Monday, August 30, 2010

Failing and Grace

"I feel like I'm failing most of the time."  My throat began to swell with the hard reality of that phrase.  The worst thing about parenting is the attention it calls to my own weaknesses.  Most of the time I feel like I'm being allowed to do surgery without having finished med school. 

"Oh, sweetheart.  You are a wonderful mother," my own mother's soothing voice came through the receiver.

"Oh, but I'm not," I cried.  At least I am not the mother I want to be. "I'm impatient, and short-tempered, and--I mean, I know these things about myself."  Or, better said, I am learning these things about myself, and I wish I weren't.  Parenting causes me to stretch in every direction, and even after all that stretching, I wish I felt like I was "there."  Instead I feel like I so often miss the mark, and all that is in sight is that raging gap between where I am and where I wish to be. 

Even when I try to do the right thing.  The good thing.  Like this trip to San Diego with Griffin.  I know he has been struggling.  WE have been struggling, this battle of wills it seems:  He doesn't want to do, but there are some things he must do...And so I made a goal that this trip was going to be all about Griffin.  We were going to do the things he wanted, on his schedule.  We were going to remember that we really do like each other, underneath it all.  I don't want him to feel picked on all the time, and I don't want to feel frustrated all the time, either.

"And?" mom questioned.

"And most of it has been good.  Really good.  But last night...ugh, it just breaks my heart."

The night before we had been on our way home to Mesa.  We had spent four terrific days in San Diego, just the two of us, and we had had a wonderful time together.  I said yes a lot.  Yes to a $20.00 bike surrey ride.  Yes to staying up late.  Yes to the bubble gun at Sea World.  Yes to two hours petting the stingrays.  Yes to playing in the park until it got dark even though I was hungry.  Yes to walking two blocks to use the gumball machine.  Yes to eating crepes outside.  Yes to sitting in the Shamu soak zone.  Yes to splurging for the Sea World Skytower ride.  Yes to staying at the beach "just a little longer."  Yes to games of "touched you last."  Yes to falling asleep watching TV.   Yes to buying Scooby Doo 2 to watch on the way home--A lot of yesses.

And I said "I love you" a lot.  And he said it back.  And we snuggled, and held hands, and played on the beach, and laughed, and talked.  And that was good.

Then on the way home we made an unexpected detour.  Having found out that my brother was getting remarried on short notice the next day, I decided we should make the trip and be there; the only downside was that is meant driving until 3 am.  And I was already tired of driving.  So was Griffin, but he was a good sport and watched Scooby Doo-2 ten more times over the next many hours.  Despite my useless pleadings that he use the earphones, that meant that I got to listen to Scooby Doo-2 ten more times as well.  Good times.  Good times.

By 11 pm that night, I was feeling the burn.  Even if we stopped in Vegas, it was at least two more hours of driving.  Shaggy and Velma were fraying my nerves.  We needed gas, and as we filled up Griffin asked if he could drink his very large, red Gatorade, which I had said "yes" to against my better judgement.

"Okay..." I said, unscrewing the lid and handing it to him, "but don't spill, okay?"

Moments later, as I was cleaning the windshield and trying to convince myself that two more hours of driving was not so very bad, I saw his eyes go wide, and I knew.  And when I didn't see him stoop to retrieve it, I knew that, too:  The bottle was sitting bottom side up, gurgling its vast contents onto the floor. 

I ran to the passenger side and pulled open the door.  "Griffin!  What are you doing?!  At least pick it up, son!"  The mess was everywhere, and what ticked in my brain was the extra 25 minutes this was going to add to our trip in clean up time.  My aggravation bubbled over.  "C'mon!  Are you kidding me?  Great.  Just great!  Argh...Move out of the way, son!  I can not believe..."  He sat there silently as I dabbed, and sopped, and scrubbed, complaining both over and under my breath.  Twenty five minutes later, the job was, indeed, done, and I had regained my cool enough to see my son.

Really see him. 

And I knew.  I knew his little heart was hurt.

I took a deep breath.  "Honey, I'm sorry I lost my temper.  I should not have yelled.  You are more important than this car.  I don't want you to think otherwise."  And then I took his face in my hands.  "I want you to know something.  You are a great kid.  You hear me?  You are...a great kid."  And that's when his eyes welled up with tears.

I am ashamed of myself, because I had given him reason to doubt it.  There it is again--that raging gap between where I am and where I wish to be.  I only hope that my failure is not so large that it swallows my children whole.

I am imperfect.  That is one thing that parenting is teaching me very clearly, but this I vow.  I will keep stretching; I will keep trying; I will keep loving despite my imperfections, because they are great kids, and though I sometimes feel that they deserve better than me, I have to believe in God's wisdom.  That He was not wrong in letting us improve one another at the same time.  That there is a built in buffer that offsets the natural failings that come with parenting. Some days I fail.  But some days I succeed.  I hope those days hold more weight.

All I can do is try and pray for grace--both from God and my children, those who see me in all my weakness--and that they will love me anyway, and know, wholeheartedly, that I love them.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I think I promised I'd get back to regular posting.  And then this last week went and made me a liar.  Darn week.

I actually started writing something on Monday.  Something that I don't know how to write.  Something still unsettling to me.  Something both sacred and sad.  Something about which I'm unsure if all mothers will relate to or something that will just make me look like a failure, which is frankly how I felt--make that, still feel.  Something that I will finish writing once I can wrap my mind around it and find the end.

Sometimes when I can't make sense of something, I have to stop looking at it for a while.  Instead I need to gain control over something, like organizing the playroom, which I did.  Something that requires presence of mind and body.  Something that makes sense out of chaos.  And then I need to do something physical, like take an adult ballet class, which I did.  Something demanding that beats out that pent up emotion.  And then I need to do something comforting, and since I can't crawl up onto my mom's lap anymore, I call her, which I did.  And like always, she drenched me in love until I was dripping with it.  And finally I need advice, so I go to lunch with dear friends, which I did.  And I lay out my burden and pick their brains.

And then I think.

And hopefully
I will write.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Jen, Jen, Jen...

I just want to say that I had this idea before Bill O'Reilly.  I did.  When I was reading "The People" (which I like to call it because I think it's sorta' funny) and I read Jennifer Aniston's comments about how lucky we are that we don't have to wait to find a man to settle down with before we had kids, well...something screeched in my brain.  I don't know about all this "destructive to society" stuff.  I'll leave that to the social commentators.  I'm just a mom.  And all I know, as a mom, is that she doesn't really know what the hell she's talking about.

Before promoting the glories of single momhood, she might want to talk to some real moms.  I bet they have a lot to say about the subject.

Here's one example, a letter I wrote to Mr. Wicke this last Valentine's Day:

Dear Valentine,

Do you know what was really romantic? When this harried mom was at the health clinic with our two very sick kiddos, one in tears after waiting for two hours, a baby melting down with a goose egg to boot, and when I really had reached my limit and was grasping the fraying last end of my rope, I called you, and you came. You came quickly. And you took the children, with a smile even. And after I had finally gotten the prescriptions filled and come home, you were feeding them soup, and the baby was asleep, and you weren't even perturbed that Griffin had thrown up in the car all over himself.

THAT was really romantic.

You know why? Because it made me think again that I can't imagine raising these little ones with anyone but you.


Your Mrs.

In a million years, I would never want to do this alone.  I thank God every day that I have a partner in this deep and heavy work.  24/7, 365.  A sperm donor just doesn't keep those hours.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yesterday by the Clock

At 8:22 I waved to my kids as the bus pulled away on the first day of school.

At 8:37 I said goodbye to Megan and her kids, the last of our summer visitors.

At 9:00 welcomed the first guests for our "The Bus Just Pulled Out Breakfast for Moms."

At 10:54 the last of my girlfriends left after graciously tidying up my kitchen.

At 11:05 I put the baby down for his nap.

At 11:09 I enrolled and funded my children's school lunch accounts.

At 11:30 I lay down in my unmade bed.  I listened to the quiet of the house and tried to sleep.

At 12:20 I gave up and did all the stuff my brain was telling me I was supposed to do: laundry and lots and lots of cleaning.

At 3:15 I picked up Griffin for gymnastics.  He reported his first day was "Awesome!"

At 4:02 I returned home just in time to greet Logan off the bus.  Despite not getting to share her bag of 10 things yet, she had a great day.

At 4:15 we walked over to our friends to see how their first day went where Griffin's little buddy broke the bad news that yes, even though Griffin didn't get a yellow card, he did get his name removed from the Respectful Rattlers list--whatever that means, but hey!  We'll take what we can get.  No yellow card?  Success!

At 4:46 pm we left to pick Griffin up from gymnastics. He was sweaty and gross and totally happy.

At 5:06 we stopped at QT for first day celebratory drinks: Diet Coke, Strawberry Fanta, and Strawberry Banana slush.

At 5: 20 we returned home and went through backpacks and finished up new school year paperwork.  (That in itself should be a deterrent to having any more children.)

At 5:32 Daddy came home and all celebrated!

At 5:40 the children took a dip in the pool.  (It is HOT and muggy here!)

At 6:10 dinner was served.  Over dinner we talked about and assigned morning chores.  After much haggling it was still determined that chores would be a requirement.

At 6:33 the kids continued swimming.

At 6: 52 the baby got a bath to distract him from Daddy leaving for mutual.

At 6:58 Daddy snuck out.

At 7:10 the baby got out of the bath and Logan and Griffin showered and bathed.  I am not entirely sure that Griffin used soap, but by the time of my discovery, he was already out and dressed.  Does rinsing count?

At 7:20 I put the baby to bed.

At 7:41 I blow dried and straightened Logan's hair for the morning.

At 7: 47 I insisted that Griffin quit screaming and running with the dog and go get a book to read out loud to us in the bathroom.  He chose Green Eggs and Ham.  Logan was astounded that I could correct him without looking at the book.  I know my Suess.

At 8:00 I told the kids to brush teeth and say prayers..repeating that phrase at least three times.

At 8:07 I rounded the corner just in time to kneel with Griffin who told me he was going to say his prayers to himself, but then changed his mind and said them out loud anyway.  My favorite phrase?  "...and please bless that we will know what to do...and when to do it...and how to do it."  The boy has his bases covered.

At 8:08 We read one chapter of Vin Fiz.

At 8:17 We read one chapter of Nancy Drew #12.

At 8:28 Daddy came home and joined us.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

At 8:34 Daddy and I gave hugs and kisses and turned out the lights.

First Day of School finished!

Favorite Quote of the Day:
When we were walking into Meet the Teacher Night the evening before the first day of school, Logan said, mumbling to herself:  "Okay.  Stand up straight.  Shoulders back.  Chest out.  Deep breath."  I nearly couldn't contain myself.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Forgetting Regrets

Something my kids said the other day was funny.  So funny that I thought, "I have to write that down on the blog."  But I didn't.  Because while they were being funny, they were also being a handful, and I was busy wiping them or wiping something they spilled.  Or picking something off of them or picking something they dropped.  Or cleaning them or cleaning up after them.  You get the picture.

And now I can't remember what they said.  As often as I try to scour that spot in my brain, scratching again and again at the place where that moment once sat, I can not recall it.  I can only remember that I found it incredibly funny.  And that makes me sad, that empty spot in my brain.  (And, by the way, nothing looks any cleaner around here than it did before.  That makes me sad, too, but in a different way.)

Oooh, I hope in heaven I get a DVD of all the highlights, along with a remote control so I can rewind and watch as many times as I want.  Over and over until I'm filled.  Until all those empty spots of great moments that I meant to remember, or forgot to take notice of in the first place, are fully recollected, fully appreciated, fully present. 

Until then, I'll just keep blogging.

Favorite quote of the day:

Griffin (in the back seat tying his new school shoes--his first pair of tie-on's ever.)  Ugh!  I can't do it.  I only got half of the bunny ear in the--hmph!  (Now with a bit of a whine in his voice.)  I only have two arms, and I need three 'cause I have to make two bunny ears and then I can't get!

Me:  I've felt like that a lot of times myself.

p.s.  School starts on Wednesday.  I'll be back to regular posting on Thursday.  That is if anyone is still there.  "Hello?  Is this thing on?"