I groan and roll over to silence the bleating alarm. It’s 5:30 am. Between my anxiety-riddled dreams, soothing the two year old who was inexplicably awake three times during the night, and getting kicked repeatedly in the ribs by the four-year old who firmly believes Mommy and Daddy’s bed is his bed, I had closed my eyes for good about 4am.
Bleary eyed, I step in the shower, silently chanting my morning mantra: “Being tired never killed anyone. I will feel like a person if I can just make it to 10:00am. I will not die simply because it’s early morning.”
By 6:15 am, my household is reluctantly stirring, my makeup is hastily applied, and my first violin student of the day is beginning an E-flat major scale in the violin studio. I hit my knees in the dark living room, the shrieks of my boys’ first morning brawl echoing down the stairs.
“Dear Father,” I plead, “I’m not sure I have the energy to do this today. Please help me to be patient and kind to my children, even when I don’t want to be. Bless me with the energy and the stamina I need to get through this day.”
My second student of the day has just started tuning her violin when the studio door opens. My daughter, doubling as my babysitter this morning, is holding my four year old son by the hand. “Mommy, my ear hurts,” he whimpers.
I excuse myself from the lesson, taking a brief look in my son’s ear to confirm yet another raging ear infection. I convince my poor, feverish son to take a syringe full of ibuprofen and hurry to place a call to the pediatrician. My sweet boy has never met an ear infection he didn’t have to have, and no run-of-the-mill course of antibiotics ever comes close to clearing the massive infections. The nurse gives me the last appointment of the day so I can still drive my daughter to her own violin lesson fifty miles away, then teach two more lessons in my studio, all before I have to leave for the appointment.
I choke back the bitter taste of guilt as I tuck a blanket around my little boy, turn on Phinneas and Ferb to help babysit, and head back to the violin studio, wondering how many more ear infections my son will get before the doctors start talking about a third set of ear tubes. While my student is perfecting her etude, my stomach is churning, knowing there’s no way we’ll be able to afford yet another surgery, especially now that we have no health insurance.
The guilt, the stretching and pulling in seventeen different directions, they are my constant companions. I could be a better mother if I didn’t have 22 violin students. I could be a better teacher if my students were the only thing I had to focus on. Days like this are a long walk across a tightrope strung over a pit of snarling lions: one slip-up, one late baby sitter, one dead van battery and it’s going to get ugly really fast.
There are other times too. The times when the teenager, who has struggled with crippling stage fright for years, has a brilliant recital performance and her smile lights up every corner of the recital hall. The times where a young violinist and her mother beam with unexpected pride when they realize they’ve achieved something remarkably difficult. The moments when I giggle, witnessing my two sons wrestling like puppies on the living rooms floor. The day when my violinist daughter plays her Bach Partita so brilliantly and musically that it takes my breath away, leaving me in awe with tears in my eyes, despite the lunch debris spread all over the counter and the little brothers squabbling at a deafening volume. Those are the times that remind me. This. This is what I’m supposed to do. This is where I belong. This is who I am.