Family

the ugly

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The rhythmic thwacks of our header machine is soothing as I inwardly seethe.  The smoke rises from this beast of a machine.  This motherhood thing…it can get ugly.  Fast.

With an eventFULL week of activity behind us,  I happily put away dishes after dinner last evening.  The house was clean, our family was well fed, with the baked ham in Thanksgiving fashion, and I tidied up for the night.  I had looked forward to curling up in my bed with a wonderful book; finally finding the peace and quiet I craved amongst the frenzy.

And then life happened.  Crying.  Yelling.  Disrespect.  I threw my son out the back sliding door and locked it.  I had established my boundary and could no longer have him in it.

I can count the times in my life journey (three) that I have had to put up my walls; the desperate last resort to keep it together before the banshee unleashes.  Either I exit the premises or the other person is banished.  There is no in-between.

I practice tough love.  To not enable .  To not allow disrespect.  Being a parent entails the ugly as well as the good; the real nitty-gritty of bringing another life into the world.   It is when a person is pushed to their outer limits that they either crack or persevere; when one finds true weakness or strength of character.  I can easily cling to the anger. It is palpable and easy to confront.  It is much harder to forgive; to acknowledge fault and humbly and sincerely give apology.  These are uncompromising character traits that must be instilled, to create caring and contributing adults.  It is this that I want my children to understand.

My line is drawn.  But amongst the tension I am grateful.  Thankful that I am still here to bear witness; to guide, as painful as it may be.   It is a difficult path to stumble upon, alone, as I did in my formative years.  As I take deep cleansing breaths I pray for wisdom.  I do not wish to be the picture perfect mother who can calmly rationalize with my sons.  It is my life’s work to be authentic; to bring things down to the simplest common denominator.

Just this weekend a parent shared her story; how she parented four children.  As she cared for a ninety-five year old parent, ran a restaurant and worked part-time in the medical field she was thankful for her independent eldest daughter.  She drove an hour to the highly acclaimed magnet school, ran cross-country and achieved high academic success.   She was accepted at her first choice university, attended the top medical school in the country and currently is a third year resident in a local hospital.  The mother, busy with life, urged her daughter to work hard, to dream big.  And she did.

It was only when this mother cleaned her eldest daughter’s bedroom, when she went off to college, that she found a heavy box beneath her bed.  A box full of newspaper clippings, medals,  honors and things the mother barely recalled.  As she touched each item the tears flowed; the pride of having her high achieving daughter ripped away as she realized how much she had missed; how much her daughter had not told her.  I was astounded this mother told me this story; the first time meeting her in a crowded football stadium.  Since this discovery she has been involved with her remaining three children; the eldest bitterly envious of her siblings.   I was thankful this story was not my own.

I pondered why she had shared this with me but later she made it abundantly clear as she gazed at my younger boys; huddling in the cold.  Do not make this same mistake.  Hear your children and enjoy them.  It goes by so fast.  When life gets busy, create the time and make them a priority.

Amongst forty plus parents, the next day, this same sentiment was shared by upperclassmen dads as our fall competitive season comes to a close.  It just seemed like yesterday that my son came through these doors and soon he will be leaving them.

With young infants and toddlers I first read a parenting book about the stages of motherhood.  I imagined my boys years ahead in time; how life would become easier.  It is only now that I realized the true “take away;” to stop living in the future or past and to plant yourself firmly in the now.  For the past year I believed that if I cut out the busyness of life that I would have more quality time.  But this is easier said than done.  Life is always busy and there is always something more to be done.

It is bittersweet, this parenting journey.  But it is also one of the most rewarding opportunities given to us in our short and humble lives.  To wield our authority with love and involvement; to guide our kids to physically and mentally grow.  To flex and accept change and transition.  Just as the header strikes a blow to the cold, hard steel to create the hex head on the bolt; so it is that life beats us down to create something better.    The coil of anger is straightening itself out.

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The underlying foundation of parenting  must consist of love, respect, humility and faith. 

We must love ourselves and our neighbors.  We must respect people’s space, beliefs and the rules and laws that govern our lives.  We must be humble and giving in our walk; to care for those less fortunate and forgive those who disrespect.  We must have faith and community; to believe there is something outside of ourselves; a greater good.

The true trick to master, in this crazy time of parenthood, is to walk alongside my sons; to embrace the frenzy.  It is not realistic to carve out special time to create quality.  Every single moment spent should be quality…not imagining the perfect time and space where that can be achieved.  This is an unrealistic expectation.  I am finally discovering that I must seek the simple and mundane details and see the beauty in each.  To lovingly watch my youngest fiddle with tying his shoes.   To inwardly smile when the eldest is stressed and disorganized; bumbling about.  To patiently await for the middle son to “get” his homework assignment and silently cheer for him when he finally does.

I glance at my cracked-tile in a different light and a softened focus.  I imagine the hardwood, unblemished floors.  What good would they be without others to trod on them?  I will have plenty of time for peace and quiet when my children are long gone from my four walls.  But for now I walk on, treading lightly as I let the anger within dissipate.   I don’t want to find the heavy box underneath the bed with all the things I missed.  I will trod amongst my messy life and home, frenetic schedule and immerse myself.  To be present.

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It gets ugly, to lead by messy example.  But the beauty lies within.  I am slowly finding it.

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