I'm pretty sure you had a hand in it. The latest half of it at least.
It's been a week of sulks, tantrums and challenging behaviour. And the children have been a handful as well, ha ha.
Seriously, it was shaping up to be a bad week and I was in full-throttle moan and whinge mode. At one point I would rather have stayed at home in bed with my head under the covers than go and work in the cafe where I volunteer but as it turned out, you had other plans. As it turned out I did more hours than usual in the cafe and it was exactly what I needed. Funny that. I rarely know what I need, do I?
I found myself surrounded by friends. Old established friends and new friends and people I didn't know so well. An amazing thing happened. I found myself talking about the week and some of the things that had happened in our house and I found people nodding, smiling and reaching out to hug me. I'm not on my own.
|Coffee and cake.|
Other people's children have said hurtful things. Other people's children have kicked them in the shins. Other people's children have let them down in public.
It's not just me.
Of course I've known this. I didn't for one minute think that I was alone in my struggles and I by no means think that my girls are the world's worst behaved children. I know that they're normal. I know that our ups and downs are not unique. But somehow I've felt that other people handle it better than I do. I've been convinced that there's something embarrassing and shameful about admitting that I find being Mummy hard sometimes.
I read a book by Rob Parsons recently (The Sixty Minute Mother) and a strange thing happened. I opened the book (that had been recommended to me) and started to read in a small window of opportunity while the children were otherwise occupied. I wasn't even sitting comfortably but standing in the middle of a room at the time. I wasn't settled with a coffee and a couple of cushions. I was just flicking through it. I started to read at the beginning and by page three tears were running down my face.
All it said was, 'You're not on your own.'
Other women look back on their pre-children days with nostalgia and occasionally a touch of regret. Other women love their children with a fierce devotion but at the same time would now and then like life to be different. Other women feel like screaming. Or packing a small bag with essentials and disappearing into the sunset once in a while. Not. Just. Me.
This week reminded me of the strangely emotional experience of those first few pages. I went to the cafe to work and I answered many polite enquiries as to how I was with a bright and (I think) convincing 'Fine, thanks.' Then someone else asked and it just came out. It's not fine, actually. Cue nodding, smiling, reaching, comforting, reassuring.
Wonderful, unexpected stuff.
Lord God, thank you for women. Thankyou for women with children who are honest and not pretending that everything is hunky dory all the time. People who are open enough to share with me their disasters and also the fact that things move on, children grow up, wounds heal and mistakes are not necessarily terminal.
Thankyou particularly for that last one. I so worry that mistakes that I make now might have repercussions for the children. That somehow my short temper or intolerance or over-criticism might change them somehow or scar them irrevocably. That their precious lives might lack something important because I failed to provide it. I know that it might sound overly dramatic, and perhaps it is. I suspect that my generation is much more analytical and inward-looking than those that have gone before; all our self-help books and get-it-right manuals might well do us more harm than good. I want to get it right. I worry about not being perfect. If a job is worth doing it's worth making sure that it all goes to plan and I don't do so well when it all goes pear shaped instead.
Other people know from experience that perfectionism and motherhood are mutually exclusive. I keep trying to make them get along with each other and it's just not going to happen.
I am so grateful for friends. For support and understanding and people with the grace to say that they've been there too and got the T shirt and no, theirs doesn't fit any better than mine does.
I came away not realising how much better I felt. It was only when we had another potentially explosive bath time where we were all tired and ready for bed that I recognised with some surprise that I was doing alright. I think people were praying for me. My friends who had understood knew that they didn't have answers, only experiences. They knew that it was hard and they couldn't make it any easier, and they knew that they knew someone who could.
You. How amazingly wonderful it is to have wise and generous friends who care about me and know you as well, and who have a word in your ear on my behalf. I'm not sure that there's anything more wonderful than this. You surround me with special people. I needed them and they were there.
Thankyou. Thankyou for bringing us together, giving us chance to talk in all the busyness of the day, and for their faithfulness. And for answering their prayer and giving me peace after a week of stress.
|Part of me.|
I am truly grateful. Nothing has changed; my girls are still maddening and gorgeous in equal measure and I am still the same person I was, but I'm doing alright. I'm learning.
Someone said to me that they realised when their children were small that you had decided that she was the best person to be their mother, even if she sometimes thought that anyone pulled in off the street could do a better job than she was doing. I've never thought of it that way before.
I am the best person to be Mummy to my daughters. Me.
You chose me for them. Not the woman at the school gates who seems so much more together than me, or the lady at church whose children are always immaculately behaved and polite. Me. They are part of me. You gave them to me to look after because you love me and wanted to bless me with the children that I longed for but also because you love them and you thought I was the best person for the job. You think I am the best person for the job. Even now. Even when I mess up. Even when I could do better.
I'm still praying the same things, Lord. I still need deeper mines of patience and love and peace and I still need self control enough to pause before I explode. I still need to feel your calming hand on my arm when I'm tensing up and clenching my fists. I still need to choose more often to see the beauty and creativity and inspiration instead of mess and disobedience and silliness. I have a long way to go, but I am so grateful for the gifts you've given me this week; the friendship and love and comfort and a new way of looking at things. If I can do the same for someone else I will feel truly blessed. It makes a big difference.
I love my daughters so, so much. I would do anything for them. I don't want to let them down. I make a lot of mistakes, but you knew that and you still think I'm the best person for the job.
I'm going to take your word for that. You're not in the habit of getting things wrong, so that means that you must be right.