I Have No Mercy for Kids With Mono and Other Tales

I found out last Saturday that my five-year-old daughter has mononucleosis. Of course like any good parent, I felt sympathy for my poor little girl who didn’t feel well. Then I felt relief. And guilt.

For the month prior, my daughter’s behavior was beyond horrible. Even asking her to put on her clothes was a battle. She would throw uncharacteristic temper tantrums, screaming that she was so tired and couldn’t do it. Her room remained a condemned area, as she refused for two weeks to clean it. She was grounded from a birthday party, the playground, dinner with the family–anything else I could think of–and yet she still refused to put even one dirty shirt in the hamper.

Hannah Grace has always been stubborn; refusing to do chores or taking forever to get ready in the morning was not beyond her capabilities, but she had reached such an impressive level of defiance that my visions of her future all involved jail time.

I spent nights crying in bed. All of my prayers started with her. In fact, I spent many nights after the kids had gone to bed walking up and down the hallway, prayer walking, casting out the demons that surrounded her room in Jesus’ name.

In fact, one night the urge to pray was so intense that I went to her room and laid hands on her sleeping body, assuming God wanted me to perform a mini exorcism. That night, Hannah Grace climbed into bed between Matt and me, and we could feel the heat emanating off her limbs as she snuggled next to us. She clearly had a fever. I figured God was giving me a sign that He was burning up the demons.

A few hours later, the fever was gone, and Hannah Grace was back to her defiant self. She said she didn’t want to go to school with venom in her voice, and I knew it was just another of her evil ploys. After all, I had already picked her up from school previously when she said she didn’t feel well, and she bounced around the house all day. We had gone to the doctor another time when she said her throat and stomach hurt, but her strep test came back negative. Clearly, I lived with a manipulative little faker.

So when the nurse called on Saturday and said, “Hannah Grace has mono,” I felt immediate relief that my daughter was not possessed by Satan. And then I felt guilt that I had thought my daughter was possessed by Satan. And guilt that I didn’t renew her gymnastics classes due to her defiant behavior and refusal to do chores.

Yep, that’s motherhood–doing my best to raise my kids well, seeking the Lord, only to realize that I wasn’t reading the signs He was giving me correctly; having to kneel before my child humbly, asking her forgiveness for not understanding.

And, yet, motherhood, is experiencing the biggest smile in my soul, the kind that runs from my stretched cheeks to my toes, as I watch my son round home plate and jog towards his dad who scoops him up in celebration. An in-the-park home run caused this little boy to run to his dad, his coach with tears streaming down his face because, as he explained, “I was just so happy.” These days are what make motherhood, life, amazing; the constant swinging of the pendulum through guilt and relief and compassion to joy and feelings that I don’t even know how to describe.

But I want to try.

I’ve know for some time what I’ve wanted to do, but, honestly, I’ve been afraid. A few weeks ago, God stirred in me that desire again. I attended Hutchmoot with my best friend Wendy, and I fell in love with the story, God’s story. His amazing Creation. His love story told through the pages of the Bible, a story that doesn’t end with Revelation but is just beginning.

I want to tell part of His story; I don’t know what part or where I’m starting, but I want to tap into the creative spirit that He’s given me, that’s He’s shown all of us by every beat of our heart, each breath that we take.

In order to write, though, to capture these moments of life that point toward God’s bigger story of hope and redemption, I have to give myself permission to let go of my blog. I already haven’t written as much as I would like, and that fact hovers over me and actually causes me guilt and disappointment.

The fact is that I want to write without the need to hit publish. I want to write and continue to write and see where my story takes me, but I can’t unless I release this need to write in this space.

These words are hard for me to type because this place has been such a significant part of my life for the last three years. I have shared my joys, my struggles–most of my heart–right here. And while I don’t have a large following, I am very aware that I have a great following of some of the most loyal and faithful readers out in this strange and wonderful world of the blogosphere. I call many of you my friends even though I’ve never seen you face to face!

Thank you for sharing this journey with me, and, perhaps, one day I’ll have a more substantial work to share with you again. In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll visit this space from time to time as my kids always provide the best material–after all, if I don’t write about it, I”ll forget it. And since I don’t scrapbook, my writing really is the best record of my kids’ childhood that I can provide. And now that I’m freeing myself from this space, perhaps I’ll be better at visiting each of yours.

Please pray for me that I would have the discipline to keep writing. And please continue to pray for my family–especially now that I have two kids with mono (Caleb was diagnosed yesterday…I’m hoping my tiredness and headache are just allergies)!

Three years ago when my husband bought me this laptop, I was angry that he spent this money. However, now I can only thank him. He gave me a gift that I never would have expected by renewing my passion (But please, please, Matt, do not buy me another one…even if parts of  this laptop are cracking).

May God bless each of you as you continue on in His story….


The Gospel According to Mom

As I sliced the red onion before me, I tried to surpress a smile. I was aggravated. My five-year-old refusing to do her homework, instead, distracted herself with a book, and I was tired of walking back and forth to the table trying to refocus her. Except, this time, she held a French cookbook and began instructing her imaginary audience. My aggravation momentarily subsided as I heard her lecture.

“This is the Word of God. The Word of God is very important.”

Okay, little theologian, I thought. What are you going to teach me today?

The spirit in us is God.”

Impressive, I thought. She’s tackling some very complicated issues.

But then her sermon took a strange turn.

“Restaurants are bad. Not all of the food there is healthy. We should eat healthy things. God wants us to eat the healthy food He has given us. You should eat protein. Cheese is protein, and milk is protein. Anything that comes from an animal is protein.”

At this moment, I didn’t know which feeling to embrace–the one that wanted me to laugh or the one that wanted me to close her ‘Bible’ as I listened in embarrassment.

“Fish is healthy. Now, I don’t like fish, but fish is healthy.”

And the lecture continued, a weird mix of our Bible lessons with the Food Network.

At that moment I had the fear that all parents have when they realize that their children really are listening to them, and I had the discomfort of knowing that they could take my words and morph them into some heresy that I’ve never uttered.

I pictured the scenario of Hannah Grace telling her classmate, “My mom thinks your mom is going to hell because you have red jello in your lunch,” or Caleb sitting in therapy crying, “I want to please God, but I just love Doritos too much.

And then there’d be Chloe who would just say, “Mom’s crazy. Pass the fries.”

I hadn’t recalled weaving any talks on the Holy Spirit with facts about hydrogenated oils, but apparently my daughter made the connection. And, frankly, that fact made my vegetables rest a little uneasy in my stomach last night.

I’m thinking this weekend we’ll order pizza….

picture via photobucket.com

School for the Escape Artists

The first social media outlet to go was Twitter. I never even tried Pinterest. Now, Facebook‘s days may be coming to an end.

It’s not them; it’s me, really. I still have my Twitter account, and I think I even have a Pinterest account (though, I’ve never logged on), but I can’t allow myself to use them. I know myself, and I know I’ll start the comparison game. I’ll find all the reasons I’m not doing life right or depriving my children of the perfect childhood, so I’ve decided to spare myself the torture.

I had never thought I’d treat Facebook the same way, but last night I started to reconsider my previous position. Post after post after post were from moms commenting on their children’s first day of school, and the moms were all crying. Those moms whose children won’t start until next week were squeezing their babies tighter, not wanting that dreadful day to come.

My first thought was, What the heck is wrong with them?! However, after reading how many moms were crying, I then thought, What the heck is wrong with me?!

My son starts first grade tomorrow, and the only emotion I feel is excitement. Yesterday, we visited his classroom, cute little desks filled with brand new workbooks and the hermit crab class pet to complete the perfection, and I wanted to start school with him. My daughter starts kindergarten in a week, and the very mention of school brings a smile to her face. When I visualize her wearing her plaid uniform and hair bow, I smile with her.

I know I’m not a bad mom for looking at school as an exciting time, but I can’t help wondering why I’m not more sentimental….

Last night, I lay in bed for a good while before I fell asleep. My mind was full of random thoughts, ranging from the sermon I heard two weeks ago to the bedtime routine of my kiddos when they were three. My mind stayed on the latter.

None of my children transitioned to the toddler bed well, and nap times were extremely difficult. At one point, we resorted to turning the doorknobs around so that we could lock the door from the outside and trap our kids on the inside in hopes of forcing them to sleep.

Caleb was the first child to defy nap time. I remember feeling like the victor after changing the knobs, knowing that I would finally have the ‘mommy time’ to clean or pay bills or just sit for a minute while he rested quietly in his room. That is until I saw him make his way down the stairs. How in the world did he get out? I wondered. After putting Caleb back in his room, re-locking his door, and finding this little boy down the stairs again, I repeated the routine but stayed camped out in front of his room. I would crack the code.

As I sat, I watched the lock magically turn to the horizontal position, and there stood my three-year-old, having pushed open his door with his Lightning McQueen suitcase in hand. I was baffled–until I saw that he was holding the zipper. Yes, my little boy learned how to pick a lock with the zipper on a suitcase.

I promptly removed the suitcase and locked his door again, but Caleb knew that his jeans also had zippers. I couldn’t even lock my son in his room.

I knew Caleb was clever, but I was hoping for different results with his sister. Hannah Grace, however, proved that she, too, had the criminal gene and picked her lock with the prongs of her nightlight. Chloe’s room had a dutch door so that we could see in her room while she was locked out. She didn’t mess with picking locks. Instead, she dumped out the baskets that held her shoes and simply stood on them, reached over, and unlocked her door. Pillows, dolls, and laundry baskets could also give her the extra height if she needed it. When all such items were removed, Chloe flung her body, catching her forearms on the top of her door. She would use every bit of her strength to wiggle up and over the top.

I was no match for them.

locked in

I’m not sure what started the train of thought that led me to thinking about those dreadful days. However, I did figure out why I wasn’t crying about school starting–I was all cried out.

What emotions did you experience when your children started school? Were any of you out there a successful escape artist as a child, or do you have an escape artist of your own?

*photo courtesty of Trevin Shirey via Flickr ‘Creative Commons.’

Content

I don’t typically write without knowing where I’m going or having a point neatly wrapped up in the midst of one of my stories about marker-stained carpet or stolen peaches. However, today I felt the need to just write. I’m not sure where this post will end, but I wanted to begin, nonetheless.

The last few weeks, I’ve felt this overwhelming surge of happiness. I’ve tried to attribute the source–a vacation with Matt that worked, prayer that had been answered, the right dosage of medicine, visits with the chiropractor to get my body working properly–but I’m not sure what/who is to thank; maybe all of the above.

All I know is that I feel wonderful. I still wake up feeling like I could go right back to sleep, but I’m able to shake that cloudiness once I get going. I’m not sure that happiness and feeling wonderful are even the right words to describe where I am. Perhaps, content is a better description.

Most of the factors in my life that caused me grief before are still here–Matt’s long hours at work, a constant feeling of being overwhelmed by the kids and house–but I have a sense of ‘okay’ with all of them–not that I’m okay with those factors but that I am okay, we will be okay.

I’ve been looking at my children a lot lately–obviously, I see them every day–but looking at that little spark that makes them them. I can’t help but smile when I see it.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to write a post about all that I had forgotten. We had found some home videos of the kids when they were babies and toddlers. Caleb on his second birthday–I had forgotten his little voice, the way he sounded when he said ‘hanga-burger’ for  ‘hamburger;’ Hannah Grace, how beautifully sweet and how deep her voice was, even as a little baby as she said ‘Bye-i;’ Chloe and the first time she ate the carrots that I hadn’t quite pureed enough, Caleb laughing a weird, throaty laugh in the background. That night, my heart and insides literally ached for those days, not because I wanted them back, but because I couldn’t remember. I grieved for those little babies and wanted one more time to squeeze them and suck in every detail, memorize the sounds and smells so that I would never forget.

I guess that’s the consequence of having baby after baby after baby–one loses brain cell after brain cell after brain cell, and I just couldn’t take in all those details that I now miss. I think that feeling of loss is why I’m drinking in their uniqueness now.

I look at Hannah Grace, and I marvel. This child has captured a part of my heart. Boy, she is stubborn, but that sweetness inside of her–I’ve never met another with it. I took her to a trial gymnastics class the other day, and I prepared a water bottle for her. When I told Hannah Grace that this bottle was hers if she was thirsty after class, she just looked at me for a moment, paused and smiled. She slightly cocked her head to one side and quietly said, “thank you.” Looking at her face, one would’ve thought I told her that we deeded her the house when she turns 30. It was as if in her little heart she thought, How am I so special? and Now it’s my turn after a year and a half of watching her brother’s baseball games. The gratitude quietly shone through her.

It was a small moment, quick and quiet, but my heart warmed all the same. I love this little girl.

We watched Annie the other night with the girls, and I realized, if Hannah Grace is my Punky Brewster,’ Chloe is my ‘Annie.’ I never understood why the babies of families tend to be spoiled; I’m starting to get a sense of it now. The other day, Hannah Grace called her little sister ‘stupid’ from the top bunk of her bed. Well, if that little three-year-old didn’t get to her feet and start climbing the ladder ready to pound her sister. I pulled Chloe off the ladder, chuckling inside at my little tiger. If Caleb had reacted that way, I would’ve been horrified. When I pray at night, I pray my feisty little girl will turn that confidence and fighting spirit away from people’s noses and toward her Lord and convictions.

Last night, Caleb helped me put away the dishes. He told me that I could sit down; he would do them for me. I told him we could make the chore go quickly if we did it together. And that’s my boy–emotional and sensitive and ever the people-pleaser. Too much like me. Sometimes, I look at him and want to yell, “No! You don’t want to be like me!” but then I remember how he wanted to go to the pool when it was busy so that he could make new friends. Yeah, he’s not totally his mommy, after all.

Sometimes I look ahead and wonder what scar I will have left on their skin. I picture my kids in therapy relating, “My mom just couldn’t ___”, or “My mom always ____.” I’m far from perfect, but I hope these three know how my heart swells when I look at them, how I think they are the most beautifully unique people I have ever met.

And then there’s Matt. He brought me flowers last week…and a few weeks before that. I’ve been trying to show more attention to his work shirts. We kiss a little longer in the mornings and smile a little more often when we look at each other. It’s the little things, and the sense that we’re both working together, for each other, that makes the work worth it.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I don’t hold back from sharing the ugly in my life. But writing authentically means I share the beautiful, too, and I’m finding the beauty in just living contentedly. I’m not complacent–I know God shakes things up often–but for the first time in a while, I feel different.

I spent some time with a good friend a week or so ago, and, after our visit, she said, “You sound good. You sound light.” I feel light. I want to see those little glimmers in the everyday, those ordinary moments, and like Hannah Grace taking her water bottle, I want to smile and say, ‘thank you.’

Linking up with Michelle and Jen. I’d love to read your glimmers of content in the comments below.


 

I’ll Never Judge


As I was pushing around the heavy steam cleaner, God brought to mind a thought that entered my mind seven or so years ago. Yes, God has a sense of humor, and His timing is perfect. The day when I couldn’t stand to look at the dark spots on the den carpet any longer, the day when I decided that this was the day to try to remove the evidence of little girls sneaking Mommy’s make-up and magic markers, God reminded me of an ignorant thought that I will never again think:

I’ll never let my carpet get this bad.

Seven or so years ago, I was sitting in the den of a husband and wife who had volunteered to coach other small group leaders. They were as nice as nice could be, and their two blonde girls throwing cartwheels here and there completed the picture of the happy family. But their carpet…

…I was momentarily distracted by it. The fibers were worn–there was no ‘fluff’ or softness left–and the once pale, beige color was spotted with dark circles throughout. And in that moment, I remembered thinking that if I were them, I would get new carpet.

Of course, I had that thought when I was only married a few years. I had never had to re-carpet my house, so I had no idea of the expense. And the most important fact to explain my ignorance–I didn’t have any kids.

I had no idea the futility of getting new carpet when little kids were bouncing around, intent on destroying everything of value in one’s home. I had no idea the time wasted in cleaning anything because Murphy’s Law said less than 24 hours later that same area would be covered in filth.

Therefore, God reminded me of all that I had learned in the last six years while I worked the stains that penetrated my own worn carpet. I felt a twinge of guilt as I remembered my stupid thought. I only had a steam cleaner because my mom passed her old one on to me, and I didn’t whip it out every time a stain hit the rug because steam cleaning was a time-consuming, cumbersome chore.

As I finished the last row in the den, I started to feel what could be described as satisfaction. However, before my body would even let me acknowledge that fulfilling feeling, my mind woke me up: You know everything you just did was pointless, right?

And I did, but I drug the heavy machine up the stairs, anyway, determined to make less of the bright colors that dotted the landing, decorated my daughter’s room. Less than one hour later, after I had drug the machine back down the stairs and emptied the dirty water, my children drove home the lesson of which God had reminded me earlier that day.

Apparently, construction paper when wet will stain carpet. My son’s anger over his sister boiling the panda food in her little play pot that he had created earlier in the day ended in black splotches all over the other sister’s floor.

At this point in the story, I did what any mother would do and gave up.

Since becoming a mother, I’ve given up most expectations. No longer do I expect clean carpet, and if I go to your house, I won’t expect it there, either. In fact, if I come to your home, you can count on the fact that I won’t judge anything.

If there are dust bunnies in the corner or blatantly blowing like a tumbleweed through your family area, I won’t judge. If your clean laundry is tossed on a chair in a wrinkled mess, I won’t give it a second glance, unless I decide to help you out and fold a pair of pants or two. If your walls have the renderings of Picasso wanna-be’s or the letter ‘d’ 17 times because your child just figured out how to write, I won’t even notice. And if your counters are covered with enough papers to convince me that you are in charge of simplifying the tax code, I’ll nod with empathy. I’m that important, too.

I don’t judge anything, anymore. Even you, well-dressed 20-something rushing through the aisles with a frown at the grocery store–I know you’ve just yet to be enlightened about the workings of a four-year-old and a mini shopping cart. Don’t worry; I don’t judge you, either. I just suggest that  you move to the other end of the store. Your thoughts might come back to bite you later.

What is a judgment that you used to make that you will no longer?

Saying ‘Yes’

The words of an older generation lamenting the children who will one day take their place ring with some truth. The problem with kids these days is that they need to learn the word ‘no.’ Of course, they are referring to an over-indulged generation that they feel gets everything it wants without working for anything.

My son has asked on more than one occasion for an iPod. He cites the fact that a boy in his kindergarten class has one. I cite the opinion that six year olds should not own electronics that cost more than a week’s worth of groceries. However, he now is on a quest to fill his savings jar thinking that if he earns $200, I will relent. I’m thinking that saving that much money will take a long time….

Nonetheless, I understand why he asks. More and more kids around him do seem to have fairly expensive gadgets, and, if I’m honest, he’s not faring too poorly, himself. Yet, lately, I’ve started contemplating that, perhaps, the problem isn’t that I tell him ‘yes’ but that too often he hears the word ‘no.’

I think of requests from him, requests from his sisters, simple requests really, and many times the answer is ‘no:’

Can we build a fort in Hannah Grace’s room and all sleep their tonight?

Can we have a makeover party?

I have my reasons. Sometimes, they’re valid–the kids misbehaved and, therefore, won’t get rewarded. Sometimes, my answers are a little more forced: They went to bed too late last night. Little girls shouldn’t wear make-up. Then I hear a little voice reminding me that it is summer–now’s the time to build forts. Little girls don’t have to leave the house with make-up on, but they can have a little fun with Mommy. I start to have a nagging feeling that I say ‘no’ a little too much because it’s just easier.

‘No’ doesn’t require planning. ‘No’ doesn’t keep me from the bills I want to pay or the myriad tasks I want to give my attention. ‘No’ doesn’t entail a massive clean-up.

But ‘no’ doesn’t reward discovery, create memories, or keep kids away from the T.V.

The other day, I read David Brooks’s article, “Honor Code,” in the The New York Times. Brooks argues that if Shakespeare’s character Henry V were in an American school, he would do poorly. He continues that today’s school punishes boys who are active and aggressive and adventurous compared to those who sit quietly in their desks, and these factors contribute to boys’ lagging performance compared to girls.

I would argue that there are many factors that would lead to a decline in educational performance and cannot simply be blamed on gender differences; likewise, not all girls fit the model of thoughtful, organized, attentive student. However, Brooks’s article did make me think about how I taught my former students and how I parent now.

I would argue that the thoughtful, organized, attentive student is easier to teach. Similarly, the orderly, obedient child is easier to raise. However, the adventurous student, curious child, the child who gets into trouble for dragging mud through the house or creating a culinary masterpiece all over the kitchen floor is the child whose mind is ready to absorb all the new information and discoveries that come his or her way.

I put a lot of pressure on myself as a parent, and I pray daily that I won’t fail my God or children. I try my best to teach good manners. I discipline my children when they break rules, and I monitor what they eat. All of these actions are important, but probably the easiest thing to do, getting down on the floor and playing, is the most essential.

God created children with curious little minds, and they learn through play. They create memories of the adventures they’ve had and journeys they’ve taken–assuming I haven’t thwarted all of this self-discovery by saying ‘no.’

Yesterday, I heard the hose running while I was in the kitchen. I stepped outside in the backyard where the kids were supposed to be playing, anticipating that I’d see them spraying each other in an attempt to cool off. However, I knew they didn’t have on their bathing suits and would be a mess, so I was already frustrated before I made my way through the back door.

They surprised me, though; instead of watering each other, they were watering a section of the garden that I never planted.

“We’re making a dam,” Caleb informed me.

“Yeah, we’re just like beavers!” Hannah Grace exclaimed.

Chloe mimicked her sister, and the three of them continued to flood the soil with water. My first instinct was to say ‘no;’ I could visualize the mud covering their ankles and shins. I saw the sloppy mess all over the kitchen floor and the work I’d have to do. Instead, I went inside and got a dirty towel. At least the area I carved out for a garden that I never planted would see some action.

We talked over some rules. They needed to ask before they turned on the hose so I could make sure I’d still have enough money to feed them next week; when they were finished, they needed to wipe off with the towel; and they needed to know the proper placement of the pine straw to stop the stream of water.

I was amazed that these little minds even somewhat knew the concept of a dam since, at their age, I would’ve thought they were just cursing (but then again, I never liked getting dirty). I was amazed that the three of them worked together without fighting. And I was amazed that I almost told them ‘no’ because I felt lazy.

Parenting is a tough job. From the time a baby is born, one can be bombarded with theories on eating, sleeping, and pooping. However, I’m starting to think that we made parenting harder than it needs to be. Perhaps God just wants us to let kids be kids.

Perhaps He just wants us to say ‘yes’ and let the kids play.

This morning I walked outside to see how the dam held up in the storm. It didn’t fare well–the neat wall of pine straw piled high to form a pool of water was strewn all over the muddy ground. Luckily, I know of some little beavers who can handle this mess….

 

Do you have trouble saying ‘yes’? If so, why do you say ‘no’ more than you should?

A Memorial Day Story

Yesterday morning, the family got up and dressed in preparation for what has become a tradition–our town’s Memorial Day parade. As I was going between kids’ rooms, Hannah Grace stopped me:

“We’re going to get candy today at the parade.”

Caleb immediately responded from his room, yelling, “It’s not about the candy, Hannah!”

“But I’m going to get candy,” she replied.

“It’s about our soldiers, Hannah Grace! I’m not even thinking about candy!!”

I chuckled and affirmed Caleb that Memorial Day is about our fallen soldiers, but, yes, Hannah Grace was right, too; people do throw candy from the floats.

Caleb then walked over to me and shared one small caveat: “I don’t care, but if they throw the candy in front of me, I”ll pick it up.”

And pick it up he did. For someone who didn’t care about candy, he did pretty well. In fact, when Caleb was given the task of picking out 15 pieces of candy from his bag, he agonized over the decision as if I told him his sisters were hanging off a cliff, and he could only save one.

Caleb’s intentions were pure–he wanted to reflect on the true reason for Memorial Day–but he got lured in by the candy and the fanfare and an excuse to go swimming. I, too, have trouble keeping my focus.

There are many veterans in my family, but I have never personally known someone who died fighting for our country. And while my family and I pause every Memorial Day to thank those who laid down their lives, to thank the families who have one less person sitting around their table for dinner, we cannot truly appreciate their sacrifice.

We are thankful, but we are thankful for something we do not fully understand. So to those who understand all too well, all year round, I hope you can accept our gratitude, even if we are naive. For one thing that I do understand is that if it were not for the brave men and women that you love, I wouldn’t enjoy our freedoms with the ones I love.

 

I started this post yesterday, but I think it’s going to take me a few more days to figure out this summer routine. I keep convincing myself that the kids will sleep later so that I can, too. Of course, we all know how that theory turns out. Anyway, here it is, a day late.

Does your family have any Memorial Day traditions that honor our fallen men and women?

I Make People Cry

I guess it goes with the territory of motherhood that we mothers can and will get the blame for anything that goes wrong. I’ve seen my 30-year-old sister blame my mom for her own lateness, and I’ve linked my kids’s disobedience to a prior stay at Grammy’s house. I don’t know why we do it, but I’ve heard my mom say more than once, “I get the blame for everything.”

We’ve had an emotional last couple of weeks at my house. Nothing in particular happened–my son just recalled every way that I have failed him as his mother.

Oh, the tears flowed because Caleb decided that I was never going to give him a little brother. He is so lonely. The girls don’t play with him. Why can’t I just give him a little brother?! Well, buddy, perhaps talk to your sisters about that one. After they flooded the bathroom is not the time to mention to me that you need another sibling.

And while I know that I cannot control the gender of any child that I have or will have (if I go completely crazy), I at least see the logic in Caleb’s plea. However, he really threw me for a loop when he blamed his misery on my giving a dog away that he doesn’t even remember because he was maybe two when the incident happened.

I should’ve known that stupid dog would haunt me for the rest of my life. I see his rebellious spirit residing in my kids when they poop outside, remembering how he would only pee inside. When I sleep at night, I dream about his pathetic face; although, that fact may be due to my mother who loves to taunt me by giving me Boston Terrier pajamas for Christmas.

Yes, Baxter continued to haunt me as my son cried in the middle of the neighborhood. An innocent bike ride turned to sudden tears when the appearance of an old, 75 pound, long-haired retriever brought back memories that Caleb didn’t have of our young and lean Boston Terrier.

“Why did you have to give away Baxter? I miss him so much.”

Because he was crazy, and no you don’t.

Nonetheless, he cried and cried and cried–in the middle of the cul-de-sac as he dismounted his bike; at the top of the stairs as he got ready for bed; and when his misery entered his sister’s body, causing her to cry for the dog that I gave away when she was six months old.

At that moment, I sighed and accepted my fate. I was the mother who deprived my children of a life with a neurotic dog. I was the mother who denied my three children of a fourth to drive me crazy. I was to blame for the thunder as we made our way to the pool, and I was at fault for the taste of broccoli. I stunk.

And one day, I would make some therapist a lot of money.

What’s the craziest thing for which you got blamed? (And does anyone else out there have a pet that continues to haunt you?)

Looking Forward to ‘Goodbye’

photo courtesy of Erich Ferdinand

The last time Matt left for one of his trips, the kids listened as the garage door closed and then cried. They gathered around me in a circle, and the hysterics began. ‘Goodbyes’ are painful, and I’m not looking forward to the next time Matt leaves with a packed suitcase.

The last few months, I’ve had to deal with my own ‘goodbyes.’ They were also painful, but I’ve decided they are for the best. A few months ago, someone pointed out to me that perfectionism is not a good thing. I had always thought that my strong points were that I’m a perfectionist and have high expectations–I work hard until the job is done, and I never turn in sub-par work. People can depend on me. However, this person revealed to me that I’m setting myself and others up for unrealistic expectations.

I’ve really had to process through this idea, something I can’t do in five minutes, yet the moment I owned this fact, I felt like I could breathe a little deeper. I can never be perfect, and neither can those in my life. I can’t change the way others are or our relationships in some cases, but I can acknowledge and work within our reality.

I’ve packed my own bags and have headed out the garage door. I don’t know that anyone is crying (except for me a little), and unlike when Matt leaves, I’m looking forward to this ‘goodbye.’

When I saw the topic for this week’s ‘Five Minute Friday,’ I almost immediately had this idea. However, because I’ve lowered my expectations, I decided I’d write on Sunday, instead. For those new to ‘Five Minute Friday,’ the Gypsy Mama encourages us to write for five minutes without changing our thoughts or editing–we just get the words down. What ‘goodbyes’ have been good for you?

 

Just Like My Girls

I need to work on my reactions. For instance, the other day the assistant principal at my son’s school confided, “I would try for another child if I could be assured I would have a girl just like yours.” After staring at her blankly for two minutes, I decided I should emerge from my shock and paralysis and say something. I should’ve just said, “Oh, thank you,” or something of that nature, but instead I admitted, “They are really tough.” We then shared a moment of confession that our children were not perfect and could, in fact, wear us out.

A few hours later, I wondered if this woman would still want my girls after their afternoon of making ‘smoothies’ with a bottle of blue cheese dressing, bananas, leftover chicken soup, parsley from the garden, milk, and, of course, dirt. I will admit that if she did still want them, they now knew how to scrub the kitchen floor.

However, the next day I was convinced that, no, she would not want my girls after she found out that they stole candy from underprivileged children. Yes, here I was collecting Easter baskets from my son’s school to take to a local ministry, and my girls were climbing over the back seat of the van trying to snatch a quick piece of candy before I got back out of the van to strangle them.

I don’t know how long it took me to leave the school parking lot, but I do remember that once the two-year-old latched onto the four-year-old’s plan, I felt like I was involved in the longest running circus act ever. I would buckle the two-year-old in her car seat, and as soon as I walked around the van to my seat, she would unbuckle and jump over the back to the baskets beneath. As I wrestled with her, the four-year-old would look for her chance to snag a piece, herself. Then I entered panic mode as I knew I shouldn’t beat them or scream obscenities in the Christian school parking lot, but I had to stop the madness. I decided to quietly fling them around while muttering threats through clenched teeth.

I immediately recognized the irony of the situation. Here I was, good Christian mother delivering Easter baskets to spread the message of love and peace, while my girls and I violated at least four of the Ten Commandments in the process.

And once again, I should’ve chosen a different reaction. The rest of my day was clouded with thoughts that I must truly be the worst disciplinarian ever. I could hear the chorus of stern mothers and fathers from a previous generation admonishing me that their children would never act that way, and I decided that none of my friends’ kids from this generation would act that way, either.

I was a failure, and my girls would grow up to inhabit the local prison. They would earn the nicknames ‘White Chocolate’ and ‘Cocoa Puff’ for their string of candy store thieveries. And I would die of a broken heart, my house empty of all sweets because they brought too much pain.

While I replayed the Lifetime movie I directed in my mind, I neglected to remember why the assistant principal the day before wanted girls like mine. My two girls have learned the names of every teacher who helps at carpool. As we pass through the line, they beg me to roll down the window so they can yell their ‘hellos’ to the teachers and share their waves and bright smiles. On days when we stop in the school, my girls look in the assistant principal’s office and wrap their arms around her when she’s at her desk. They bring joy to every person they meet.

And sometimes heartburn, but mostly joy.

They are good kids with strong personalities, much like their brother. Luckily, age five seemed to be the ‘coming of age’ period when he graduated from stealing from the poor and actually started giving. I forget that fact, though. I forget that I actually don’t want a ‘weak-willed child;’ I just want to direct those strong wills toward productive causes. I’d like to think that Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks broke a few rules as children.

I know my job as a parent is extremely important, but I can’t discount the importance of personality, either. I look at my sister and me. I never got a detention my entire school career. My sister met her future husband in in-school suspension. We both came from the same parents. We both are good women; in fact, if I were to say who is the more loving, thoughtful, and generous person, I would have to say my sister. She just happens to do what she wants.

Sometimes I forget that I’m not the only mother who struggles. I’m not the only mom who tells her kids ‘no’ to have that ‘no’ challenged. There are some people who just have to see how close to the edge of the pool they can get before they actually fall in. And, unfortunately, sometimes, they will fall.

I can’t forget, however, that there is no fall too big that God’s grace can’t cover. Of course, I don’t want my children to have big falls. I hope that when they challenge my ‘no’s’ the discipline I give will sink in one day. I hope that the many literal messes I’ve made them clean up will teach them responsibility and the idea that every action has a consequence.

If not, I know I’ve given them the tools to start a successful house cleaning service together.

I know there are other parents who feel as I, parents whose kids do test the boundaries. It’s hard to open up to other parents whose kids are mild-mannered and obedient most of the time. When I see my kids misbehave, I feel like the failure. I feel embarrassed. And while I am not opposed to trying out other discipline techniques offered from others, sometimes I just want to hear that my kids aren’t the only ones who steal from Easter baskets. I want to hear another mom say, “My kid just pooped in the backyard today. What a weirdo.”

Parenting is rough. The responsibility is enormous, and for this perfectionist control-freak, leaving my kids in God’s hands is scary. However, I will continue to do my best to teach them right from wrong and choose the appropriate measure for when their choices are not so hot. And one day, when my kids are grown up and no longer ‘hiding’ underneath the dining room table while eating ice cream or cutting each other’s hair, I promise that I won’t forget that at one time they did. And when that young mom shares that she doesn’t know what to do; her kids are out of control, I’ll say to her:

“Oh, honey, that’s nothing. My girls stole Easter candy from underprivileged children…and I wouldn’t trade them for any other kids in the world.”

What crazy stories can you share about your children? What stories horrified you at the time, but now years later cause you to laugh?