Lately, I keep seeing, in my mind’s eye, an image of Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s lamplighter. Do you remember him? He’s a character from The Little Prince*. On his small planet, he is responsible for lighting a single lamp every morning, and dousing it each evening. Unfortunately, over time, his planet has begun to spin more rapidly, until the lamp must be lighted and doused once each minute.
The lamplighter is faithful to his “orders,” but, Saint Exupéry says, “it is possible for a man to be faithful and lazy at the same time.” All day, as he lights and puts out, lights and puts out, the poor man longs only to be allowed to rest.
I have thought of this man every day, as I lumber out of bed for another round of errands, or laundry, or work. I am faithful to my orders, but oh, how we moms would like a rest. Amiright? A day, a whole week even, just to do whatever we’d like? I honestly don’t even know how I’d start, because what I want to do and what I feel I ought to do are so interlinked. I mean to say, will I really be happy in my day off, if the lamp never gets lit?
That’s just self-pity, and can be shaken off, once my feet are on the floor and my coffee is brewing. The faithful lamplighter still stays with me, though. On his planet, a month is gone in half an hour – another feeling with which parents everywhere are well acquainted.
The kids and I were talking about New Year’s, and Riya and I were trying to explain to a skeptical Ben and Karina why it’s important. “We’ll say goodbye to 2010,” I said, “and hello to a new year, 2011.”
“Why?” “Why?” They are 4. I get this a lot.
“Well, we’ll remember all the things that happened in 2010, like Riya turning 6, and you guys turning 4. And we’ll think about what will happen next year, like you turning 5, and Riya turning 7.”
5. And 7. Months, gone in minutes, and years gone before I know what’s happened to them. And me, still at my post, wondering how long this job will still be mine to do.
Maybe a rest isn’t what I really need, after all.
*If you’ve never read it, do. Use your kids as an excuse if you need to. You’ll not be sorry, I promise.