I am having a bad week. This morning when I went to wake up my youngest daughter her first words were 'It's not fair.' Her first action was to straighten her leg rapidly under the bedclothes so that she kicked me as I leaned over to give her a kiss.
After the rough ride of last week sometimes it's hard to keep smiling warmly at my older daughter, who is in an 'I want Daddy, not you' frame of mind. Between them they have bruised me physically and emotionally and I've started wishing that I could just leave home for a while. My husband has done nothing wrong except be a great Daddy but when he gets home on Friday night I quite fancy meeting him at the door with my coat on and telling him they're all his for a few
weeks sorry, days.
I won't do that. Sadly.
I won't. My job is to carry on being Mummy. To keep on being the same and trying my best and to keep on loving them no matter what they say or what they do.
We have this thing, where I say:
'Does your Mummy love you?'
How much does she love you?'
'Round the world and back again.'
'More than that!' (discuss ever-increasing amounts of love involving galaxies and universes)
Why does she love you?'
'Because I'm Elizabeth/Katy'
'When will Mummy stop loving you?'
'Never, never, never, not ever, not anyhow.'
We haven't done it for a while. I suppose that's significant. I used to say that to Katy every time I dropped her off at nursery as we walked from the car and to Elizabeth as we walked to school, but now we all walk together we don't seem to do it. I must get back into the habit, because it seems now that they frequently doubt whether I do love them (or they say they do) and they feel that my love has its limits.
In my darkest moments, I worry about that too. I do have limits. I have had the sort of week that leaves me exhausted and hurt and sorry for myself. I find myself nearly in tears before 8am when Katy starts the day like she did this morning. I want to give up. I want to tell them to get their own breakfast because Mummy's had enough and whatever cereal I've got they'll say they want something else anyway.
They are only little. They're six (nearly seven) and five. I am the grown up. Get a grip.
I love my children more than I can say but it's been a hard week. I'm a bit fragile. That love sometimes gets buried in a mountain of negativity. Selfishness crowds in and a little voice keeps saying, 'What about me?' If I'm honest, that little voice isn't so little. It's a deafening roar, sometimes.
I go to look at them at night and I marvel at their beauty. How delicate they are. How small. How innocent. I kiss them and inhale the wonderful fragrance of them. I would stay like that forever if I could. I hold us all before you each night, Father, and I whisper 'I love you' and 'God bless you' and just occasionally one of them might stir and mutter 'I love you, Mummy' back, but that hasn't happened for a while.
I know that I need to be a Mummy to my daughters and not their friend. I know that this is relatively easy when they're little because I am automatically everything to them, so if I'm finding it hard now, how on earth am I going to manage when they are teenagers? The idea fills me with dread. Already we have the eye-rolling and the exaggerated sighs. I love their cuddles and their kisses and their stories and their little notes and messages. What will I do when they no longer want me to lie down in bed with them, when they no longer come to be picked up when they're hurt? They're part of me. It hurts so much when they pull away.
I know that it's not about me. My job is not to focus on what I get from them, but what they need from me. They need me to keep on going. To keep on loving whether or not I get love back. A bit like you, Father God. You keep on loving me whether or not I love you back. You don't snap at me sarcastically when I do finally remember you and toss you the odd five minutes of my time; you are simply delighted that I came at all. You don't withhold your love because I hurt you. You don't look at me with narrowed eyes and make yourself hard in case I hurt you again.
Your love is perfect and mine is a pathetic shadow of it, but I have a job to do that requires every ounce that I've got. You gave me two beautiful, interesting, intensely frustrating, challenging and complex little creatures to nurture to adulthood and I so, so want to do a decent job. I don't want Elizabeth to grow up and remember these years as ones where Mummy was impatient and unloving. I don't want Katy to look back and only remember the times when I dump her mid-tantrum onto her bed and walk away from her. Every day I say I'll do better and then sometimes it feels as if I've blown it before breakfast.
Sigh. In another context the other day I was remembering Max Lucado's words that those you call, you equip. I believe that to bring up children is a pretty important job and so I don't doubt that you will give me what I need to do it. I think I need some pretty heavy duty equipment. And I need some maintenance myself because I'm not running like a well-oiled machine. Bits of me are seizing up, and it's starting to show.
Lord, equip me all over again to be Mummy to my two gorgeous girls who have brought me endless blessings in the seven and a half years I've known them. Help me to dig deep for reserves of patience that only you can help me find. Show me the bright, beautiful light shining from my girls instead of the sulkiness and uncooperative side that is just as prevalent in me. Help me to smile when I feel like scowling and to rejoice in their lovely relationship with Daddy instead of being jealous of it.
Lord, as I am loved by you, help me to give love and keep on giving it. I don't feel like giving it, sometimes. I don't feel like they deserve it, but then neither do I deserve it, and yet your hands are always open. I want to be more like you, perfect Father God. Abba, my Daddy.
Oh, Daddy, hold me in your arms a little while and let me have a cry and tell you how unjust it is. Hold me while I kick and whimper, 'It's not fair.' After the sobs have subsided, gently stand me up and load me up with supplies of forgiveness and generosity and warmth and grace and love so that I can start all over again. I'll be back for more pretty soon.
Please, Lord, take away any hurts that my girls carry round with them. Don't let any seeds of damage grow in their little hearts or minds. Don't allow me to cause them pain that will linger. Please, Father, help me do this job as you would have me do it.
I want to show you to my girls, not turn them away from you. I'm asking you to be right in the middle of our family, Father. Be with us - at the school gates, as we walk past the sweet shop, at teatime, bath time, and at my own particular favourite - teeth-brushing time, at bedtime, in the night and when we wake up. And into a new day.
There isn't anything more important.
I can't do this on my own.