I’d like to please share my most recent existential (possibly PMS-related) crisis with you.
Recently, I had a thought I’m willing to bet most mothers have had: all I do is nag.
If it weren’t for us, who would say:
finish your homework
make good choices
eat your vegetables
use the hamper for the love of all the skid-marked undies
put on a coat
say please and thank-you
stop biting your nails DO YOU WANT THE CORONAVIRUS?!
let the dog out
we’re gonna need a courtesy flush
turn off your iPad
brush your teeth…for real
I mean, the list goes on, but who has the time?!
The point is this: it’s my job to churn out responsible citizens who don’t live in my basement until they’re thirty. To do this, I must remind and guide and teach, and the vessel through which it’s all delivered is the occasional gentle nudge. Which is to say I nag all day, errrry day.
It is an unfortunate necessity of the job that will hopefully reap lasting benefits, but here’s the thing: I don’t enjoy it. To be honest, I annoy myself. There are days *I* can’t even stand to hear my own voice, so I can only imagine what my kids think! Having acknowledged that, I know on an intellectual level THE NAGGING MUST GO ON. Some of what I say is actually sinking in, and I see a difference! I bear witness to my kids’ growth and progress and oh! does my heart soar!
Then my 10-year-old puts putty in his hair and I realize we’ve got more work to do…
I’m more than a decade into this motherhood gig, and I get so bogged down with the “business” of parenting that I forget there’s supposed to be joy in it, too. So much so that I’ve recently started wondering what my face looks like during it all.
Yes, I’m serious.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel so much pressure to keep track of and complete and remember all the things. And that’s just for my family of five, not to mention extended familial obligations and professional responsibilities! It’s partly my Type A personality, I’m sure, but I take that pressure seriously, and I feel it literally. The chiropractor is my crack. Anyway, Monday – Friday it’s go-time. My game face is on and we are pounding pavement, people! Then when 5pm on Friday rolls around, everything starts to slow down. I exhale. My family feels the shift. We all feel…
The weekends are such stark contrasts to the rest of the week that it makes me wonder what exactly my kids will remember about their school days. They’ll likely recall drill sergeant mom, rushing and frustrating them because that’s how we do around here with such a packed schedule. I doubt they’ll conjure images of the fresh fruit with every breakfast or clean sheets on their beds. It’s not because they’re ungrateful, it’s because that stuff isn’t important to them; it’s important to me for them. And so I’ve surmised:
The nagging is necessary.
Following a schedule is necessary.
Meeting their basic needs is necessary.
To fit in anything else seems impossible, but I’ve been on a mission to capture more of those Friday feels in our daily lives. I can’t add more hours to the day; I’m not cancelling school or practice (though I believe in the power of an occasional mental health day). I’ve considered but since rejected the idea of moving us to a yurt in Utah. Then it hit me: there is something I can do and it requires zero extra time. Actually, I’m embarrassed by its simplicity and the fact I haven’t been doing it this whole time.
What I can do is…wait for it…smile.
Not the kind of smile that masks pain or appeases others. A smile that is a shoulder shrug, a “no biggie,” a “this is not the worst thing in the world.” As a teacher, I understand how a simple smile or laugh can transform the atmosphere of an entire room. I use humor to de-escalate tense situations all the time. But as a parent? I struggle with this. Emotions and motherhood are synonymous. Emotions and logic are enemies. And now we know why parenting is so hard. I sometimes forget my kids are kids who have been on their best behavior, brains at max capacity, all day in school. And truthfully? It’s difficult to muster up a smile during my 100th demonstration of This is the Proper Amount of Toilet Paper to Effectively Handle a #2 Whilst Not Clogging the Toilet. I have to actively search for the joy among the chaos and try like hell to have some perspective when my 5-year-old leaves her milk on the table (again) and the dog jumps up and spills it (again). Because what I don’t want is my kids to associate this face with Mommy:
But ya know what? Life is too short to cry over spilled milk. Heh. Maybe old age has turned me into a walking, talking cliche, or maybe I just finally get it. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is has done a good job of nudging me into appreciating the present. It has been nagging me, reminding me to be mindful of what a gift today really is. I don’t say that because it’s all the millennial rage to be mindful and present and protest dairy. I say it because it’s only a matter of time until today is replaced with tomorrow and when that happens, kids and problems are bigger. I know this because my 8-year-old was a bundled baby burrito at my breast just a second ago and then this morning she told me a boy in her class like likes her.
There’s a level of peacefulness in acceptance. I can’t control the amount of time we have together or what my kids’ life experiences will be, but I can control how I manage it all. I think that’s why it’s important to be softer, with myself and with them. We’ll still follow our schedules and there’ll still be tears at homework time, but hopefully we’ll also find pockets of levity and come to appreciate the beauty hidden in the daily grind. That’s the goal, anyway.
Okay, crisis communicated and exhale completed. Carry on.