Yesterday I Was Not the Mother I Aspire To Be
Yesterday I was not the mother I aspire to be. I was short-fused, impatient, preoccupied, loud, stressed, dissatisfied, ungrateful, and mad at myself for all of the above. I tried and tried to bring it around, to find my center knowing that I was doing a great job of teaching Oliver and Lucy how to be short-fused, impatient, preoccupied, loud, stressed dissatisfied, and ungrateful.
It started at 6:00 a.m. when I woke up. In the dark of the morning, under a purple black sky, with my coffee in hand, I walked outside to the Treehouse, opened my computer, and began writing. I hated every word I wrote. For three hours, I wrote a few paragraphs, highlighted them, and clicked “delete.” Over and over, I repeated this pattern.
Instead of viewing my writing time yesterday as three hours of writing practice, I chose to interpret it as total failure and wasted time. As I left the Treehouse a few hours later, I heaved a heavy psychological backpack onto my back stuffed with self-dissatisfaction and writer’s despair.
I lugged that sucker into my house, into my home, into my kids’ bright and shiny new day by 9:00. I carried it while I drove them to preschool and dropped them off at their doors with kisses and hugs. I carried it as we listened to Kung Fu Fighting on the CD player for the thousandth time after I picked them up. I carried it during their lunch and afterward while I tried to talk on the phone with my website guy as they tore up the house around me.
When nap time came, however, and they were peeling the covers and sheets off the bed, screaming and pillow fighting and laughing and having a good ol’ time, all of the stress of carrying that unnecessary crap spilled out through my yelling mouth.
When the kids finally went down for their naps, I took Dharma on a long walk through the afternoon woods, breathing in and out, in and out until I relaxed. I walked back into my house finally centered.
Then I walked upstairs.
Paul was trying to help me get the kids ready for their swim class, which was in 20 minutes. But Oliver didn’t want to go to swim class because he wanted to stay home and shoot the breeze with the fireplace guy and Lucy wouldn’t let anyone but me change her diaper and dress her and she wanted to wear her princess dress and not the swim diaper and swim class was starting in 15 minutes and then in ten minutes.
Eight minutes before swim class was to start, Oliver was crying and I was yelling and threatening that if he didn’t want to go to swim class, “then he won’t be able to go to gymnastics (which he loves) on Monday either!” Irrational, empty threats barreled out of my mouth in a torrent. As the final exclamation point to my tantrum, I slammed the door behind me as I left the house and crunched through the snow toward the car.
Swim lessons were a blissful reprieve, but as soon as we got home “the moose” (Lucy) took my tall glass of water and dumped it behind the bookshelf while I tried to redeem myself by playing Uno with Oliver after dinner, bedtime came and went, and Oliver and Lucy again were screaming and jumping on the bed, thinking they were hilarious while I tried to poke their toothbrushes through their sealed-tight lips.
Despite my threats otherwise, we ended up snuggling and reading books and telling each other “I love you with all of my heart” as we turned out the lights on Mama’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
I was exhausted, not so much from the craziness of raising an almost-three and almost-five year old, but rather from carrying around the weight of that psychological crap I hung on to all day.
I poured a hot bath and picked up Mitch Albom’s newest book, “Have a Little Faith.” The book stems from a request to Albom by Rabbi Albert Lewis, “the Reb,” to write his eulogy when he dies. It’s an incredibly thought-provoking book, well worth the trip to the bookstore. Anyway.
Tears plucked themselves from my eyes as I compared my day to the Reb’s definition of happiness on page 102:
“So, have we solved the secret of happiness?
‘I believe so,’ he said.
Are you going to tell me?
‘For what you have. For the love you receive. And for what God has given you.’
He looked me in the eye. Then he sighed deeply.
When Paul came home from dinner with his buddies, I told him about what I had read while I swiped the tears off my cheeks. I told him that I hate when I let my stress get the best of me, when all that really matters is that we are together and healthy.
Our heads on our pillows facing each other, he smiled at me and said, “Janna, we are learning how to be parents. We are still young, still learning about Life. Most days are great. These are the days we learn from.”
My husband, the kid who struggled in school and joined tables with the other kids with “learning disabilities” is the wisest person I know. I’m lucky to have him in my life at the end of my most terrible days.
It’s true. We are still learning. Even when we become parents and are supposed to know how to live by now. And it’s also true that what truly matters is simple: be satisfied, be grateful, and have faith.
Yesterday I was not the mother I aspire to be. And because if it, I took a step closer to wisdom.