I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning with my 7 year old nephew’s hand on my face. He is visiting for the week, and he apparently woke up in the middle of the night and climbed into my bed. The day before he had been worried if a tornado was going to come and kill us. At midnight he woke me up and asked me if we were going to die. At 1 a.m. I caught him sleepwalking in the living room and walked him back to bed. At 2 a.m. I woke up to that question and had to help him get back to sleep. At 3 a.m. I caught him sleepwalking in the living room again, and sometime between then and 6 he had crawled into my bed surreptitiously. At 6, my dog woke me up for her morning walk.
I had a reprieve for a few hours and caught up on my coffee and reading time. At 8 a.m. he came into the living room, curled up on the couch and fell asleep for another 2 hours. I took advantage to start laundry and clean up my house a little bit. I went to the main bathroom and found that my toilet wasn’t flushing after I had already done my morning business. I went out to the garage and got the plunger. No luck.
I decided to clean up and finish my last bit of dishes while Ben and the dog sawed logs on the couch. That’s when I noticed the washing machine was finished earlier than usual. I opened up the lid and found none of the water had drained and the machine hadn’t switched cycles. I messed with it a few times to no avail. I decided I would go back to finishing at least one task and started on the dishes and noticed my garbage disposal wasn’t draining well enough. By this time, I was anxious and nervous about my house, my nephew, my skills as a homemaker and aunt, plus, I was also holding back bodily functions for fear that my other good toilet would clog as well.
I went back to the bathroom to plunge the toilet and this time some toilet paper and a dead mosquito floated to the top. By this time, my stomach was hurting and my back was aching, but I pushed through and cleaned up the bathroom as best as possible. It was time to call the plumber.
While waiting on him (for over 3 hours), I made a delicious lunch for my nephew who woke up to the sounds of the monthly tornado siren check (which launched a 3 hour question-answer & reassurance session about tornadoes and if we were going to die). I managed to put the dog in her kennel, usher the plumber in, and finish Ben’s lunch when the plumber came in to tell me that the washing machine was an electric problem, the garbage disposal was draining fine (although I could buy a special cleaner for $60). He gave me a $200 estimate for taking an auger to the toilet.
Ten minutes later, the plumber comes into the kitchen with wide eyes and a surprised look on his face. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, “You had a mound of poop backed up that no plunger would’ve fixed.” My mouth dropped open. He then said, “You’re not gonna want to know the rest. There was a lot of paper too. And other stuff.”
The smells from the oven and stove were still wafting in the kitchen where we stood, but a wave of nausea came over me as he told me this (and as I wrote out the hefty check). To make me feel better, he told me the toilet was an old model and was probably coming to the end of its life. He said I should invest in an American Standard brand or better yet an industrial strength toilet with a hard suction. I started laughing as I thought about the damage a 7 year old boy could do for a plumber to tell me this.
I paid my bill and then checked in on Ben who had eaten all of his waffle fries, gnawed on three cherries and only eaten a quarter of the homemade cheeseburger I made him. I had had enough. It was a shitty day all around. I was in a pair of trendy yoga pants, and apron and a junky t-shirt (because my matching top was soaking in the laundry) and my wild hair was tossed up into a pony tail. Then, I jumped and realized the laundry had been sitting in sudsy water for almost 3 hours. I ran to the laundry room and started pulling out soaking wet clothes and ringing them out and tossing them into the utility sink nearby. I was elbow deep when Ben walked in and asked “What’s that smell?” and I realized that it was the laundry. It smelled like poop too.
He ran back into the living room and I ran to the sink and scrubbed my arms and hands thoroughly while also trying to not gag. I finally got around to cooking my lunch. At this stage, I was a little woosy and needed to take a bathroom break (especially now that the plumber had finished his job). I took advantage of Ben watching a stupid show called “Uncle Grandpa” while I did all of that and ate my lunch in a bit of peace. I was texting my mom my sorrows and out of nowhere I started crying. As if right on cue, Ben came in with his plate and his barely eaten food. This made me cry even more. He asked what was wrong and I said, “I made that for you and I was happy that you were going to eat something delicious. And you didn’t eat it.” I started crying even harder and told him I ate all the food he made last night and he could’ve done the same for me.
He came up to me and put his arms around me and said, “I do like what you made me, but it was hard to eat. I did the best I could,” and I cried even more. We talked about how even adults have emotions and sometimes they need to cry to let them out. We also talked about pooping and how he shouldn’t hold his poop because he’s embarrassed and nervous about pooping at other people’s houses.
This discussion prompted us to do an art project while we waited on the repairman for the washing machine (who by the way, never showed up after 5 hours of waiting and our clothes are still in the utility sink and stagnant water is still in the machine). I picked up a marker and started drawing out shapes, letting them morph into a picture. Ben asked what I was doing and I said, “Drawing my emotions.” He liked that idea and he did that too. And we sat for over an hour, coloring, talking, drawing, and listening to music. This is what became of our project:
That’s when I stopped worrying about providing a “good day” for him and making sure everything was “perfect” and running smoothly. Sometimes, we just get backed up, whether that’s physically, mentally or emotionally and we have to figure out some creative way to release it all. In order to do that, you have to start by accepting that you’re backed up in the first place. So, I accepted the fact that my stomach was hurting and that I needed to release the tension I was holding inside of my body. I acknowledged my hips and back were hurting and I sat down and just breathed and colored with a 7 year old. I accepted that he wasn’t going to change out of his pajamas or eat his entire meal or quit watching stupid shows like “Uncle Grandpa” and instead I just provided a space for him to be a kid who wanted to wear his pajamas all day, watch TV and build a fort and for me to be an imperfect adult who needed to just cry and accept that the day had turned to shit and would get better from there.