Nothing but a lot of long-winded navel-gazing to follow. You've been warned.
I sometimes look at my life and wonder just how the heck I got here. Time has sped up and when my 13 year old (13 year old?!!?) asks me questions about politics or religion, I think to myself, "wasn't I just teaching her how to tie her shoes?" and then I am grateful she is inquisitive and willing to hash things out.
This morning I was facing a stressful few days because first of all, Brandon is out of town, #1 is out of town, and #2 came down with a raging fever. That left four boys for me to mother (mother my own children? Wha??) and to top it off, my FIL is coming this weekend and that means guest-mode. We're also hoping to take the kids to the beach on Saturday (because driving to the beach on a Saturday with all the rest of PA makes sense) and tomorrow I have to go pick up girls from Girl's Camp (nice big van of ours is helpful). I'm willing and happy about all of these things --but it does make my life that much harder.
The laundry has multiplied this week, the boys are stir-crazy (because it's so hot), and #6 has figured out how to destroy pretty much everything. I mean, I cannot leave him alone for even 5 seconds! When I think about it, I realize all of my boys have been like this. My girls were not nearly as curious, and I'm not sure why. But man alive, my boys are destructive! I truly don't believe they do it on purpose; they are just trying to learn about the world around them.
I'm exhausted this summer; it's been rough. But I'm determined to be a better mother this summer than I was this past winter, when the demons of darkness had pulled me into their clutches and spent most of it in a self-hatred haze and my children learned how to just survive on their own. I'm pushing myself to be more consistent with discipline, and I'm trying to be more firm with rules and consequences. Let's be honest: the therapy and medication have been life-savers and is making this possible.
It's not easy. I have a lot to recover from and a lot to re-teach. I've been humiliated by some words well-meaning family members said to me about my mothering, and I wish they could understand that I am just doing the best I can. My job isn't to create perfect children and to be perfect at everything. My job is just to improve a little each day --and I am. I'm getting better, my kids are getting better, and we're doing just fine. The house always gets clean, the kids are learning responsibility, and they are learning how the world works. It may take a while, I may fail a lot, but we're all trying. That is the point, eh?
Sometimes I look at my kids and I feel nothing but frustration and impatience. It's so hard to teach them to work and to get along with others! But then other days, even in the midst of disobedience or tantrums, I am able to see my children the way God sees them, I can see their enormous and beautiful spirits trying to dwell in such tiny tabernacles. There are times, honestly, when I look into my children's eyes, and I see such eternal beauty. I see all of their potential, I see everything they are, were, and will be. And it takes my breath away! Why was I chosen to be the one to help guide these incredible souls towards God, towards happiness, towards there own futures? The weight of that responsibility is something I feel every single day of my life. For 13+ years, I have been acutely aware of my role and how I can have such an integral influence upon these tiny lives.
It's overwhelming sometimes. Other times, it's just plain awesome.
For example, we've struggled with #3 a lot because of his auditory disorder (misophonia). Lately, however, I have seen a maturing in him that has turned my prayers from pleading to thanking. He has learned to work hard, and he's learning to not shun it like he used to. Yesterday, we had a great experience about this. It kind of went like this:
I was teaching him a piano lesson. I asked him to play a piece, just to see if his level was still where it was (we haven't had a lesson for about 6 months). He couldn't play it perfectly, and so he got really upset (another thing he struggles with), began to cry and yell. I wouldn't let him leave and I didn't back down. He said he didn't want to learn piano (a lie, because he told me many times he wanted to) and I called his bluff. He calmed down and I finally said, "Look, I know you want to learn to play the piano. I know you can learn this piece. It's okay that you don't know it right now! This week, when nobody is in the room, when you have time to figure out the notes on your own, you will be able to learn it. That's what practicing is for! You will figure it out, and next week you will play it perfectly for me." He finally agreed and we ended the lesson.
This morning, he sat down without complaint and practiced it.
He's also mowing our lawn (1 acre) with a push mower (#2 splits the lawn with him). He takes care of his younger brothers. He cleans toilets, does dishes, changes laundry, and takes responsibility of taking the garbage and recycling out to the curb each week. He can change diapers, and he often comes up with fun things to do with his siblings. He loves to explore and learn new things about science and nature. He has friends, he asks questions (we had the "sex" talk once because he felt comfortable coming to me to ask questions), and he's the one we call when bugs and spiders are in the house. He may have anger issues, he may struggle a lot with his auditory disorder, but he is a wonderful son. I get so emotional when I think about how grateful I am that God sent him to us!
And days like this, when I'm behind on the housework, when the kids are sluggish and would rather just sit and be as lethargic as I'd like to be, I remind myself that not all things are as important as other things. At this moment, we are listening to beautiful piano music, #2 is reading (always), #3 and #5 are watching old cartoons on my phone, #6 is watching learning videos on the iPad, #4 is rummaging around in the kitchen, and I'm typing up this blog post. The thunderstorm last night has cooled things down outside just a bit, and I'm still smiling about positive conversations I've had recently, about new friends, about old friends, and making a decision about what beach to go to this weekend. Life could certainly be more productive at this moment, but it could also be much worse. I'm feeling peace right now. I'm not going to disturb it for a while.