A Year of Habits, no. 20

I don’t know what to write tonight.

If I wasn’t almost 18 months along on this habit of reporting to myself each Sunday night, I’d skip it entirely.

In Church today I had a very sweet elderly lady say to me (after watching me struggle with children for over an hour) “You have such a beautiful family.”

And you know what I did when she said that?  I started crying.  Lovely response, wasn’t it?

Sometimes I hear words like that and think to myself, ” What family are you talking about?
Are you talking about the teenager who pokes his younger brothers and sisters, or the girl who rubs her hair on the bench and ends up looking like an orphan before we’re done, or the baby who always starts screaming and has to be rushed out of the room?  Are you talking about the little boy who lays on the floor and wails that he doesn’t want to go to class?  Surely you couldn’t be talking about my family.”

Then again, maybe she is.  Perhaps she sees something I don’t see.  Perhaps her perspective offers a picture that’s hard to see when your shirt has peanut butter smeared on it and someone just dumped the contents of your purse on the ground.  Perhaps there’s something there, something I don’t perceive when every conversation I have is interrupted half a dozen times and the carpet is buried under six inches of clothing.  Perhaps she sees us differently because she’s walked this road herself and looks back on the twists and turns and mud puddles with wisdom I have yet to gain.

Still, I cried.  I thanked her for her comment and said it was very kind of her to say it.  She followed by saying my children are so good.    Are they?  I wondered.  Will they end up as good as they need to be?  My response:  “Thank you again.  I believe they’re trying.”  Then I spent the rest of the day wiping away random tears that suddenly sprang from my heart to my cheeks before I could check them.

What, really, does it mean to be a good Mom?  It probably means different things to all of us, or perhaps we all have the same pile of answers but we tend to sort them in different ratios in our homes.  I’ll be honest.  Right now I have a whole lot more questions than I have answers.  I’m trying to learn.  Occasionally I’ll feel like I made good progress in one area only to turn around and realize I’ve regressed in another.  I find myself in an unfamiliar place right now, a place I’m struggling to master.

I almost want to laugh at the grand goals I set in January.  They also make me want to cry.  I see so little change from week to week, it seems a joke to try to quantify the progress.  Habits?  I can list the bad ones, but good habits?  Do I have any of those?  I hang on, however, to the thought that if I don’t give up I might look back at the close of the year and see something worth mentioning.

So here I am.

We finished our soccer season yesterday.  Still to come:  lacrosse playoffs and soccer tryouts for next year.

The house looks a little better.

I spent more time reading, both individually as well as reading aloud to my children.

I learned some new things this week, like how to piece curves and how best to prepare a hole for a peony root.  And how to make running to your car in a massive downpour with three young children in your Costco shopping cart an adventure.  (You take a deep breath, look around at the 50 people huddled near the doors watching for their husbands to drive up so they can jump in, then say out loud, “Ready, set, GOOO!” to your kids while you dash out in the rain and run through an inch of standing water in the parking lot that was dry ten minutes earlier while your five year old son yells “YES!” and your three year old daughter starts to cry, “Mommy, I’m wet.  Please, Mommy, please!” and your baby looks at you like “How could you do this to me?”  Then you drive home with your sopping wet clothes stuck to your back.)

Mostly I’m learning how unqualified I really am for my responsibilities as a mother, which makes me grateful for things like prayer and repentance.  And I’m trying to see that beautiful family that people mention occasionally, even when our messes obscure the view.

Two more weeks of school.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….

xo, Jennifer

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