Do you know that quote?
It’s from My Fair Lady, when, after months of agony, Eliza & Professor Higgins are draped late at night in the library, Higgins still insisting, “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain!” Eliza moans, “I can’t! I can’t! I’m so tired. I’m so tired.”
That’s how I felt yesterday. In fact, that’s how I got to thinking about this quote and scene. I was loading the dishwasher, thinking that when my husband got off work, I would say, “My nerves are as raw as meat in a butcher’s window.” There was just so much noise!
In My Fair Lady, after Eliza is “so tired,” then we see Henry Higgins has at least an ounce of humanity in him when he delivers this speech:
I know your head aches; I know you’re tired; I know your nerves are as raw as meat in a butcher’s window. But think what you’re trying to accomplish. Think what you’re dealing with. The majesty and grandeur of the English language, it’s the greatest possession we have. The noblest thoughts that ever flowed through the hearts of men are contained in its extraordinary, imaginative, and musical mixtures of sounds. And that’s what you’ve set yourself out to conquer Eliza. And conquer it you will.
Then she did it. She could say it. She could pronounce everything perfectly. Just like that.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have such a similar magical scene?
I know your head aches; I know you’re tired; I know your nerves are as raw as meat in a butcher’s window. But think what you’re trying to accomplish. Think what you’re dealing with. The majesty and grandeur of the human soul and spirit, it’s the greatest stewardship we have. The noblest men and women that ever did great things were first destructive toddlers and loud children to be cared for and loved by their mother. Love and real life are contained in this house’s extraordinary, imaginative, and musical cacophonous mixtures of sounds. And that’s what you’ve set yourself out to produce. And produce it you will are.
The point is not try harder. No matter how the movie scene went, inspiring words rarely actually lift us up out of raw nerves.
Certainly, though, we must make sure we are looking at the right thing. Telling ourselves the right story.
Yet, it wasn’t actually being given the proper perspective or an inspiring story that made Eliza able to suddenly conquer her tongue.
This speech was the first time Professor Higgins had treated her like a human being instead of a project or, in the movie’s terms, an insect.
Remember to treat yourself like a human being. You are not a slave to a clean house or to immaculate children or to curriculum checkboxes. You are a mother-steward, entrusted, trusted, with your responsibilities. A bad day is not a black mark on your checklist or resume. You are human. You are not a machine. And you are not expected to perform as a machine.
Remember to have your children treat you like a human being. Insist upon the old-fashioned rule of respecting your mother. Mom is not a slave to the children, either.
Remember, most of all, to treat your children as human beings and not as projects, much less insects. Don’t stomp on them, though that might seem like an expedient way to stop the noise. But it’s so easy to see them as the tools you need to have a spiffy family or a smooth homeschool. It’s easy to confuse which is the goal and which is the means.
I had to remember that my goal wasn’t a clean and quiet house, but lively, friendly, happy children.
And so, when my husband was off work, I left the house for 40 minutes and enjoyed some silence. I simply couldn’t ignore the physical reality of raw nerves and simply boot-strap it with positive thinking. I had some space and silence and downtime to recoup, and I was able to return to the fray and get dinner whipped out, and we could sit down together all in fellowship. Better yet, by the time I got home, my husband had had the kids do their afternoon tidying, so the house’s physical order was restored, too.
Even some bad days can have happy endings.