A Cure for August Annoyance

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I once heard that Facebook, the social media site originally founded as a way for college students to connect, has found its target audience in a new demographic: 30-something stay-at-home moms. That certainly rings true to me; on those days when we don’t leave the house and my only adult conversation happens after my husband returns from work, it can feel like a refreshing little escape to log on to Facebook and see that there’s a whole other world out there: a world of friends, my age, who are eating ribs RIGHT NOW!

I’ve been logging on to Facebook more often than usual this summer. The major reason for this is that we have a new baby, which increases the number of days when we don’t leave the house. I’m spending about 12 hours a day feeding the baby. Half of the time I’ll feed the baby with one hand while with the other I cook dinner. change another child’s diaper, or repair the transmission on our minivan. But that still leaves almost 6 hours when I’m feeding the baby in peace; the perfect time to check Facebook.

I’ve particularly needed the escape of Facebook during August. Why? Well, as of the moment this post publishes, there is one day until school starts. Want to know how many hours? 19! Anybody else counting down to the first day of school? Can I get an “Amen!”?

Yes, in August we entered the “Countdown to School” portion of our summer: that time when summer starts to lose its glow, when we’ve all spent too much time together, when the girls are bickering constantly with each other and driving me nuts.

The first week of August was the worst, because my two oldest girls spent every morning at an outdoor nature camp. They loved this camp, and then they’d come home filthy and exhausted and be terrible people until bedtime. One daughter chose this same week to become obsessive-compulsive about her clothes; she’d change outfits 20 times a day until we finally responded by moving all of her clothes to the basement. There was eye-rolling and door slamming and angst; nobody warned me that adolescence starts at kindergarten.

I was grouchy and annoyed with my kids. I sought solace in Facebook.

The thing is, that wasn’t a very happy time on Facebook, either. For a couple of weeks, I couldn’t log on to Facebook without encountering some tragedy, and all of these incidents involved parents or their children. I won’t go into detail here, because these are not my tragedies to share — they involved my friends’ friends or family: toddlers dying, newborns dying, parents dying in childbirth or just prior to the birth of their children. The kind of things we like to tune out, to pretend don’t happen anymore in this time and place. The kind of things that remind us of how we’re all walking around with pianos dangling over our heads, and it’s just a matter of time until the rope snaps. That could have been MY child. That could have been ME.

One afternoon, I logged on to Facebook during naptime as an alternative to clawing my eyebrows out after a particularly frustrating encounter with a daughter. I found myself choking back tears while reading the account of a baby who’d died days after birth. Then it hit me:

It is a LUXURY — a BLESSING — to be annoyed by my kids.

Annoyance means that they’re here, and I’m here, and we’ve had the gift of enough time together to really get under each others’ skin.

I’m still counting down the days, hours, and seconds until school starts. I don’t expect that I’ll stop feeling annoyed with my kids anytime soon. But when I do, I will remind myself that annoyance is a by-product of time, and time is a gift that not everybody gets.

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