Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Making the Grade

Life lately seems to be a test on motherhood. And although failing might be a harsh grade to give myself, I think my GPA would probably fall somewhere below average. And as hard as I'm trying to keep up on everything, inevitably a "pop quiz" appears, finding me unprepared. Since repeating the term is not an option, I keep telling myself to get my act together; unfortunately, my act has been hard to find. Think I'm exaggerating? Trust me, I'm not. In one day, I forgot to send my son with his speech homework; was late (the last mom to arrive--every child's worst nightmare) to a preschool program, and when I did arrive I had forgotten the camera; forgot completely about sending my son to scouts; made dinner, only to find that apparently the rice was supposed to be cooked before being thrown into the crock pot, so we had to go to plan B for dinner--Ramen noodles and toast. Oh yeah, and I lost my cell phone. These mistakes are just minor, I realize, but I think it suffices to say, I'm not excelling.

Yesterday my sweet little five-year-old broke into an all-out tantrum when I picked her up from preschool because she wanted to stay and play on the playground for a while. Truth be told, I've been promising her all year that one day (when the weather was warmer) we would stay and play, and that promise has yet to be kept, so I hardly blamed her for feeling frustrated. I was even considering changing my mind when the fit started, and when I say fit, I mean screaming, flailing, pushing, bawling, HUMONGOUS fit. So, of course, I couldn't give in at that point and let her stay to play, even though I sympathized with the poor child. The tantrum lasted for at least ten minutes, and all the while I kept kneeling in front of her to try to calm her and talk with her about options, but she just kept pushing on me and screaming at the top of her lungs. I finally had no choice but to pick her up and throw her in the van. Even then, she opened the door and tried to escape. It was truly every mom's worst nightmare. I finally got her locked in long enough to make the drive around the corner and home. I told her when she was finished with her fit she could come inside. She cried it out for 20 more minutes before she finally came in, her red, puffy eyes looking sorry as ever.

Grateful the episode was over, I went about trying to get dinner on, only to find the same sweet little five-year-old throwing yet another tantrum. My patience wearing thin, I immediately took her hand and led (drug is more accurate) her to her bedroom, explaining she was to stay there for five full minutes. Then I shut the door. Of course she opened it right back up, so I felt my only option was to put her back inside, shut the door, and hold on to the doorknob. I wasn't sure I could last for five full minutes with her yanking on it from the other side, but I was determined to give it my best shot. She had gotten the best of me all day, and it was my turn to return the favor.

After about 20 seconds, I felt my patience wearing even thinner. I was sure I could not hold on for another four minutes and forty seconds. What to do? Hmm. That's when a thought struck me. What would a good mother do in this situation? Good question. I don't know--run and hide? It's what I felt like doing. I looked down at my white knuckles gripping the doorknob and realized that a good mother would probably not battle it out like this with her five-year-old.

That's when an even better question came to mind. What would a great mother do? Oh yeah, I don't want to be just a good mother. I'm not sure being a good mother is going to get the job done these days. I have to be better than that. What would a great mother do? Beats me.

And that's when the really important question flashed through my mind. What would an exceptional mother do right now? It didn't take long to loosen my grip on the doorknob. In fact, before I knew it, my heart had changed completely. I no longer cared about winning the battle with my little girl; I only cared about showing love to a very tired, frustrated child. That's when I opened the door, hit my knees, and held out my arms to her. At first she just stared at me, wondering what the catch was, but then she seemed to understand. When she met my embrace, and we held each other close, I realized how often I do it all wrong. Not that I can be an exceptional mother all the time--I have too many weaknesses to maintain such a high standard--but I couldn't help but wonder why I settle far too often for just being a good mother, or even a poor mother.

"I think we're both having a rough day," I whispered as I stroked her long, blond hair. "And when I'm having a rough day, the thing that helps me most is if someone I love wraps her arms around me and tells me it's going to be okay." Her beautiful blue eyes looked up at me as she wrapped her little arms tighter around my neck and we cried together for a few minutes. It may not have been what an exceptional mother would really have done, but at that moment, it seemed right.

I'm not hoping to earn any worldly accolades for my role as a mother; I'm not worried about impressing anyone with my mothering skills (if I even have any); and I'm not trying to outdo anyone else or be a better mother than the woman next door. But what I am trying to do is be the best mother to my children I can possibly be, and sometimes I find I just don't give it the right kind of effort. At the end of the day, my children and I (and maybe my husband, although he's gone most the day) are the only ones who really know what kind of mother I've been (a fact I'm extremely grateful for). But I'm learning I sleep a lot better at night when I can think through the day and know I've given it an "A" effort, even if the pop quizzes that inevitably come with motherhood have found me a bit unprepared.

So, if you've been finding the tests of motherhood to be especially daunting lately, hang in there. That's exactly what exceptional mothers do!


Taffy and Tony said...

Once again, your words have inspired me. Thanks . . . and keep them coming!

Melanie said...

Great post. made me cry.
It's always so good to pause and think about what we're doing and why we're doing it.

Ashlie said...

Hum . . . I think I make the poor mother category. I forget most things and I refuse to lose a battle once it's been picked. Maybe I'd better reevaluate the strategy. Parenting is tough.

The Martinez Fam said...

Great post, Lor. Thanks for the reminder. I needed it. I think more often than we realize, our kids just need love.

Brian and Rebecca Nate said...

Every time I read your posts I think that I should try harder. Sometimes I'm content with giving up and saying "at least I tried"; and as a mother I don't think that cuts the mustard. Thanks for making me want to try HARDER!

Amy Bagaso Williams said...

You are so inspired to share with the world the true importance of Motherhood. Thank you so much for your wonderful lessons and inspiration. You remind us what it's really all about.