A well-meaning friend has brought to my attention that my children do not reflect the glory of God. Their behavior, the way they speak to us and the way they treat each other, does not befit that of a family who professes to love Jesus. (The wisdom of such a bold confrontation is another topic for another day.) Another friend, whose children (like mine) see through a mirror darkly, noted that the I say this because I love you should be reserved for “You have something in your teeth,” and “girl, get a lip wax, pronto.” My kids and my parenting are off-limits. We’ll leave it at that.
But apparently my kids, unaware of the confrontation, formed a coup and decided to show me just how darkly they see through that blasted mirror.
Good grief. I won’t even go into details of their so-not-reflective behavior. But I began to wonder if my well-meaning friend was right. I mean, I knew she was right—I am acutely aware of the ugly in my kids more than anyone. But do they really have to prove it—and in such magnitude and frequency?
iPods were confiscated, chores doled out, privileges revoked. And yet. What in the world ever convinced me I was qualified for motherhood?
One offender was dropped off at dance class, but not before rolling her eyes and slamming the car door. Another offender wrote a two page essay on using words which are encouraging instead of profane—complete with assigned Scripture references, thankyouverymuch. The third offender stayed planted in his room, supposedly folding his laundry. (Should’ve checked on him.)
When the essay was finished and the clothes were (supposedly) put away, I suggested a trip to the library because a) we needed a change of scenery, and b) I really needed to check out some books on exotic locations for Michael and me to visit. Alone. I am frightfully ignorant about the Mediterranean.
Turns out, the local library doesn’t open until noon. Yes, my friends, it was only 11:00 am. We are a family of overachievers: we pack in as much drama and dysfunction as we can before we even eat lunch. There oughta be a medal.
Thankfully, our library sits next to a fantastic park, and it was a beautiful spring morning, so we walked over. Nathan immediately noticed a brightly colored bounce house set up next to the playground.
“NO. Sorry buddy. That’s for a birthday party. Did you hear me? You can’t go over there. I’m sorry. Do you understand? It’s not for you. It’s for the party. Got it?”
Just making sure. I certainly didn’t need any additional drama from misunderstood and unmet expectations.
No worries. My two boys spent forty-five minutes chasing each other, playing hide & seek and tag, while I sat on a sunny bench and looked at my phone.
Yes, I am THAT mom. The one ignoring her glee-filled children running and skipping and laughing so she can play Solitaire for a few blessed minutes without anyone talking to her. (I’m not the only one.)
I looked up from my game and saw a passel of three year olds running, jumping, swinging, squealing. Crying, whining, kicking, pouting. I miss those days. And I don’t. My own cherubs were precious little monsters. Satan with pigtails. Beelzebub in seersucker sunsuits.
They used to need me a lot. Once upon a time, they could do next-to-nothing for themselves. And, good Lord, it was exhausting. Park dates involved sippy cups and Cheerios, following them around, picking mulch out of their shoes as they howled.
Today, they run off and play, occasionally checking in. They pick mulch out of their own shoes. They find their friends, who run and play with them. And I sit and enjoy not being needed so much.
Meghan texted me to let me know dance class had finished and I needed to come pick her up. (They still need me a little bit.) I herded my rooster chicks and we left. No kicking and flailing. No I don’t waaaaanna goooooo! No running away. They both opened their car doors, climbed in by themselves, and buckled their own seatbelts. After picking up Meghan, we went home, where they made their own lunches and fed themselves.
No, I don’t miss the toddler years.
I remember his sweet toddler voice squealing “Look at me, Mommy!” as he attempted a somersault across the family room floor. And how she would crawl into my lap with a book, one I had memorized from reading over and over and over. Then we would finish, and she would jump up, bounce to the shelf, and grab another book. “Wead?”
And I remember the deep toddler belly laughs when I’d blow raspberries on his tummy, how he would laugh and laugh and laugh, and when I stopped, he would shout, “Again! Again!”
I look at my kids now: much taller, leaner, more aware. No chubby cheeks or pigtails, no grosgrain ribbons or sunsuits. She has traded her Mary Janes for pointe shoes. His favorite blanket—the one he dragged behind him everywhere, the one often transformed into a superhero cape—he shoved into a basket in his room, forgotten.
I remember the years between then and now, years of hurt feelings and trying to fit in, trying to figure out who they are. Months and months of confusing changes, the veil between innocence and revelation slowly lifted. Sweet mercy, we’re still in the thick of that. No, they don’t need me like they used to. I can sit in blissful silence, alone—but the exhaustion of navigating these waters throws me to the ground. I’m just beginning to realize that their angry outbursts, their rolling eyes, their arguing with each other and with us—all those things come from a place of deep fear. Help me, they cry. I’m terrified. Everything is changing, I am changing, my friends are changing, and I need to know you still love me. I need to know you’re not going to change. And, by the way, can you take me to Target?
And the emotional energy required of me to discern that fear and not to push back, not to lose my head, not to scream or run away…it almost makes me miss sippy cups and car seats and mulch in their shoes. It definitely makes me miss raspberries and blue blankies.
I have wondered lately if I’m going to survive these next years. If they are going to survive. There’s a strong likelihood that somebody is going down.
No matter what season you are in, toddlers or teenagers, we’re all peering through a mirror darkly, not able to see who we are not yet. We’re getting there, slowly. Inching along, we do the best we can. Some days it is enough. Some days it’s not. But that’s all we can do.