The baby walked in front of our play-set swing while it was in use by the 6 year old, causing the littlest guy to be launched into a fresh mud puddle. That incident caused their teen-aged sibling caretaker to lash out at the swing rider eye-for-an-eye style.
I was working 3rd grade math word problems and navigating the world in an atlas with my 5th grader when the crying, muttering, muddy trio burst through the front door simultaneously bellowing their allegations against one another.
Negotiate a Truce
Trying to remain calm, I scooped up the dirt-caked toddler while attempting to negotiate a truce between the two warring parties. Reminding everyone about the value of self-control and sincere contrition, I made my way to the bathroom so as to hose off my toddler. Unfortunately, the only thing my youngest hates more than the bathtub is a shower that doesn’t include my full participation.
So, it was back to wailing and grinding of teeth as I rinsed the chunks of grit from his hair without getting myself wet (to the extent that was possible). After the miserable speed scrub down and torturous hair drying, I found myself engaged in mediation again, but this time between two new disputants, opposing sisters.
Needless to say, thirty minutes into this household trauma, my calm demeanor cracked under the pressure and I lost my cool, joining in the overly boisterous drama. Like a well-loved teddy bear who’s been tossed, toted and squished until its stitches burst, sometimes it feels like I’m coming apart at the seams.
Sure that I’d just made rank among the world’s worst parents for resorting to yelling (again), I threw myself a five minute pity party. The party might have lasted longer if it wasn’t for the 1½ hours’ worth of driving I needed to do in order to transport my four youngest to and from a play date and a birthday celebration that same afternoon.
Saint or Job?
Far too many times when I tell people that I am the mother of 8 children, they brand me as either a living saint or a modern-day Job. Wide-eyed at the prospect of managing/co-managing just shy of a dozen lives (counting my hubby in the mix), they tell me how they could never do my job. They place me on some imaginary pedestal, but the truth is that I am not superhuman nor even particularly patient. I am just a work in progress.
Maybe, I’m even a little guilty of holding myself up to some hardly attainable image of household perfection. When I lament about the fifteen piles of randomly stacked library books in every room of the house, the rarely visible counter spaces and the endless supply of dirty little boys’ socks littering the yard, my husband reminds me that this is a home and not a showcase.
It’s the place where memories get made and life gets lived. He’s right of course (but couldn’t those memories be just a bit neater?).
It would seem that this theme repeats frequently in my life as of late, this internal tug-of-war to rise above my deficiencies countered against the daily temptations to lose my stuffing. I’m certain that I could succeed in living up to all those preconceived ideals of sainthood and Job-like fortitude if only my house were tidy and my children continued their charming public personas at home. Then again, I guess we’d all be models of perfection if the world revolved according to our specifications.
Parenting is hard (often tireless) work, and children can fray your seams sometimes, but they are the surest road to sanctification. The 8 personalities under my care (plus the 1 who calls me wife) certainly test me daily, but at the same time they each make me a far, far better person than I could ever be without their help. They cause me to work toward being
- generous (sharing everything from my time to that last chocolate chip cookie)
- purposeful (because it takes structure and planning to move children from point A to point B)
- humble (nothing is quite as humbling as a child pointing out your left-over belly or your ineptitude at sports)
- patient (watching Elmo Goes Potty for the 20th time in a row)
- thoughtful (making sure their curriculum meets their individual needs)
- prayerful (whether I’m praying for them, because of them or for the world around them, they keep me praying) and
- persistent (they might call it nagging, but I call it persistence).
And when I fail to get it right, my love for them leads me to try anew every. Single. Day.
Along this parenting journey, I’ve employed some aids to help me push my stuffing back into place. Tune in next time to learn how I regain my sanity and refocus my direction when life steers me toward the cliff.
Crying baby © fresnel6 / Dollar Photo Club