It’s 4:00 o’clock. The time when monsters come out.
Not really. But 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon is not the happiest time in my day. Rest time is over, the littlest one is done with her nap, and the dinner prep and clean up looms ahead. 4:00 o’clock should be the time when you sigh and tell yourself “Almost done.” But that’s just not true. Ever heard of “the witching hours?” Whether you like the term or not (and I try not to think too hard about it), there’s just no denying that when I stand at the end of my time on earth and add up all my hours, late afternoons will undoubtedly be the doldrums of life.
Take today for instance. It was our second day of homeschooling in 1st grade, and it went ten times better than the first. Both the first grader and the preschooler were fascinated by the diagram of the inner ear we studied (is there anything more fulfilling than fascinated students? I think not). The complaining over writing vocab words went from 15 minutes to 5 minutes. And math (math!) was a cinch. Not to mention we read all kinds of books. It was nearly a perfect homeschool day. On top of that, I washed three loads of laundry, cleaned two bathrooms, vacuumed a room, kept up with a one-year-old, and stayed on top of the dishes. So maybe I’m crazy, but I really did think that when I surveyed the house and the children around me at 4:00 p.m. on such a smooth, wonderful day, my eyes would not be met with the molten lava of meltdowns and toys explosions. Yet there it sure was. A few words popped into my head when I looked around me at 4:00 o’clock today, and I found them strangely comforting. I took it all in and took a deep breath. “This is not my fault,” I whispered to myself in a soothing voice. “This is just The Debris of the Day.”
The Debris of the Day is one of my formerly unnamed triggers in the late afternoon that leads to irritability and a sense of exhaustion. The Debris of the Day makes me feel like all my work is for naught. Today, however, when I named it, I realized none of that is true. We live here. It’s a fact of the homeschooling or stay-at-home-mom life (and probably many other lifestyles I haven’t experienced!) that junk will surround you when you feel like the day should be winding down. The kids will be whining because they’re tired and maybe a little bored because you told them “no TV” (good for you!) and they want attention but you’ve got other things on your mind at this point. The glass doors will be smeared. The bathroom will have toothpaste stuck to the sink (and mirror? how the heck…). There will still be dishes (a few or a few meals worth!) in the sink because we have eaten here today. Books will be scattered hither and yon. All this is true for me, in one way or another every single day, but today I came to realize that The Debris of the Day is not a failure. It is just what a day brings right now in my house.
And it’s okay.
Deep breath. Say it with me. It is okay. Maybe we can call the kids, put on some music (and a smile even?), and clean some stuff up. Maybe we can just send the kids outside and leave it be for a while during the dinner hours. However we handle this, we can decide that it’s perfectly normal and it’s okay for now.
And maybe tomorrow I’ll try not to think of it as debris. Debris makes it sound like a storm blew through, which is accurate enough some days, but not the most pleasant image in the world. Tomorrow, I might get all sappy and think of this crazy mess of emotions and stuff as The Proof of Life, or even The Proof of Life Abundant…or maybe not. One mental step at a time. Right now, I may not be too thrilled with the debris, but I can tell myself it’s not a failure in my motherhood, and it’s all going to be okay.