This morning is a good morning.
It’s actually the kind I imagined as a kid. (I was the type of little girl that always dreamed of being a mother and glamorized it endlessly in my mind, which is funny, because I was the oldest of five, so I actually could have fairly easily figured out that raising children looked different from my picture, had I… I don’t know… paid any attention.)
But in any case, it’s been really nice so far. (It’s early yet.) The girls woke up at a pretty normal time (Brian’s still sleeping) and stayed relatively quiet for the earliest part of the morning. (We have rules here about morning quiet hours. Some of you would scream “abuse!” and others would be jealous, but at any rate, it rarely works so well. But I keep trying, because that’s what this highly-sensitive mama needs to be a good mama.) Then they sat and read and talked with each other about interesting bugs, birds, and animals they saw in their book.
It’s the kind of morning I try to capture, because they’re so darn sweet and these just don’t come around that often.
Take yesterday, for instance.
Yesterday was hard.
I spent hours and hours doing the difficult kind of parenting that somehow never figured into my fantasies. Neither girl gave any bothers at all what mama said, as far as I could tell. For instance, I had this conversation with one of them, easily an hour before she was supposed to be up and talking:
Girl: Mama! I found the clippers.
Me: I found them for you, and it’s not time to talk.
G: I know how to keep my nails kind of long without clipping them!
M: Great. Still not time to talk.
G: But look what I found!
M: I’d love to see it and hear all about it… when it’s talking time.Which I keep saying, but you haven’t responded. I’d like a “yes mom.”
G: IT’S A FILE! ON THE CLIPPERS!
And this was how it began. It’s a small thing, but this is basically how the day went down. I talked, they ignored. And so I consequenced. (Yes, “consequence” is a verb in our house, according to the talking small people.) I got more assertive as the day went on.
There were long standoffs. Hours. “YOU! DO NOT! HAVE AUTHORITY! OVER ME!” was frequently shouted at me by one of them.
And I did what I needed to, as best and as calmly as I know how.
But the necessity of it made me doubt myself. Hours of preschooler standoffs scream to me, “YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY BE DOING THIS RIGHT!”
Last night was my Process Night. Andrew and I swap nights every week. One night a week I take care of dinner and bedtime while he goes off and reads or wanders or does whatever he wants, really, and another night it’s my turn. Last night it was my turn. And thank goodness, because I was DONE. My hope had been to write some before going to a friend’s house, but writing didn’t happen, because spending all day parenting in the most active and unpleasant ways sucks all the coherent thoughts right out of my head. So I read some young adult fiction while I ate dinner, then went to hang out with a friend I’d not gotten much time with the last couple of months.
This friend is dear to me, but also very, very different. She’s very rational and organized and consistent with her kids. When I have issues with my kids, I actually frequently think, “You know, if I parented like she does, I bet I wouldn’t have these issues. She doesn’t seem to.” So, given my day, I was a little apprehensive about telling her the truth about my day, because, though she’s too kind to say so, I was just sure she would’ve done better with my scenarios today than I did. She doesn’t have days like this.
But, as it turned out, she does. And it was an incredible gift to me to hear this mom had basically the same day I did. She is so dear to me, but also does it so much like I wish I could, and she has the same problems with her kid of a similar age.
Suddenly, maybe, just maybe, I’m not doing it all wrong.
So… What if I’m that mom for one of you?
Honestly, I try really hard to have my stuff together in general, at least in public, not because I want to look good to you all so much as because I hate feeling flustered and my kids getting out of hand when I’m out and about flusters me. But also, I feel like it’s total chaos so much of the time (and I see all my lows) and I have a hard time imagining someone thinks I have it all together. But I’m betting my friend feels the same way sometimes. So, just in case, what if I am that mom?
Let me give you one of the many gifts she gave me last night. I’m just going to be honest.
I have no idea what the heck I’m doing.
I’m making this up as I go, probably the same as you.
I love my kids, same as you.
I want desperately for them to grow up into kind, functional human beings. I want them to fall in love with Jesus and follow him with their whole hearts. I want them to know how to respond to authority. I want them to know how to interact with peers. I want them to know how to treat those smaller or weaker than they are. I want them to be respectful and to clean up after themselves and to care for the people around them.
And I don’t know how.
I have read dozens of parenting books. I have decent instincts and a great and deeply internalized model for motherhood. (Thanks, Mom!) I know what the Bible has to say. I have the Holy Spirit guiding me. But I still struggle to apply it all and come up with the right thing to do at the exact moment that one of the kids does something crazy. (Which is basically every minute of every day.)
It’s not an easy gig, this mothering thing. I get it. I’m with you. We’re all doing what we can with what we’ve got. And that’s okay.
You aren’t doing it all wrong. You’re just not.
In case you thought, based on the beginning of the post, that my day or life is perfect, it’s spiraled completely out of control. While writing this, one of my kids, within my sight, took 15 seconds of inattention to stand on the table and spin the light fixture and the thing fell half out of the ceiling.
So I may not be doing it all wrong, but I’m clearly not doing all of it right, either.