Thursday, May 02, 2013

the gift of children

For the past two consecutive weeks, Charlie has been flying back and forth to California on business. Last week, he left on Wednesday morning and returned on Friday night. This week, he left on Wednesday morning and will return on Saturday night.  Whenever he leaves, I always feel a mix of excitement that I get to spend time home alone with the children ... and a mix of dread that I get to spend time home alone with the children while trying to also balance the other activities in life.


I've come to understand that the effort of waking up in the morning, getting the children up - dressed - fed - lunches packed - and to the school bus on time, can be ulcer inducing.  For as much as I try to just soak everything in and go with the flow, it always seems to happen that my positive gentle voice that I promised myself I'd maintain when I climbed out of bed ... lasts less than five minutes and I'm barking orders like a drill sergeant with a less than positive and gentle tone.

I really love that our children are devouring every written word they can get their hands on.  I just don't love that they are doing it when I've asked them to eat their breakfast and put on their shoes and they're instead, casually flipping through the most recent publication of Nat Geo Wild while their Cheerios turn to mush and the big hand on the clock is ticking forward at warp speed.



I notice the look of stress and anguish in their faces, for which I take full responsibility. This is my fault. I should have woken up earlier. I should have woken them up earlier. I should have done a better job getting ready the night before. I should have this, I should have that. I should just relax. But not too much. Maybe it is because of my overly relaxed state that we're in this incessantly late predicament. 


My number one mission in life is to raise kind, calm and patient children and yet I'm frequently modeling for them the exact opposite. Why am I so high strung? 

It's frightening when you consider I don't even drink coffee. 

Fast forward to the end of the day. After trying to squeeze in a few hours at the office, I'll dart out so I can pick up Henry from preschool, and together with Louie, we'll walk up the bus stop to greet the children when they return home.  I have a vision in my mind for what's going to happen next: The children will get off the bus and with faces full of smiles, eagerly tell me about the wonderful things that happened in school.  The vision seldom matches the reality.

The kids race each other home. Someone falls down. It's Henry. He's crying. His knee is bleeding.  My heart breaks that once, just once, it would be so nice if the older kids would let him win. I summon them together and suggest that they give him a break. They oblige. My heart soars. They begin racing and quickly run across the lawn, up the stairs and in to the house with Henry waving his arms above his head in victory.  By the time I arrive less than a minute later, they've ransacked the refrigerator. The kitchen is strewn with backpacks, clothes, lunch boxes and paperwork. My heart drops.

The drill sergeant returns.


Unload your backpacks!

Unpack your lunch boxes!

Hang up your coats!

Sit and do your homework!

I'll prepare you a snack. Not you. Me. Why me? Because I know how to properly close the refrigerator door and I will not permit you to inhale a week's worth of yogurt in 5 minutes. 

The sun is shining, it's a beautiful day. Homework should take 20 minutes and we can go outside and ride bikes. Instead, homework takes nearly two hours by the time I get one through the assignment and then two - and then three. And then it's time for dinner.  And then it's time to clean up from dinner.

(The kitchen, I'm certain, I clean that single room no less than 21 times a week.)

Tonight, there was lacrosse following dinner. Last night, it was Girl Scouts.  After we attend whatever activity we need to attend, we return home - usually an hour and a half later.  Now it's 7:30 PM.

The big hand has long ticked past what I had always considered to be an ideal bedtime for the kids. The later they go to bed, the later I go to bed. The mere thought of this makes me cranky.  Walking in to the house, I tell the children to go straight in doors and get their pajamas. Instead, they bolt in four different directions.  Two are swinging from trees, two are playing with hulu hoops. I open the door and the dog zips outside.  I'm thinking to myself, "DEEP BREATHS" but what comes out is me standing on the stoop with my arms flailing like a lunatic while yelling,  GET INSIDE THIS HOUSE SO HELP ME GOD IN HEAVEN. 

The kids and dog scramble inside while I wonder if the neighbors think I'm a nut case.

I get the kids in to and out of the shower. I help Henry brush his teeth and put him to bed because he's acting like a psychotic zombie which happens when he's exhausted.  For the older kids, I'd promised them a banana with peanut butter as a bedtime snack. When I reach for the peanut butter, I'm filled with a feeling of absolute despair that the All Natural Peanut Butter is nearly empty, which means I need to open a new jar of All Natural Peanut Butter and the whole act of stirring the peanut butter so that the oils are appropriately mixed with the nuts is more than I can handle at this moment. I'm emotionally, mentally and physically spent.  Everyone instead gets a banana, straight up. There is no complaining because the kids just know. 

I quiz them on spelling for the words they'll be tested on tomorrow at school, help them brush their teeth and tuck them in to bed.

During our prayers, I tell them that we're all human. We all make mistakes. We get tired and frustrated and sometimes, overwhelmed.  But then I try to remind them that even when I'm tired, frustrated and overwhelmed, I love them with every ounce of my being.  With a surge of energy, I summon just a few of the highlights from my day...


Holding hands as I walked to the bus with Elizabeth, and feeling my skin tingle when in front of the 10+ kids gathered, she blew me a kiss and yelled, "I love you Mom, have an AWESOME day!!" before climbing onboard.

Overwhelming gratitude for William when he picked up all of his legos and then, set the table for dinner tonight, without my even asking. Overwhelming gratitude for Henry when he curled in to my lap during lacrosse practice and gazed up at me with rapt attention as I told him various fictitious stories that I made up on the fly.

Hugging Carolyn tightly and holding her head beneath my chin, much like we do with a buttercup or dandelion, and saying, "LOOK! Can you see your reflection in my skin?  I love Carolyn Grace!" and listening to her laugh, "Mom! That was a good one!!"


Watching William teach Henry how to play lacrosse by gently tossing him the ball and giving him pointers about how to scoop, cradle and block.  Watching Elizabeth abandon her top bunk and crawl in to bed with her sister, because tonight, she needs to sleep with her best friend.  As I finish up our prayers, the children sleepily snuggle under their blankets, their freshly washed faces glowing with smiles.

Each and every day, there are insane moments.  But by some miraculous twist, they are far outweighed by the wonderful moments...


And tomorrow I'm sure they'll be even more.


  1. Wow, what poignant writing about the simple,often overlooked, but wonderful moments and memories that occur in our busy, hectic lives. So glad you can find the silver linings in your day.

    You are human and we all have our moments. Glad you realize the good outweigh the bad. I am sure your family members see that too.

    Amy F.

  2. One really nice thing the children told me when they were visiting, was that Mom and Dad Kiss and hug a lot---and that makes them happy.
    Remember there are three of them---all the same age and then Henry trying to catch up. Yelling is a habit---have you thought of being silent and ringing a bell?

  3. This one made me cry. I've been reading for years but never commented. I have three wonderful, growing too fast, kids. Today I was looking back at pictures of when they were babies, so this post...well it made me cry.

    Keep enjoying the moments.

    Mom of three - SLW

  4. Dear heavens, are you sure you are not at my house and we haven't experienced some freaky friday mix up?
    Big kisses, hugs and most importantly a BIG glass of wine I toast to you!