My wife has a condition, a disease, which she disaffectionately refers to as “mush brain.” Its apparent causes aren’t fully known, though its effects include blurred thinking, the utterance of incoherent and rambling sentences, the need for large quantities of coffee, extreme fluctuations in emotional state and mental stability, the sense of emotional drowning, sending text messages to your husband that sound like someone trying to persuade you to break them out of a mental institution, and the desire to stare blankly at the wall for 30 minutes at a time.
After perusing WebMD and coming to the conclusion that my wife does not have schizophrenia, a brain tumor, doesn’t abuse narcotics or aspirin, and isn’t suffering from dementia or West Nile virus, I was at a complete loss as to the causes of her self-diagnosed condition.
And then a kind of revelatory experience opened the doors of understanding about this potential illness. This past week I had the opportunity to spend the better part of my day off from work with my three boys. Five, three, and three months. With mommy on a five-hour sabbatical, sure, daddy can handle this bunch. There’s always Chik-fil-A and Netflix to fall back on, I reasoned. They’re God’s blessings, and I’m ready to be blessed, so let’s get it on.
So the day began with a God-appointed, glorious sunrise, and the feeling that the day was going to be a big bucket of Kentucky-fried guy time fun. Those hopes were quickly dashed as soon as the boys arose from their slumber. Even though you separate them with doors and a gate (read, “barricade”) they still find a way to fight over their cars, throw things at each other across the trench, and argue about anything. With calm demeanor you reason with them, “Boys, it is a blessing when brothers dwell in unity. Let’s be gracious with each other.” Smooth, dad. Way to take the higher moral ground.
And then the diaper from hell, which is probably worse than mustard gas in your face. My tears weren’t tears of joy at the opportunity to act as a Hazardous Materials agent first thing in the morning. And as if that weren’t enough, my five-year-old gives me a running commentary on the whole thing. “Oh, Daddy, that is nasty. Martyn stinks. Ewwww! Martyn, you’re stinky!” And so, for the second time today in the first five minutes we have an argument between the two boys. “Boys, stop it. Benjamin, it’s none of your business. Keep it to yourself.”
For the trifecta of glee, the infant begins screaming in a distant room. Lug the boys downstairs, act as referee UFC style, pick up screaming baby, make breakfast while holding infant, break up 17 fights in between, feel completely perplexed but proud that food is on the table. Deep breath. Everyone in their seats, que grateful receiving of meal.
“Ugggh, I don’t like eggs. I want something else. Don’t we have cookies?” I now understand that look on my wife’s face, the one I got from my mom growing up all those years. With a solid measure of discipline, a rejoinder at the table, and some prayer, we eat our food. “Daddy, can you get my milk? I want milk. Daddy, milk?” Which means they all want milk. By the time you’re done getting milk (which turned into applesauce, too) their plates are empty and you haven’t taken a bite.
Breakfast is over, the kids are “playing” in the other room. Screaming every two minutes, break up fight, scold, discipline. Rinse and repeat. Check clock, dejectedly retreat to couch after realizing it’s only been 45 minutes yet feels like five hours. Fast forward four hours.
“Dad, we’re trying to do something fun but Martyn won’t give me all his cars. He’s stealing our fun.” At this point we’re not at quoting bible passages anymore; we’re at complete breakdown. “Stop it! How many times do I have to tell you to leave your brother alone? I’m gonna take all your cars away, and I don’t care if you ever have any fun—EVER—for the rest of your life. Daddy’s gonna take all the fun away forever. So stop it!”
Somewhere in the midst of a five-hour stretch of complaining, whining, fighting, pestering, crying, pooping, refereeing, disciplining, and enduring what seemed like the Chinese water torture test of constant bickering between the two of them (with a pleasant dash of crying infant), I realized where “mush brain” really comes from. It’s called being a mother of three small children.
Being a mother has got to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. That’s why if you asked me, who do I respect the most because of their profession, I would say, hands down, mothers. There aren’t enough “thank you’s” and special treatment to go with all she does. She must be held in honor. So, what makes Father’s Day so special in the house of Three Feet? My wife, their mother.
“She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:27-30)