I am not a great writer of fiction. Case in point: my creative writing professor called my one attempt at a fictional story, very much a Westmont story (where I went to college), with a pat Christian ending, with all the loose ends tied up and grace being poured over to baptize the sins and general juvenilia. And what I want as a reader more than anything is real, messy and authentic vulnerability. Without pretty endings if they’re not there; with struggle and tension and ups and downs.
My last blog post on empathy I fear may have had a bit of too-tidy of an ending. And I’m hoping I don’t come off as having this whole parenting and life thing figured out. Because the other night I completely lost it. Yelled at my kids, moved them to time out, used shame instead of empathy and drove around with the whole lot of them so I could at least get some distance on the whole family falling apart. Meanwhile my kids were yelling how because I’d stuck to my guns about not getting them more food when they kept just getting down from the table, that I was going to be responsible for their deaths and they were going to die. Cue the preteen drama! I sent off texts to my out-of-town husband like a crazy woman threatening that he might have to get on the plane and come home, just hours after he’d checked into his hotel. And do you know what that man did? He sympathized with me, told me that he was sorry, and he also straight up told me I needed to be the adult, to be bigger than my kids — more sacrificial, more self-controlled, and not get sucked into their emotion.
But I’d done everything I thought I needed to have held it together yesterday. Moved my body. Had some quiet time. Even had a nap! But checking off things on my self-care list will never be enough, never make me or my parenting perfect. I think I’m finally realizing that it’s so easy to feel like the overwhelmed feelings are because of everyone else. That I feel fat because that person is fit or skinny. That I feel so busy because I have four kids and look at all those lovely, single ladies who can sit down in peace and quiet and read at night! Or, I didn’t get my needs met so I’m free to run all over yours because I’m bigger or stronger or louder or meaner. Comparison, indeed, is the thief of joy.
And so I’m learning to unravel a bit in good ways. To not oscillate between perfection and losing it, but to breathe, chalk it up to “not such a big deal” and learn to roll with the punches. It’s hard. I like to get things right. I want to believe that if I can just take care of my triggers (food choices, exercise, quiet, read my Bible, get enough sleep), then, then, I’ll be a “good enough” mother/wife/woman/person. But it’s just not true. Because my innate mode will be one of reaction and self-focus; and it’s always easier to blame someone else or blame your circumstances than it is to apologize, admit you’re wrong and ask for forgiveness.
Because really truly seeing my sin and having to own it means I’m not perfect. I can’t earn it. I can’t make up for my transgressions. I desperately want to fulfill all those expectations; that’s what I was groomed to do my whole life, meet expectations and succeed. Motherhood whips my butt daily and I often feel like a failure. But no matter of getting my needs met will make me a perfect mom. It is only grace, grace and more grace. Grace for my kids when I want to run away screaming and hop on a plane. Grace for my husband when he comes home tired and yet hasn’t had to deal with the same stressors as I have. Grace for myself when I blow it again and again. Grace, grace, all is grace. The good moments of cuddling and questions and hugs; the hard moments of hitting and tempers flaring and yelling; the tired moments where all I want is another cup of coffee to help me make it through; the moments of daily grace with laughter and the breeze and the warmth of sunshine on our bodies.