from having missed my runs for three days in a row.

Refusing to sleep, Bean skipped his second (typically long) nap and then screamed hysterically when either of us tried to lie down with him; to cuddle, to offer a boob, a pacifier, a warm body to curl up against. Of course, he seemed to know how thin my patience was.

DH and I kept shooting each other looks. DH trying to remain on the periphery as though it were MY duty to deal with Bean.

"You could ask me for help," he said.

My skin prickled with angry heat. "You could ask to help," I replied.

All either of us wanted was some solitude and down time. This is what makes parenting so hard. The fact that you can't just take space when you need it. I tried. DH, readily apologetic, made me tea, while Bean crawled in forlorn circles around the coffee table, alternately bursting into tears or grins depending on whether the cat walked by or not.

I wolfed down chocolate chip cookies, sipped tea and tried to read a chapter in my book while the two of them sat on the couch opposite me: Bean pushing all of Dh's buttons by repeatedly dropping his teething cracker under the couch.

When DH and I get sucked into self pity, we're both fools and we know it. The situation is beyond us. Neither of our faults. We know this. Yet we can't seem to help ourselves from lashing out. Acting morose. Bean was exhausted, over stimulated, inconsolable. Teething perhaps, or simply off.

Finally I drew a bath, and we all spent the next 45 minutes in the bathroom trying to regain our humor. Bean and I in the tub, chasing his wooden spoon. DH sitting on the tile with a dolphin washcloth tickling Bean and making him giggle. And everything was better.

Bean nursed for a long time then, and fell asleep making little whistling whimpering noises with his breath the way he did when he was a newborn. It's likely he'll be out for the night. There is still time for a swim, for making pizza with potatoes and Italian sausage, for drinking the bottle of wine we picked up at the store earlier. For laughing on the couch, finally watching the indie flick our neighbor recommended.

But oh the agony of getting to this. Like broken pottery. Shards everywhere. The mosaic can happen. But seeing the bigger picture is sometimes so hard.