The boy gets in trouble for play wrestling with his friend at school for the third time in a week. “Ok buddy, three times means you’re getting a punishment. We’ve talked about this. You can play rough with your friends at certain times, but school is NOT one of them.” “MOM! You’re making me SO ANGRY. We were just playing basketball rough, we weren’t fighting like the teacher said. YOU’RE REALLY EMPTYING MY BUCKET RIGHT NOW.” I let him fume at me the entire car ride home; he mumbles under his breath and cries. Once we are home and he’s sitting in his happy place at the table with his new box of crayons and his drawing journal, I hug him. “Buddy…” “I know Mom, you love me even if you’re not happy with me. I love you too and I’m sorry.”
One of the twins kicks my computer for the fifteenth time as I’m trying to work. Since she’s clearly ignoring my verbal requests to stop, I swat at her foot and she bursts into tears, looking into my eyes as if I’ve both betrayed her and made her understand at the same time. She nuzzles her face into my chest, hugs me, and says “Sawee Mommy” and continues to whimper for a few minutes. I melt, ashamed and frustrated. “I’m sorry too, baby. You can’t kick Mommy’s computer-you’ll break it and we need it. I shouldn’t have done that. I love you.”
“The windows are open!!” I hiss at my husband after his booming voice signals that he’s at his breaking point and I need to step in between the back talking, must-have-the-last-word argument he is having with our son…one that I know for a fact he had with his parents at that age, because they share that trait. I am frustrated with their constant back-and-forth. I have already reached the end of my rope once today, which is why he’s stepped in. I’ve barely had time to reel myself back in before it’s time to tag him out and give him a break. Five going on eighteen is no joke.
“Mom! I drew you a picture at school today. I knew you were having a hard week and this would make you happy.” Bennett hands me a drawing with “I love you to the moon and back” phonetically scrawled over a picture of a sun. Part of our mantra every night after prayers: “I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be. I love you right up to the moon…and back.” He’s been listening after all. I crumble into a teary puddle. It was exactly what I needed.
We approach Bennett’s school. “I get door today!” Kellen Clair says and makes a run for it. I brace myself because for the last two weeks, holding the door open at school has been Genevieve’s job, and Lord help anyone who tries to take it from her. Instead, she says “Tank you hold door, Kellyen!” “Welcome Genfeev,” Kellen Clair says, and we move on both without incident and with perfect manners. Color me flabbergasted, considering that the aftercare teachers didn’t need to wait for the doorbell to buzz us in the last month because the sounds of one of the twins throwing a tantrum let them know we had arrived.
Every day is full of moments just like these, where I feel like I’m walking the tightrope of failing and winning at parenting; either one is just a small misstep or a deep breath away. I may not have more than two minutes to revel in the good before the bad comes flying at me, but my gosh those two minutes are good.
In the biggest of our arguments when I was a kid, my mom would say, “I love you, but I really don’t like you right now.” I mostly knew what she meant at the time because I felt the same. Now I really know what she meant. No matter how ready I am to pack my bags and run away for a few days to get some reprieve from the chaos, they consume my heart. And while they’re little, their dad and I consume theirs. They love me even when they don’t like me. They show me that when they look to me for comfort when I’m disciplining them. When they show kindness and empathy just as they’re about to make me lose my mind. When I realize that I’m the one that needs to go to time out, rather than putting one of them in it, they come check on me. When I yell at them or I finally break down crying and tell them that I’m having a really, really bad day and I need them to go easy on me, they respond by jumping in my lap and smothering me with hugs, apologies, and “I love yous.”
Being their mom is the greatest thing I’ve ever done and also the most stressful experience I’ve ever encountered. It’s a give and take that teaches me a new lesson every time. I’ve got so much more learning to do. I’m so glad I’ll be loved along the way.