Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Not Throwing in the Towel

I admit it. There are several times during my 20+ years of parenthood when I have felt like maybe I’m not cut out for the job. When my kids were infants, a casual lunch with a friend might push me over the edge. She would glow and brag about how motherhood was just the best and how there weren’t enough hours in the day to spend with her golden child. It’s not that I didn’t love my children, but there were multiple times when, frankly, I had no clue what I was doing and it seemed like maybe the kids had caught on to that fact. This parenting thing, in case you haven’t noticed, is a rather inexact science.

When we brought my second son home from the hospital, I distinctly remember putting him in his crib, standing over him, staring and thinking: “OK. Now what?” It was one of the most important moments of my life and I felt completely alien to it all.

While some of my friends lamented leaving their children with a babysitter, I had one foot halfway out the door at the mere suggestion of giving us a night out. I wasn’t crazy about arranging for a babysitter, but if somebody offered, I’d be all over it!

I had a secret deal with myself: I would try not to criticize other parents out loud because I had no clue what kind of parenting genes I had. When the day care director told me that my son had hit a girl in his class, I dragged him to the car, drove him over to the girl’s house and made him apologize to the parents. Then I stood on their doorstep and sobbed. To me, it was evidence of my complete and utter failure as a parent. But it was not. Although my parenting skills were mediocre, I had once again gone overboard with disastrous results.

When my daughter’s impatience and frustration bubbled over into intense fits of rage, I assumed that I was soft and that any other more qualified parent could have prevented it from happening. Maybe that’s true, but then again, maybe it’s not.

Throughout the years, as I indulged my children because it was easier than arguing with them, catered to their culinary preferences and pretty much molded our life around them (often at our expense), I worried that I had fallen asleep at the wheel of the parenting minivan. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t wish that I would have done something differently.

Still, I look at my kids today and think: Somehow it all worked out. Despite my half-baked ideas and less than stellar efforts, my kids are pretty great. How the heck did that happen?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Expect the Unexpected

There’s a book that hasn’t been written. If it were, it would go right alongside all the other “What to Expect…” books that are now collecting dust in my library. The title of this book is What to Expect When You Have a Teenager. Here’s a brief outline:

Chapter 1: Indifference
Chapter 2: Attitude and Lots of It!
Chapter 3: Stuff…Everywhere…And the Inability to Find Any of It
Chapter 4: No Information on Anything…Ever
Chapter 5: From Zero to Mad in Less Than 6 Seconds

I could on and on and on. Actually, I think the book should really be titled: What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting It because that is really what parenting a teen is all about. It’s about being blindsided on a daily basis by mood swings and hormones and fits of rage, inexplicably followed by moments of sweetness and laughter. It’s the roller coaster of parenting and it’s one hell of a ride.

The funniest part of it all, is that just when it seems like you can’t stand anymore, it’s over and you miss them more than you could ever imagine. In what other relationship in your life would you put up with this? Seriously, this has dysfunction written all over it!

Still, generation after generation of parents go along for this thrill ride. Many even get to ride it several times. That’s when aging mercifully gives us memory loss, diminished hearing and poor eyesight, shielding us from the bare, naked truth – parenting a teen is not much fun at all. (Except for never having to go to Chuck E. Cheese ever again in my lifetime. For that I am eternally grateful.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

An Abundance of Blessings

You can disagree with me on this, but I'll argue till the end. I'm pretty sure that I have the best friends and neighbors…in Wisconsin...anywhere, actually. In fact, I'd take mine over anybody else's any day. Bar none.

This past week, while my family and I were dealing with the grief of losing a son and a brother, our friends swooped down on us, fed us, offered a shoulder to cry on, shoveled our snow, walked our dog, picked up our mail, house sat, helped us find photos and memories and were there for us at all hours. Rarely have I felt so loved and cared for in my life.

There is such an amazing community spirit here that it has truly eclipsed our sadness. To say thank you would seem trite. What we can say is we are so truly blessed.

Someday soon, I'll tell you all about the lady that hugged too long, the priest that cried during the entire sermon, the 80+ year old man that kept telling my son he was my husband's classmate and the darling young boy who when thanked for coming said: "Thank you for having me." Because even amidst sadness, I find humor lurking around every corner. But that's just me.