I fear I may have misled you into thinking that I’m a sweet, loving mama all the time. Maybe that’s because I long to be that mama every hour of every day. I want to be calm, peaceful, zen-like, leading my children through this wild world with patience and love like Mother Teresa.
She never had kids of her own, you know.
Ideally, when the kids meltdown, scream or beat on each other for no reason, my thoughts go something like this:
Her needs aren’t being met. She’s having a hard time, not trying to make me bang my head against the wall in frustration. She needs something that she isn’t getting in this moment.
I respond by staying calm, figuring out what is needed and providing it. Good Mom.
But there are days like today, when I don’t have a fucking clue what they need. Hell, I don’t even know what I need. I turn into beastly mom. Long streams of words fly around me while I attempt to regain some sense of sanity. Then I try to tell myself I need more fresh green juices to power through the day. It should be that simple, right? Then I blame Lyme or gluten for my own bad behavior. Finally, I convince myself that the kid’s difficult behavior is a genetic mutation from the Husband’s side of the family.
I keep looking all around me to figure out what the hell is up with my seriously discontent children.
There is one place that I am not looking.
Damn it. Now I have to look at me. I don’t want to yet, though I know my kids often reflect my inner issues right back at me. These are issues that I don’t show the world, but somehow my girls can feel. The Princess breaks into tears in large crowds when she feels out of place. Deep down I’m wailing with her. When people say things she doesn’t want to hear in a moment like that, she will scream “move away from me!” Man, I would love the freedom to announce, “Clear this space people! I’ve had enough of you!”
When her sister hits her breaking point, you may see me duck for cover. Once, in a fit of rage (at age 6) she found her super-human strength and took her mattress out of her room and threw it down the stairs. Take that mom! I was so astonished by her defiance (and a little impressed) that I laughed. Bad mama?
I imagine I could fling mattresses around with ease if I fully unleashed my inner rage. It’s currently carefully ironed, folded and stacked neatly inside my torso like a fitted sheet in Martha Stewart’s linen closet.
The picture of bliss I often paint is a half truth. Here’s the thing about being home with your kids all day as a homeschooling mom: it’s beautiful and disgusting all at once. It’s invigorating and amazing and exhausting and terrifying.
Sometimes parenting (and life) sucks. It’s harsh. Sure, there are moments of amazing beauty and sweetness too. We like to simplify this idea and say that it’s a combination of light and dark. One cannot be experienced or appreciated without the other.
True enough. That’s a polite way of explaining the good, the bad and the beastly aspects of life and motherhood.
I think it’s more like having your bathroom remodeled to resemble a luxury spa (jetted tub and all) but just when you are settling in to enjoy it, the septic tank backs up into it and all over the front lawn too, so the entire world can see and smell the crap you’ve been burying for years.
Has a septic tank ever blown up all over your world? I hope not. But if it has, I bet you do what we all do.
You clean up the mess as best you can. And you move on.
I’ve come across too many people lately who are spouting that the world is all good and beautiful. You know the philosophy…if you just focus on the good, it feels like the evil doesn’t exist. I’m not saying it doesn’t work. I know that it does. It’s a choice and it’s often denial and I’m a big supporter of it, to a point.
I draw the line at blatantly lying to yourself and your children.
When you are stuffing it all down, refusing to admit that life can suck badly, that the world can be terrifying, then you have a problem. While you’re busy trying to convince everyone around you that your life is all roses and cupcakes, that it all comes easily to you, that you never lie on the floor weeping or hide in the closet for a moment of peace, something nasty starts to seep out around edges of your life. It reeks as bad as the exploded septic tank.
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter–bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”
So how does a person not become consumed and enticed to feed on their own bitterness?
I don’t know what a therapist would say. My answer is simple.
Have you ever tried to hold in vomit? I’m serious. Think of that feeling. Once, when I was struggling with deep, raging anger, I would feel like I was going to vomit if I didn’t let it out, talk about it, yell or throw a dish or two. When I did let it out, the feeling would go away.
So that’s my simple answer. It’s my way to stop the beastly mother from taking over and stomping all over little children’s hearts. Stop pretending things are perfect. Stop holding in the anger, resentment and hurt. Let it go. Vomit it out all over the page or all over the sidewalk. There is no more room inside the tank. Say screw it, this isn’t going to hold me back for another moment.
The perfectionist side of me wants to only tell you about the awesomeness of mothering and homeschooling. I want to scream with excitement over who my girls are becoming, because I love them. And when you love someone (or three) you want the world to know. But there are days when I want to scream and cry just like my little Princess. Usually, I find that I’m holding on to something that is begging to be let go.
Today, I apologized for my beastliness. They apologized for their unnecessary roughness. There were hugs and forgiveness. We needed to clean the slate so we can start fresh. Again. Each day holds a new challenge.
Tomorrow may feel like scaling a cliff with a few little people dangling from ropes in the air behind you, depending on you to know what the hell to do next even though you haven’t slept a full night in thirteen years (but who’s counting?). Occasionally they grab on to the cliff and work with you, making your job nearly effortless. Often they decide it would be more fun to swing out from the cliff through the air, laughing and savoring the adrenaline rush. Your rush is probably different. You look down in fear. This causes you to lose your balance, your focus and maybe your lunch (if you were organized enough to remember to pack one).
When you find your balance again, the sun is going down. Suddenly, you look out at the sky and into your little ones eyes and the view lifts your heart to a height you’ve never known before.
It’s exhausting and exhilarating. It’s horribly imperfect and so very worth it.