Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why I'm out of the running for Mother of the Year. Yet again.

It is an extraordinary reality that children can suck the lifeblood out of you more than anything else on Earth...but pour life back into you in these tiny moments of wonder, too.

I was a crabby mother today.  I had a stack of paperwork last night that *needed* to be done.  Deadlines for paper grading, soccer sign-up, application for Jack's camp scholarship, and other things that had been building up.  I ended up staying up until 2AM to take care of things, until I practically crawled up the stairs into bed.

Today was this hamster-wheel of the most draining parts of family-rearing: bank run, library dropoffs, carpool lane, post office, grocery store, all the things around the house, etc etc.

One highlight was that dinner rocked tonight, and it was affirming to watch all three kids devour an arugula, crimini mushroom, sun-dried tomato saute. It was the first time I'd made it, and we were all shocked by how great it was. Jack even licked the bowl.  Now that Steve gets home hours beyond dinnertime, they're my taste-testers for my French cooking streak. 

But other than dinner success, the rest was just blah.  The I-stayed-up-too-late-and-was-woken-up-too-early blah.  

Everything was driving me batty.  Andrew leaving the sliding door open EVERY SINGLE TIME he came in or out.   Getting to the post office and Jack forgot to wear shoes.  Forgot? To wear shoes?  I was pretty spent at that point, and told him to come inside with socks and hope no one cared. No one cared. Simone suddenly forgetting how to put on any.article.of.clothing, while we were already running behind to get to preschool.  There's more.  So much more that I'd bore you listing all the things that exasperated me today.

Really, though: If they were writing this post, they'd talk about much I was driving them batty.  How their mother was annoyed and impatient and dragged them along on the lamest errands ever. 

By the time bedtime came, I was D-O-N-E.  I put down the little ones, came to tuck in Jack, and he asked if he could stay up later to read on his own. I agreed, but told him that I needed some space to get some things done.  Could he just turn out the lights and put himself to bed when he was done?

15 minutes later, he came down to ask something.  And completely-and-totally inappropriately, I just snapped at him:  "I...am...done tonight.  Finished. Please go to bed.  Reading is fine.  Wandering around the house is not."

His crestfallen face broke my heart.  He looked hurt and stunned.  And rightfully so.  And the unbroken bits leftover were smashed even more when he looked like he was holding back tears: "But. I didn't get any hugs at all today.  You were there all day, but your brain was doing other things."

My heart sank. He was right.

Perhaps the greatest miracle in mothering is how when you have NOTHING leftover... nothing to give...you can reach inside and find this hidden place of Extra Energy when you need it.  Looking at his face, I knew I needed to find it.

Deep breath.  Then another one.

"Jack. Today was not a good mothering day for me.  I'm going to work really hard to make tomorrow be a better one.  I can't fix today, but can we maybe go snuggle and talk about things?"

And perhaps the greatest miracle in childhood is how they can forgive with such purity.  No matter how many times I screw up.  They really want to connect with their mom, and even though that's an inconvenient reality to face some days (like, when I'm a crabby walking zombie mother)...I really am grateful for that.

This same little boy at whom I snapped wrote a completely adorable essay today about why he wants to go to Russian camp, for the scholarship application.  It was ridiculously sweet, about his dreams to live in Russia and be an explorer and learn how to live life differently - like putting shoes outside the door and eating borscht.  I can't wait to show his grown-up self this innocent, passionate essay from his 7-year-old self. He also wrote a superhero book, complete with illustrations, for his younger brother.  Played dollhouse with his 3-year-old sister, with the most incredible patience for trying to figure out her storyline and play along.

Agh.  He did not deserve the mothering he got today. None of them did.

When I think about who these children are...how much work they put into learning and growing and being...I really and truly have NO idea how their oversights (leaving out dishes, dirty clothes strewn down the hall) can be the problem I feel like they are in my stressed/tired moments.  Do they need to put their things away? Sure.  But I need to just step back and use my centered-mothering voice, and remind myself that they're still figuring it all out. 

I'm anxious to push the reset button tomorrow.