Friday, April 06, 2007

My Heart Stretching and Groaning: Four Vignettes of Motherhood


Several times in the past week I have dragged three-year-old with me on various errands, including doctor visits. Twice he has been offered special toys or treats by the people we have visited. Both times the little guy has looked up at the nurse/salesperson and asked, “May I have one for my brother, too” (meaning the five-year-old, his usual partner in crime when not at kindergarten)? Now, I don’t know about your kids, but such thoughtfulness is rare around here, especially at that age.


11-year-old is angry with me because I assigned him a bigger chore than he thinks is fair. He spends the day lying around sulking instead of doing it and therefore doesn’t get to play all day. By the end of the day we are both frustrated at each other. In exasperation he finally writes me a note: “Dear Mom, [Giant black scribble]. Love, A.”

It has been a long, horrible day for me which began with an invasive and extremely uncomfortable medical procedure and then a broken-down car. I am feeling sick. I am already an emotional wreck. I am trying to make it through to bedtime, which is still a long way away since hubby has Young Men’s tonight (and they are coming HERE and the house is a WRECK).

Son hands me the note. I take one look at it and burst into sobs.

Son, in absolute horror at what he has done, bursts into sobs himself and then delivers several more notes over the course of the evening about how sorry he is for hurting my feelings.


I try to keep the tradition of asking each child to give, at the supper table, a report on their day at school. I usually remember three days out of the week. I was really glad I remembered this time because, at the end of his report, 11-year-old says, “And the bad thing was that I decided to play basketball at recess, and they were choosing teams and they chose me last. But they argued a long time about who had to have me on their team.”


The really amazing thing is that he went ahead and played anyway—and then went back to them the next day and asked to play again. (He is determined to increase his skills.)

I am utterly blown away by his courage and, of course, am telling him so every chance I get.


I find five-year-old sobbing in his bed. “You like [three-year-old brother] more than you like me!” I ask him what makes him think so. “You call him by his nickname more than you use mine. And you make up more songs about him than you do about me.” Truth is, he’s got me there. I am guilty of both of those things. But NOT about liking the other brother more. Well, on second thought, I may even be guilty of that one, too. At least lately. But definitely NOT about LOVING the other brother more. Five-year-old has been so difficult lately that I see that he may be right about my likes. Definitely he is right about the nick-names and the songs. It doesn’t matter that he has never liked me to sing silly songs to him (will even ask me to stop)—doesn’t matter, because the emotional root of the matter is that he has picked up on my frustration with him lately. And that is so very sad. More sad is the sight of a tiny lump sobbing in a bed for a lack of mother-warmth.

I wonder sometimes if mother-repentance is just my natural state of being. Certainly it is during that half-hour after they are asleep and I am on my knees and all the mistakes of the day haunt me. Then, once again, I creep into their rooms and whisper my apologies to their quivering eyelids.


Ilove2travel said...

I see four delightful little boys whom I am always happy to have play at my house (unfortunately I can't say that about all my boys friends.) I see a mom doing a great job raising and loving those boys. I know sometimes my heart soars and I think I'm a really good mom and others when my heart is heavy and I doubt myself as a person, let alone as a mother. I think your/our experience is universal. How blessed we are to be able to take that ride.

Jennifer B. said...

I love this post. Motherhood kicks my bootie. You seem to handle it with such grace.

Darlene said...

Thanks, Barbara. I'm glad you don't mind having them around. They seem to have developed some strange attachment to your house (could it have something to do with all those TOYS in your basement?) and you guys have been so patient with them.

Not sure in what ways I'm being graceful about it. I think I'm just the opposite, bumbling along. Thanks for the nice words, though. (We are all so thirsty for nice words about mothering, aren't we?)