This is the busiest time of year for me. I recruited in spring and summer, counseled lots of prospects, coaxed drafts out of a couple dozen over the last several weeks, and am dragging about 18 across the finish line (Monday). All nationally-competitive scholarship applications are tough on applicants, but this one is undoubtedly the toughest one on me. It wears one out to mentally hop between Israel, Macau, Bolivia, the UK, India, Venezuela, Thailand, New Zealand, Botswana, Kenya, China, South Korea, and Germany for weeks, and to pull teeth with undergrads unused to working through multiple drafts, unused to justifying their interests, unused to even articulating their interests. I love my job, but Jesus. September is rough.
My stress level has become apparent to the other people who share a house with me. Nuala is so very three years old, and is occasionally impossible to get out of the house in the morning, occasionally bursts into tears at the word “No,” and is occasionally a poor judge of her physical movements and abilities relative to other human beings. All of these things are, according to my euphemism, “frustrating.” As in, “I’m not mad, honey, I’m frustrated.” Mad? How could I possibly be mad at my own child? Only insensitive parents could be mad (gasp!) at their precious flowers who are too little to process Mommy or Daddy’s anger.
Earlier this week, Nuala was flipping her beaded necklace around, the one that she had made that day in the art studio at school. It slipped off her fingers and whacked me in the face hard enough to make my eyes water (they were big beads). This happened after an hour’s worth of whining about what, I don’t even remember. I was not pleased. I gave her Stone Face of Doom. She cried. I asked her to apologize, because she’d hurt me. She refused and cried harder. I asked her to apologize again, and she cried harder and said she wanted Daddy (who was still at work). I finally knelt down in front of her and asked her quietly why she was crying.
“I’m sad because you’re mad.”
I told her I wasn’t mad, I was frustrated.
People, I am an idiot. Of course I was mad. Not only did she know it, she had the wherewithal to explain how it made her feel in response. In that moment, I realized two things: (1) this three-year-old has a higher degree of emotional awareness than her 34-year-old mother; and (2) I’m being a total dick at home. (I’m probably being a dick at work, too, but that stands a better chance of tracking with 20-year-olds’ expectations of women professors and associated staff.)
Long story short, Nuala is a genius and I’m trying to be a better mom so she at least she won’t be a tortured genius.