After Tahd’s five consecutive weeks of travel including one 12-day trip, I was tired of being Mama, tired of being the primary hands – the only hands. Every single night waking, every single rolled eye, every single rushed school lunch – they were all mine, and there wasn’t quite enough of me to go around.
He was tired, too, the little boy who loves routines and everything rough-and-tumble and boyish mischief, and he missed his daddy greatly. We anticipated his tire, which is why we planned the trip, the trip to meet up with Daddy in the middle of the “12-consecutive-days in the middle of the 5-consecutive-weeks.” There’d be missed school and airplanes and a hotel and swimming and adventures, and – most importantly – Daddy.
It sounds so idyllic in my head, so tender and precious and sweet to steal away on this little adventure. Reality, though, told a different story.
It was an fun adventure and it was sweet, but I had underestimated the toll “tired” would have taken on us. By the end of our trip, when, among many things, that “sweet little boy” keeping track of perceived wrongs had hollered out, “EIGHT!!!” after the eighth incident in which he declared I was “mean to him” and “inappropriate” and to “NOT talk that way again” after he had either talked back, scared his sister, or just generally disobeyed, I didn’t like him very much.
Not very much at all.
Our plane glided to the ground on the wings of monstrous, pounding snowflakes while the pit in my stomach grew as I danced with the thought of Wednesday and school. What if he had no school tomorrow? Could I endure another full day of dissension, debates, and disputes? We were even more tired with less in reserves than before our trip. I knew that the rate of the snowfall and the pace of our interaction didn’t bode well.
The thing about parenting – or at least the thing about my parenting – is the personal levels to which I let it affect my identity. On one hand, my children are quite literally parts of me, acquainted with my being in a perhaps more intimate way than even I could ever know myself. They have seen me, inside and out, have lulled to the rhythm of my life and heartbeat, and have caused both the most excruciating pain and fervent joy I have ever known. So, when things are not well between us, it feels personal to me, like a part of myself is failing, like I am not the mother they need, like I should be doing better.
What I feel…is shame.
On the other hand, I can only do my part. I can teach and reteach and illustrate and describe the hundreds of lessons they need for success, but only they can embrace them and implement them, especially the difficult ones – self-motivation at its finest. Perfection is not possible; good repetition is possible.
My shame keeps me from accepting that. I feel like I’m failing. I feel not good enough. I feel ashamed. I miss the bits of progress that happen beneath my nose, the nearly imperceptible bits of grace that peek through the crevices of my boy and threaten to unite into something exquisite and beyond my wildest hopes for his life.
Isla and I tossed and turned during the night, her restless and me trying maintain the fragile state of her sleep. An early-morning stolen glance at my phone informed me that a) his school wasn’t canceled, only delayed, and b) the roads were awful. In that moment, it was decided. We were staying home – not because we had to, but because I thought we should. And somehow, I’d make it work.
I’m thankful for new mornings, because by the time we started our day, the weariness of the last “12-consecutive-days in the middle of the 5-consecutive-weeks” had begun to dissipate and I had settled on a plan for the day. Gabe received a small sheet of paper detailing the day of “school-at-home” assignments, with permission to do them in whatever order he deemed preferable. We made fresh muffins, picked up, unpacked, and went about our day.
And it was very good.
I needed a day like this, a day where we were peaceful and side-by-side; a day when the smiles far outnumbered the scoldings and we never reached, “NINE!!!” I needed a day where I gave him both the structure and freedom that work for him, a day when we patiently solved one another’s problems together, a day when we anticipated problems before they started and carved a new path, a day when the good was repetitive. I needed to remember – to remember from the inside out – that it’s normal to not always like the people you love, and that it’s temporary, and that my thoughts and choices have a great deal of power over how long that lasts.
I needed a day when I remembered to put down my shame and just enjoy being his mama.
Today, I did that. Today I liked him, and I liked me, and I remembered that even when it’s not perfect, I’m still trying and he’s still precious.
It’s still snowing this evening, bit upon bit of heavy new snow keeping the landscape painted a crisp white, a fresh canvas that makes me think of new chances to paint a different story. And I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
Oh, how I love that boy!