It happened many, many years ago. Yet I still shudder in memory.
I had volunteered (or had been volunteered) to watch the kinfauna while the parents went on a trip. Nearly as soon as they left, I felt the pangs of a stomach bug.
My nephew was not happy with his parents being away. On top of that, he was overtired and cranky. Until he merrily adjusted to my consistent yet benevolent regime, he was a demon.
A berserk three-year-old isn't a picnic in general. Add the fact that I was folded up in nauseous, agonizing pain, I was beyond miserable. His older siblings, of course, were rays of sunshine, but still required basic maintenance, which took effort. At one point he broke away from my grasp and took off down the sidewalk, wailing, while I, terrified he would run into traffic, high-tailed after him on wobbly legs. Hauling him back was almost as much work.
Did I ever forgive him? Well . . .
What I do remember clearly is how I fought to keep it together that day. I plastered a grin on my green face as I tucked the good children into bed. I then scurried out, confirmed the hellion was safely asleep, closed my door behind me—and lost it.
I wept out the gallons of salt water that I had been holding back for hours. Because I knew that there is nothing more frightening for small children to see the adults, upon whom they rely, break down. Their sense of stability in the universe would be compromised.
I recalled that heinous day as I read Daniel D'Addario's interview with Natalie Portman in Time Magazine regarding her depiction of Jackie Kennedy following the assassination.
DD: Did being a parent add to the role for you?
NP: It makes you understand the ability to be calm and collected under that kind of emotional and psychological pressure. When you have kids, you can't afford to be a mess. There's moments when you are, but you need to pull it together. You see how that impacted her ability to gather herself under such awful circumstances.
The mere presence of those kids gave me the strength to do what I didn't think was possible. If I had been at home, leaning on my parents as opposed to toddlers leaning on me, whatever self-discipline I would have summoned then, I would have thought was my max.
I have very, very few excuses at hand. I can push myself to go farther.