Give, oh give


Every night I sing Holden a series of songs as I nurse him to sleep.

Always in the lineup is a little song with the letters of his name set to a particular tune, in the hopes that if I sing it to him enough he will eventually learn how to spell it by osmosis and be the smartest kid in preschool. (You gotta have a dream.)

Holden’s name song is set to the tune of Give Said the Little Stream, and it’s such a nice peppy melody that I always follow it up with the actual lyrics. 

Well, today my baby has been sick: runny nose, drippy eyes, nothing serious I think, but just generally unpleasant. So as he cried in his high chair while I was trying to put dinner together, I knew I needed to help him rest. I came to a good stopping point, thankful that Kyle was home at last and able to entertain Hutch, and picked up my snotty, sad baby to rinse him off and have a cuddle. As I rocked and nursed him, his eyes started to droop and I sang this song: 

Give, said the little stream

Give, oh give; give, oh give. 

Give said the little stream

As it hurried down the hill. 

I’m small, I know, but wherever I go

The grass grows greener still. 

The words were so familiar to me that I didn’t really need to concentrate on them, so as I sang my mind wandered…

I thought about how sore my eyes were, exhausted from being open since 7 am and much of the night before with my congested baby. I proudly thought about how I got dinner in the oven, even though it was a cop-out pre-made Costco entree. I smiled at how Kyle would actually be excited upon the discovery of said pre-made entree, because he always loves those more than anything I make from scratch. I knew Hutch would be the same. I rolled my eyes remembering how Hutch begged to drink out of my water cup earlier, despite having his own identical cup just inches away, and how ultimately I gave in, the crystal clear water in my glass now tinged with toddler backwash. I felt the ache in my shoulder that creeps in every night from many hours of babywearing throughout the day—a necessity if I’m to get any chores done. I cringed as I assessed the state of my t-shirt, caked at the seams with dried up snot from where Holden had buried his undoubtedly sore face into my shoulder and rolled it from side to side, smearing the slime with infantile abandon mere seconds before I could wipe it with a tissue. I remembered all I had accomplished today: though the house was (of course, as usual) a mess, I had nevertheless sent Hutch to preschool with clean clothes, including socks, and nutritious food for snack time. I had arrived—early!—to an appointment with our lactation doctor, who gleefully praised Holden’s weight gain and pronounced us “graduated” from her care, at last, at 10 months old. I had cried when she told me, embarrassed but I couldn’t help it—tears of joy for making it this far, and tears of anxiety for knowing that I’m on my own now. I had bathed. Flossed. Filled the van with gas. Read books to Hutch when he begged me to, instead of tackling the laundry in the basket at the foot of my bed, itself begging to be put away before actually becoming empty from being picked through instead. 

Give, oh give; give, oh give. 

I’m not trying to play the martyr. I know how important it is to carve out time for my own interests, even my own self-interest. I’m trying to do that too. I got a massage this month. I signed up for French classes that I’ve attended for three weeks so far and have loved every minute. I’ve tried to be diligent at date night once a week. 

But the truth is, 95% of my life right now feels consumed with others. Giving, giving all the day. At the end of the day, when Hutch wants me to tell him the story of how Jack broke his arm “just one more time,” and I’m trying to soothe Holden and be present for Kyle and remember to pay the bills, and my head and arms and whole body hurts, it feels impossible to give of myself even one more moment. I feel completely spent, often before I even get out of bed in the morning. It’s exhausting to be the little stream. 

But at the same time, I know how important it is. Because wherever I go, and bear with me as I veer into excruciatingly cheesy territory here, but wherever I go, and wherever I give, I’ll be damned if that grass isn’t growing steadily greener. I see it when Hutch’s preschool teacher remarks on his progress in just three weeks—ain’t no Paw Patrol on the iPad teaching him how to put his socks on by himself. I see it when he can dunk his head underwater at swimming lessons without freaking the hell out. I see it when Holden mimics my clapping during Patty Cake, and when he figures out that putting a blanket over his face will prompt a rousing round of Peekaboo. I see it when Kyle comes home exhausted from work, worn down and weary, but magically perks up enough after a *maybe* homecooked dinner to play Lego with Hutch and read him five billion books before bedtime. 

I see how it works, this giving thing. And even though it’s hard, I have to remind myself that it will be worth it. Someday this investment—this constant payment of what feels like my entire self to everyone but myself—will come to an end, and I will reap the dividends. 

I know it won’t always be this way. 

Give oh give away. 

photo credit: ell brown Rea Valley Route – Kings Norton Recreation Ground – path on NCN 5 – stream off the River Rea via photopin (license)

About Camille

I’m Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello.

You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at facebook.com/archivesofourlives, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.

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6 Responses to Give, oh give

  1. Jami says:

    I loved this so very much. My most favorite part was “freaking the hell out”. Because I know just how much work goes into getting a kid to put their head under water when they don’t want to do it.
    I can’t wait for you to move down. I want to hang out and reap of your wisdom.

  2. Pingback: Oh boy » Archives of Our Lives

  3. Amanda says:

    Wonderful written.

  4. Adell says:

    Loved this so much. You put into words so eloquently what just about every mother feels. (Having said that, I promise you that in another five years, life will not be so hard. I know you won’t believe that (I never did when people told me that), but it’s true.)

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