When you observe kind and gentle mothers in action, you see women of great strength
~ Margaret Nadauld
“Your eyes are cracked, mom. Why do you have red cracks in your eyes?” This is what my daughter said to me recently as she *finally* made it to the dinner table to eat. Getting her to the table is a challenge, but one not quite as difficult as getting her to eat once she’s there.
She has decided that she doesn’t like food of any kind. Whenever I dish out her dinner, her immediate response is that she doesn’t like it. It has gotten so bad that the other day, when she walked through the door after playing and saw me cooking in the kitchen, she wailed, “I hate whatever you’re making for dinner!”
I wasn’t sure if what I had to stifle was frustration or laughter. Either way we had *another* talk about not saying the word “hate” and appreciating whatever we’re served to eat.
I love being a mom and I love my two girls, but what’s less easy to love is the constancy of the challenge of motherhood. It is unending. Every day I am faced with two sweet little faces, one is strapped to my body and needs food every six minutes and the other is running circles around my wheelchair needing songs and books and snacks and to go for yet another bike ride around the block…
Maybe motherhood wouldn’t be quite so hard if I wasn’t constantly concerned that my children were learning things and growing into successful human beings. I suppose that’s why babysitting other children is so much easier, you can just enjoy the moments because you’re not worried about their future. But your own children have to learn important life lessons like yes, the dog might really like his puppy makeover, but we still don’t color his fur (from head to tail) with purple chap-stick.
If you were looking for the purple chap-stick in this picture, it isn’t there. No. The chap-stick portion of the makeover happened *after* this cute snapshot of Zula and her friend and there is no photo documentation due to the fact that I was more concerned with protecting the carpets and bedding than remembering the chaos.
Another important lesson to teach our children is that in no way, shape, or form can you mistake the clear direction of “Go back to bed immediately” with “Put on protective eye gear and feed the dog string cheese.”
This, my sweet child, is why mommy has red cracks in her eyes.
The source of all parental-wisdom (aka FaceBook articles people share) has said several times that it’s important to give kids chores so they can learn to work. This sounds reasonable and I do want my kids to grow into hardworking humans, capable of getting good grades, graduating college, and achieving astronomically high levels of success. Plus, if they could clean a house half as fast as Mimi it will bless their lives.
In any case, my daughter is still growing her own motivation to do her chores. Each Saturday, I print out two lists: one for her and me, and the other for my husband to accomplish in the same amount of time.
…Mimi taught my husband how to clean.
…and last Saturday he accomplished this list with one hand, holding the baby in the other.
I try to focus on what Zula is doing right when she is cleaning and not punish her for doing things wrong (or slow). This is a challenge, but I want good feelings while we work so I grit my smiling teeth and say, “Yes, Ariel looks great riding in your shoe, what a super way for her to make it all the way around the room, over the bed, through the doll’s high chair, and into the princess bin!”
(Did you know that the body houses suppressed feelings of frustration in the eyeballs? That’s why they bulge. And crack.)
Adding to the difficulty of cleaning the room of a three-year-old is the fact that I really can’t help her. I can encourage and guide and pick up a few things off the floor, but as much as I complain about her speed, mine is even slower. And most things are out of my reach.
One out-of-reach area is the head of her bed. I’m not sure why, but I thought it would be a great idea to get my toddler a big girl bed with a book case headboard so she can “decorate” it with sippy cups and miscellaneous toys. I was guiding her to successful headboard organization and telling her what items goes where and she wasn’t understanding. Or maybe she just wasn’t interested. In any case, we’d been at her room for over half an hour and my eyes were maxed out in the amount of frustrations they could hold. I lost my temper and shouted her name. My sudden force jerked her head upwards and she looked at me with her un-cracked eyes. I paused long enough to remember that as important as chores are, they’re not more important than some things.
As Zula and I stared at each other, I remembered some old Milanos stuffed in the back of the freezer. Instead of what I wanted to say, I blurted out, “Let’s take a break. Should we go eat cookies?”
Sometimes Zula needs to be convinced to do some things. This was not one of them. We took a break and ate cookies. Lots of them.
It has been six days since we cleaned her room (we did eventually finish) and each day she has reminded me, “Hey mom, remember when we took a break and ate cookies? We could do that again if you want.”
I do want.
As much as I want Zula and Daisy to grow into successful humans, I want to make sure that that I am one myself. And a successful human doesn’t just work hard, they also know when the work is too hard. They know when it’s time to take a break and eat cookies. Lots of them.
This isn’t one of those parenting articles. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m not sure many of us do. I think we’re all just doing our best to help some tiny people make it in a big world.
The picture above shows Zula, Daisy, and me on Mother’s Day. Zula always wants us to match and I figured this stage wouldn’t last a lot longer so we celebrated in matching lemon dresses. I thought this pattern was appropriate as motherhood can feel a little, well, sour, sometimes. I mean, there are some naturally delicious moments, but mostly being a mom is like being handed a lemon daily, sometimes hourly. But when we let our eyes bulge with the frustrating things we’d *like* to say and instead speak sweetly, we transform those sour situations into refreshing lemonade.
And lemonade is best enjoyed during life’s breaks with some (possibly freezer burned) cookies.
Keep on rollin’,