My children *might* have entered into a pact to relieve me of my grip on sanity.
The naughtiness and the sass-pants attitudes were rampant last night. It wasn’t just one of them acting out at a time. There was far too much overlap. I had to believe it was a conspiracy.
I may or may not have stormed around after a particularly rebellious and screamy bedtime routine, thundering to Jeff, “I spend my entire life caring for them and they are being such jerks. I want to punch them all in the face.”
This was after I spent fifteen minutes cleaning peppermint tea off my laptop, lamp, bedside table, wall, baseboards, rocking chair, outlet and charging cables, TV remote, and new (hilarious) Jennifer Weiner paperback. Because Jack doused them, intentionally. And then laughed—cackled!—when I told him I wasn’t amused.
If I had done even one self-centered thing yesterday, maybe I wouldn’t be quite so ready to bash their skulls together. As it was, the day had been one kid-serving errand after another.
“Parenting is essentially being someone’s slave. You are their slave labor and they don’t care about you, as long as you are working quietly in the background, doing everything to make their lives comfortable and possible.” That is a direct quote from me to Jeff. Maybe they will put it on the front of the printed program at my funeral service someday.
My friend Marianne sometimes uses the hashtag #iamaninspiration when she posts funny pics of her first world shoe dilemmas or forays into the domestic arts. It’s funny because her posts are of the anti-Instagram sort, meaning they aren’t carefully curated into flawlessness. This means that she really IS an inspiration, because she keeps it wildly real. Comedy is hard, but she effectively does it by letting the shizzy parts of life shine forth in their majesty. She owns them. That’s what makes her stuff funny. By nature, she is a dry wit. She’s the person you want sitting by you during something boring, offering up deadpan gems about her childhood imaginary friend, Ms. Karen Getty, or how her new twitter handle is going to be the name of that one variety of their backyard chickens: Silkie White Chick.
The tongue-in-cheek references to all the areas of her life which are flawed and funny and weird are essentially Marianne winking at the idea of what most of the internet does currently find inspiring.
In a very real sense, I felt plumb out of “inspirational.” I felt like the opposite of whatever an inspiring mother is.
I was a really irritable mother who wanted to throw snowballs at her kids’ faces to snap them out of their self-indulgent/demanding reveries. I wanted to bounce giant exercise balls off their heads and tell them to wake up and a) start appreciating their mother and b) stop wigging the heck out about everything.
But I had to model calm, so I wrote it out here instead. And then resolved to wake up early to make a giant, hot breakfast and prep five billion meds and read from 3 Nephi to Henry while he ate his lumberjack breakfast. And then wait for Jack to come downstairs, and remind Charlie 45 times to wake up and get moving. And I would await that moment the bus would leave with Jack and Charlie, and Truman would begin building with pipes, or lining up his stuffed animal pets.
Because that’s when the Coca-Cola pours out, delectably crisp over ice, and I can drink it before stretching my tightly coiled back, while listening to Alma and praying for strength.
It’s not the endless service that bothers me. I am doing what I want to do. This is the life that is right for me, in purpose and meaning. The problem is that so many times I am met with screams and sass and yet more demands.
So here are my existential questions for a day when people flipped out more than not: Who am I serving? Why am I trying? My children may only appreciate it in a theoretical way, like how we appreciate running water and functioning appliances only when they suddenly aren’t available.
The truest type of service is that which is given with no thought for reciprocity. Am I helping my sons because I want them to thank me?
Or am I doing it because I love God?
It’s a good question.
And then I woke up today, and it was a fresh start.
Everyone had had enough sleep, including me. We were not jerks to each other. We were nice.
The boys went to school. Truman played pipes. I wrote my syllabi and updated my class calendars. Truman went to preschool. I went to physical therapy for my back. Truman did therapy. I went to Henry’s basketball game. Jack’s helper came and helped. Jack was happy. Charlie did therapy. Charlie was happy. When we have helpers we are happy. Life is able to proceed fairly well when we are not tied up in constant battle with constant meltdowns. It hums pretty nicely along when we have a thousand people assisting us with all of the things.
I thought to myself as I watched Henry play, “I cannot believe I have a son who is capable of playing a competitive sport, and who is good enough to be on a school team. This is amazing. That is my kid out there.”
Then I thought, “And all my other boys are currently doing therapy with people who understand them and who are helping them learn things. What miracle is this?”
I didn’t want to punch anyone in the face anymore.
I wanted to hug God.
I wanted to tell him, “Thank you.”
And also, “I’m not doing it so my children will thank me. I’m doing it for you.”