Saturday, December 15, 2012

Good times on a dark day

It's well past midnight and I really should be asleep, but I didn't know how I could let a day like today pass without writing down some thoughts.  I know tomorrow I'll be paying for this late night vigil when the kiddos, as usual, wake up well before dawn.

Even before the horrific tragedy of this morning, before the lives of 20 school children were taken by a gunman, I had been thinking about my time as a stay-at-home mom.  I've wondered if I'm doing enough to maximize these precious few years when I have them solely in my care.

So many times I struggle to be present and to stay engaged with my children.  I love the feeling of "getting things done" and it doesn't help that my mind is usually racing a few hours ahead at full speed.  This often leaves me distracted or too much on a mission of one kind or another as I pass the day- be it cleaning, or doing our finances, or grocery shopping, or whatever seems a priority for the day.

But when I try to really get down and play with the kids, it often erupts into bickering among the children or frustration that mom doesn't know how Hot Wheels tracks are to be built to meet a five year-old's approval.  And then when it's time for playing princesses with the three year-old, I get them dressed all wrong.  And the book pages aren't turning fast enough when it's reading time with the 18 month-old.  And how could have I gotten out the crayons when he really wanted watercolors?  And then diaper changes turn into a game of "kick mom's face," immediately followed by a game of "catch me if you can" as she runs around baring her naked little bum cheeks.

All of the sudden, toilet scrubbing and mopping floors seem so much more appealing.  At least I'm good at doing those things.  Why is it that the one thing I've chosen to do full-time feels like the one thing I'm the worst at?

I understand how so many stay-at-home moms, including myself at times, develop Facebook, or Pinterest, or blogging addictions.  It's an escape from the sometimes cruel and unforgiving reality that we face on the home front battling unrelenting little tyrants.

I've firmly come to believe that an absent mother in the home, is worse than a mother outside the home.  And yet far too often, I'm that absent mother.

Tonight as we tried to pass the time with Dennis being out of town, I suggested that we watch a Christmas movie together.  Of course they chose the one with the talking dogs, the cheesy singing, and the predictable lines- all the things that I detest in a movie.  I was tempted to settle them in with popcorn and drinks, and to keep checking things off my To-Do list.

And then I thought of what had happened earlier today in that Connecticut elementary school.  I looked over at Luke as he sat on the couch, with his gorgeous eyelashes, and thought to myself, "Good heavens, children his age were gunned down in cold blood today as they arrived at school with their tiny little backpacks and lunchboxes that their mothers had packed for them this morning."  I couldn't bring myself to imagine what it must have been like.  It was too horrific, even for thought.

I thought of Camden and the deep concern he had expressed for the families of the victims when we had discussed it earlier this evening. I realized that as of today, the world he lived in was now changed and fundamentally different than it was from when he woke up this morning.  A piece of his innocence had been stripped away.

So I sat down and endured the whole 96 minutes of excruciating cheesiness with them.  And who woulda thunk, I actually enjoyed myself as the shamelessly predictable story line unfolded itself and the magic crystals sparkled for Santa and his talking dog.

Then I decided it was time to educate my children on an essential piece of pop culture that will forever mark this decade, just as MC Hammer defined the early 90's:  Gangnam Style. More squealing, more laughing.

By the time the kids were settled in to sleep with their sleeping bags at the base of the Christmas tree, I thought to myself, "This was a good evening. I feel like I was a good mom tonight."  That thought only rarely crosses my mind if the kids are still awake past 8:30 at night.  My mantle of patience, as shoddy and thin as it may be, is usually gone, nowhere to be found, by 8:00pm.  But tonight was good and full of the Christmas magic that you hear sung about in the carols.

 My heart is sick tonight, but so full at the same time.  The world was fundamentally changed today and I pray that within myself, a deep and fundamental change has also taken place.


Val said...

Thanks for your thoughts. :)

Rita said...

Thanks, Val. I've enjoyed reading your blog. Keep up the writing!

Cher said...

you are always so good at expressing your thoughts. this post made total sense.

Trent and Julie said...

I struggle with the same feelings....after the tragedy and the emotions that came with it, I question my being a "present" mom. It's a daily struggle-- because mopping my floor and doing laundry is on the to-do list, but not watching my kids's new favorite episode of Zack and Cody on netflix....or reading just one more bedtime story---balance is key and maybe one day I'll figure things out, but as for today--I'll hug my kids a little tighter and remember that God trusted us with them--so we just have to keep trying to rise to the occasion and not mess them up too much along the way. I for one think you are doing an amazing job--miss and love you!!

Anonymous said...

I love what you have written and am proud to say you are my daughter. Love, DAD

Rita said...

Julie, I've always admired you as a mother. I feel like I have much to learn from you as I watch you with your kids. You are a fantastic momma!