my moment on the couch

Why is this so hard? I leave the boys in the garage, buckled in their seats and ready to go to the World Famous San Diego Zoo. They are only missing the keys to the van and me.

I, however, need a moment. A moment to breathe. A moment to let myself feel as frustrated as I am. A moment to give myself some compassion and try to pull something out of myself I don’t think is there.

Because parenting is hard sometimes. Really, truly, very hard.

I had been listening to a bounty of bickering ALL WEEK LONG. I had done what I could to set us up for success at the beginning of Spring Break. I noticed the boys were having a difficult time remembering how to talk to one another, how to listen to one another, and how to treat one another with a general sense of respect.

You know, the kind of respect I, as their mother, would hope they would treat any other human being with. Apparently brothers are exempt “human being” status. So I reminded them what respect looks like and that every person is entitled to being treated with said respect, even brothers. And I told them this was our project for the week.

Needless to say, things did not go as I might have hoped. By now we were all completely saturated in our collective humanity. And in my desperation and exhaustion with it all, I was looking for my children to be different and change their behavior to be the way out. But I know that I know that I know that I know….that the only way out is for me to lead them.

But I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can change my attitude. Because I am so utterly tired of their bickering and arguing and childishness. However, they are children. And I am the adult.

And these are the moments when parenting is entirely impossible. When I have given all of the patience and grace that I think I have inside of me. But the job requires more.

So I let myself have that moment, inside my house, on my couch. And I practiced giving myself compassion, mercy, and tenderness. The kind I imagine God has for all of us, even parents who have reached the end of themselves like me. Honestly I didn’t think it would help much but it was all that I had.

I told myself this job is just as holistically difficult and insurmountable as it seems. “Of course you are spent and frustrated and done with bad attitudes,” I said with gentleness. And maybe a touch of attitude all my own. And I soaked in that compassion and understanding for a moment.

And then I reminded myself that they are not going to change their attitudes until I change mine. And it will be hard all day long to lead them out of here. And it will likely be hard the next day, too.

“But you are their leader,” I said. “So lead them.”

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sparkling goo

What kind of creature leaves behind such a beautiful trail? My kids and I all squeal when we walk outside after a good rain. The thought of one miss-step leading to a crackly scrunch followed by slippery ooze underfoot is enough to turn my karate-chopping boys into prissy little girls as they make their way down the path that heads away from our porch.

Seriously, snails are not the most enchanting creatures. They are slimy and – dare I say – gross. And now that the weeds are mostly gone (at least for the time being), they cover my walkway after the slightest bit of moisture released from the clouds.

Yes, they have cool shells. And yes, they make their way through this world on one foot, which is quite impressive. And yes, I DID graduate from the college with a slug for a mascot (UC Santa Cruz banana slugs…..the ecological mascot……whoot-whoot!). But no, I am not a fan of this family of creatures as I play frogger down my path to avoid killing them and leaving their disgusting goop on my shoe.

However, I must admit they leave awfully pretty art for me to appreciate after they are gone. And, quite frankly, the more they leave behind the better. Shiny, delicate, light-catching patterns mask the aging and barely-there paint of my concrete walkway.

How ironic that such a putrid creature can leave behind something so lovely. And I start to think of what I have left behind this week. It’s not nearly as pretty as the snails. And I think myself to be so much better than those snails.

During Spring Break with all my children home and driving each other nuts, the imprint I leave behind at the end of the day is more akin to a snail smooshed by my shoe than glimmering doilies of delight and joy.

But then those beautiful trails catch my eye again and I am reminded. A mucous-propelled creature left those trails. Redemption is alive and well. There is hope that somehow, someway even my ugly days can be refashioned to bring beauty.