I think one of the hardest things to do in life is, get out of our own head. It’s seemingly difficult to do. As a non-morning person, I always go to bed with lofty visions of what my day will look like the following morning. I have endless visions of perfection, energy, stick-to-it-tiveness; and a can-do attitude. I tell myself, “This is going to be amazing! You are going to start new things, or get things done!” Much of my mind is filled with grand ideas of possibilities, business ventures, and new adventures. The only problem is, the morning brain tends to manipulate the evening brains grandest desires. Basically, he’s a bully (yes, he). In fact, it’s likely they are actually polar opposites, the night-time brain and the morning brain bounce off each other so forcefully, that it appears impossible for them to ever come together and connect. Much nicer would be if they acted like a proton and a neutron, and successfully and coherently attracted to perform miraculous conception. Not happening. Or rather, it’s a constant battle.
My life seems to revolve in a cyclical fashion, and much of it has to do with my frame of thinking. The ironic thing is that I often find myself telling my daughter or one of my son’s valuable life lessons, which are perhaps the exact things someone should be telling me. Unfortunately, my wise-all-knowing mom brain and my skittish self-talking brain never quite complement each other down in the deep recesses of my brain. Somehow, these lessons are only applicable to my child. I on the other hand, think about these wonderful lessons, and superficially or incredulously believe I’m doing them, on some level … but the reality is, I never quite follow through on my own advice.
Take for instance: This morning, my daughter, 14, the oldest – which by right means that everything I say, can-and-will be used against me in her court of law – a most mature human being, who knows all, was – unbeknownst to me – preparing herself for the “decade day” at school.
Apparently, the previous two nights, I was to read her mind when she told me just before she was to turn in for bed that I was to pay her a visit to her lofty estate, er, her bedroom. Which of course, the awesome mom that I am, admittedly agreed to, without thought, and upon her turning and walking away, laughed it off – insert eye roll – and continued watching the MLB playoff game with my husband.
Well, little did I know, or better yet, had I known the feverish environment that would ensue this morning due to MY lack of following through on my so-called previous engagement, I had now ruined her day.
Let me back up, I’m getting ahead of myself.
A normal morning routine consists of me, or my husband, waking up our youngest son –who must get to school about 45 minutes before the other two hellions wake up – of course, today was my turn. So, I, like the good mom that I am, threw on my workout clothes (because that is my only saving grace right now, and the one thing I actually am doing right at 110%, because yes, I am that awesome – self motivating talk ensues) and went in to give him his five minutes of snuggle time that he, being the third child and still my baby, only he has received – something that will no doubt come up later when my two oldest children end up on some psychologists couch divulging the horror and absurdity that was their mother and her disturbing life-lessons (which my husband and I like to call, reality). Anyway, back to me being a stand-up-mom. So, here I am being a good mom, snuggling him. I gently awaken him, AND help him get dressed! Yes, that deserves its own exclamation mark because at seven, that is like being a star bellied Sneetch.
Obviously, I know that today’s dress-up day is some theme, because in a small town, homecoming week is like the crème-de-la-crème, and everyone takes it seriously and everyone (and their dog) dresses up. The only problem, I didn’t know what the actual dress-up day was. So, I nudge my older sleeping son and ask, “hey baby, did you sleep good?” To which he answers, “yah.” I’m thinking, “perfect, maybe he’ll actually respond.” So I whisper, “do you know what today is for dress-up day?” He sleepily responds, “decaaaaa day.” Me, “what?” Holden, now mad, “decade day.”
Ahhh, crap. What the heck am I supposed to do for decade day? Ugh, awesome mom award right here as I look around their room that is filled with piles of laundry. Perhaps some are clean, but probably most are not; they probably were a day or two ago, but after being brought up stairs and being put in the obvious place – not their dresser, it’s impossible to say. So, I think, “what is the easiest thing to do, what decade? Think, think, think!” And like the brilliant and non-dilatory woman that I am, feasted my eyes on Dashel’s Sunday shirt. “Ah ha!” I truly am a genius. Better off Dead immediately comes to mind, and for some reason I start thinking—button up shirt, collar up, sunglasses, Nike high tops, this might just work. BAM! And just like that, Dash was dressed and ready to go!
Nice … pat-on-the-back.
Nevertheless, he looked awesome and is scooted off to school successfully. One down, two-to-go. Well, actually just one, because the other is a too cool for dress up now and refuses to dress up like anything unless it’s a supposed athlete which really just means he doesn’t have to dress up, he just gets to wear his favorite basketball shorts and shirt rather than his lame uniform. So now we’re down to one.
Enter, “the other daughter.”
Upon returning from drop off of child number one, I sit in my car a few moments; which may have actually been minutes, okay 10 minutes. Don’t judge. As I’m basking in the quite refuge of my driver’s seat, the front door is flung open and I look up to see the lasers darting out of a girl’s eyes, a girl who somewhat resembles my daughter, except that she has now been taken over by the evil step-daughter, or what I like to call, the other daughter (The other mother … get it?)
Her razor-sharp gaze pierces my soul, or what used to be a soul, and the hair which now appears to look like snakes coming out of the top of her head instill in me that this moment is critical. Critical for whom? Well, obviously not me. But critical nonetheless.
By now, hand waving and disgusted grunts had no-doubt escaped the generous opening that humans call a mouth; and with a fling of her hair, her back was to me and the door was slammed.
If this had been at night, it would have made for a very dramatic Halloween-like scene given that I had just finished my evil porch decor in a timely matter—did I mention it’s the 20th of October? Meh. Anyway. Mom guilt rushes in and I begrudgingly get out of my safe-haven and slowly make my way to the torture chamber.
Upon entering the dark pit of despair, I timidly walk to the back where the queen a.k.a. other-daughter awaits. And this is where I realize that somehow between the last 14 years I have failed as a mother. Somewhere in her once sweet little brain I’m sure there are rational kind remains, but they’ve now been buried deep in the hallows of a teenager’s irrational and emotionally volatile filled bowl of soup that appears somewhat brain-like.
At this point I am forced to realize how awful I am for not coming into my child’s room the night-or-two prior. That somehow, this new series of unfortunate events is all my fault. And somewhere between the time her dad woke her up at 6:45 a.m. and now 8:00 a.m. she has not had the adequate time to do her hair. Or her makeup. Or her outfit. ALL MY FAULT.
This is where parenting class 1020 would come in handy. How to deal with irrational thoughts of a teenager, part B (if this teenager is a girl, see index for further details, and good luck.)
I lovingly ask, k babe, what are you wanting to do? As I secretly and joyfully smirk at what I can see is a situation already gone awry; no matter what I do or say at this point, I’m evil and dumb. I don’t and could not ever possibly understand. So I try to remain calm. This is a feat in-and-of-itself, something mothers never quite get adequate credit for. So award number two and pat-on-the-back, again, at least for now.
She quickly and frustratingly points to a distorted and grainy series of pictures on her dads iPad to which she says, “this!!!” And then looks at me like, “well, FIX IT already!” To which I am thinking, “do I really have to help this child of mine? Ah, did I really sign up for this … that tiny little newborn was a hell-of-a-lot cuter even when she screamed. How did IT – turn into this?”
Finally, I somehow form a rational sentence that sounds very mature and I say, “okay, I can try, but this 50’s look is not easy, so I can’t promise anything.” Once again the other daughter muffles a distorted and angry retort, to which my awesome mothering skills have taught me to ignore. I lovingly go about my business using my mad skills to do as best I can whilst thinking about how amazing her hair looked after I did it for her role as Amber Vontossle in the Hairspray play the following year.
This time, not so awesome.
Let’s just say, her horsehair mane is not thin enough, nor short enough to easily maneuver it into the twists and pins that is necessary to pull off the 50’s magazine cover hair style. Epic fail. Okay, I wouldn’t go quite that far, but definitely a fail.
She angrily pulls it apart to which I frustratingly remind her that this is something that takes weeks of practice and preparation. I can sense my emotions being pulled ever-so-tightly, like a wire between two telephone poles. Unfortunately, a tornado is fast approaching and one end is being ripped into the sucking vortex. The wire doesn’t stand a chance. In just a matter of seconds it will be stretched to the point of wildly snapping, whipping, and – like a water hose at full force – flailing around uncontrollably and haphazardly, snapping anything in its path at a dangerous and forceful velocity without fear or repercussion of what’s in its way.
I begin looking at other images to see if there is something that I can do to remedy this already exhausting moment. And it’s only 8:10 a.m. awesome!
Upon looking at more Pinteresty things, I come across a simple up-do with a pony-tail and a wave of hair a-top, and one curly-cue pinned in front. Wallah! Done. All-the-while I’m lecturing the other daughter on how one could be so careless, and how her lack of preparation and foresight could have saved her (and I) from all of this headache; and “why in the world did you wash your hair last night! Don’t you remember that clean hair is the worst thing when it comes to up-do’s?! When hair is clean, it doesn’t matter how high you tell it to go, it spits its ugly toungue back and you and laughs cleanly and joyfully. Hairspray at this point doesn’t cut it, but will have to do just to get it to do anything, and why didn’t you pick out your outfit last night when you were watching television and …”
At this point I look down at my watch that now reads 8:25 a.m. ahh! Son of a! “Holden, let’s go, you’re going to be late! Damnit!” To which my daughter yells at me for swearing. I forcefully lock eyes with her and strongly encourage her to get her things because we are late. She looks at me like, “are you kidding, I can’t go looking like this, no makeup, no outfit! Ludicrous.” – duh.
Without her saying a word, as tears and acne dot her face, I realize there is no way in hell that she is going to be able to get ready in less than five minutes. So, I do what every mom does at this point. I grab my purse, ignore the ranting and raving coming from the dungeon, and tell my middle child (poor thing) to get in the car.
Enter fail number 2.
For some reason I can’t just rant and rave at one child. This, I incoherently believe, must be a lesson-in-learning for all my children. Lecture ensues. Poor Holden. He had done nothing wrong this morning, except perhaps for his failure to inform me of the tardiness that he was about to experience. Awesome-sauce.
The car door shuts and I go on to say how he should have informed me of the time and all that other important stuff. seriously, it’s okay to feel bad, the poor child.) He really is a good kid for the most part. He’s just the middle child. Being the middle child sucks. I should know, I was number five of eight (gasp, it’s okay, I survived.)
After turning the corner and revving the engine to ensure a prompt delivery of goods; I apologize, recant half of what I said, and persuade him that I didn’t mean to be mean or angry, that I just need my kids to help me tell time, because gosh-dang-it, moms can’t do it for everyone every second of the day.
He sadly nods his head, mom guilt sets in, and I try to make up for it the rest of the way to school. As he exits the door I poor on my loving mother routine and wish him well, “I love you! Have a great day sweetie!” To which her replies with slumped shoulders and a sure fire way of guilting any mom, “okay.”
As I head home to face the wrath, yet once again, I replay in my mind what has happened and what will happen–over and over and over. At this point, all my efforts and thoughts at awesomeness the night before about how I was going to accomplish so much had basically been stomped on, like a tired, hungry, and exhausted three year old who was told she can’t have any ice-cream, I half-way give up on my endeavors for sanity. My tight workout pants and the stupid waist band were now cutting in my ribs and causing me to cramp, and thoughts of my bed were sounding better and better. Upon pulling in the driveway, I honk.
Disappointment, a necessary evil, sets in.
Not only does my husband come out, but my daughter comes out still looking like a hot-mess. Nothing had changed from her previous attempts, and I knew the ogre was not happy.
Enter character number 5, the ogre.
The other-daughter escapes the ogre, trots down the stairs with every excuse as to why she no longer wants to go to school anymore and that she has nothing to wear, and … I forget— my brain is already brimming with teenager response non-sense and it is sending an over limit signal to the frontal cortex of my brain, “limited storage, memory space as exceeded maximum capacity, must delete or save to external hard drive.” I file that thought away for another time. Meanwhile, note-to-self, environment feels thick with haze – gear up.
For some wild reason, the other-daughter’s behavior just riles the ogre, I can’t imagine why. Needless to say, this just ticks off the ogre only more. He has somewhere to be. Some of his other little millennial ogres whom he teaches how to be big architecture ogres, are supposed to meet with him promptly at 9 a.m.
Sorry. That is just funny, being that it’s now 8:45 a.m. I’ve already thrown any possibility of hitting my 9 o’clock gym class out the window. But this, this was rich. As reality set in, I tried to calm the ogre and urged him to stay where he was so I could go persuade the other daughter to get her butt in the car.
It’s amazing how one (let me be more precise, moms) can discern an entire situation in a matter of seconds… like your psychic and can predict the future – it’s a gift.
As I enter the dungeon, again, the atmosphere is causing the hair on my arms to crawl. Clothes are strewn chaotically, the other-daughter is still in her over-sized, faded, neon green t-shirt, the style in the South these days – sigh; flushed red blotchy face, frantic movements, incoherent speaking of tongues; yep, this time-thing was going to be a problem.
After two minutes of trying to assuage the situation I came to the decision that if I didn’t leave now, I might have to tie my daughter to the top of the car, unfortunately I don’t think that would go over so well—so I did what any other mother in her right mind would do. I took the ogre to work.
I wish I could say that this drive was filled with self-help motives, and positive, uplifting talk about how we handled the situation so wonderfully, and that McKenzie would no-doubt learn her lesson and never repeat this behavior again. But, I can’t. Rather, it was filled with the venting that only a parent of a willful teenage daughter (or son, I won’t be bias) can appreciate.
Well, at least it gets out in a productive manner. Safe and sound in a sound proof barrier where no psychological damage can occur. The ogre kisses me goodbye and wishes me well. I call bull–it! What he’s really saying is he’s damn glad it’s me and not him who gets to go back and handle this situation. Ya, karma has a way of coming back – just you wait.
Once again, I find myself off kilter. Nothing about this day is going according to my ground hog day—per normal everyday plan. As I drive back home I try to rationally think through everything. And the only thing that I can decide on is that, I will ask my other daughter what she, not I, not the ogre; what she could have done differently to ensure that this day doesn’t repeat itself.
It’s at moments like this that parents receive that brief moment of appreciation for all the crap they have to put up with over the course of a child’s life. As I walked into my house, my daughter – because apparently the other-daughter is gone – sweetly apologizes.
“Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get mad at you, I know all you were trying to do is help me, and I don’t mean to get mad at you, I’m really just getting mad at myself because of my actions. I don’t know why I freak out like that?”
Oh, that was a good one, dishing out her own little slice of reverse psychology, brilliantly played. Not bought, but well played.
I consent. “Do you realize that this all could have been prevented? Sweetie, you can’t act like that. Not only did your actions affect my day, but also your brothers and your dads. What do you have to say? Do you understand that your actions have caused everyone’s life to be in somewhat of a chaotic state this morning?”
Nice hair eh? (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge 😉
I’m sure in her mind she is reciting the ever-famous teenage response in her head, “blah blah, blah,” but she responds to my comment about “are you sorry?” with, “I guess so.”
“You guess so? “You guess so?” I yell, as I’m running up the stairs to rip off these stupid pants that are cutting my stomach in half and making me feel like my guts are going to explode. A quick change of pants, a quick saunter down the stairs, and my daughter and I are off.
It must be in these moments when we as parents are able to get a glimpse—no matter how brief, that we must be doing something right. That is the only reason parents are able to survive the previous hellish moments or the hellish moments to come. It also must be in these moments that we – ourselves – also learn a little something.
So much of my daughter’s behavior, I irritatingly admit, I see in myself. She likes to sleep in because I taught her to sleep in. Damnit. And as much as I wish I could go back in time to enjoy those 5 a.m. feedings, I can’t. In fact, I still struggle with it. I hate crawling out of bed in the morning, it stinks. But, it’s something I want to overcome, it’s on my bucket list: Climb Mount Fuji, participate in a half ironman, skydive, go to Rome, run a Ragnar Relay race in Florida and California, see the Great Wall of China, wake up early—everyday. Unfortunately for her and me, it’s probably going to be an ongoing battle.
She procrastinates, I procrastinate. Although maybe not to the extent she does, but I do nonetheless. The difference is, when crap has to get done, the mom e.g. student, wife, volunteer, employee, friend, party thrower, well, she gets it done.
She likes to prove her point; I like to prove my point. Do you see a pattern? Ugh.
As I came home from dropping her off I allowed myself some time to decompress. All joking aside, so much of my own issues have become her issues. That is depressing. That saying, you’re your mother’s daughter, it’s more true than I’d like to admit.
So today, I’m admitting. I’d like to think this is a step in right direction, but I’m not sure. So much of my own issues and insecurities are caused from my own self. My self-doubt, my fear of failure which sometimes keeps me from actually trying. I sometimes have so many thoughts and ideas running around in my head, I don’t dare grab one for fear they will all drop.
Over the last few weeks and months I’ve been hyper focused on all my failures. And one thing continues to seep through, the reality that I’ve failed a lot! However, another concept continues to reoccur, the idea of ENDURING.
As a child, I had such sweet ideas or dreams of what life would look like. Naïve, no doubt, but something I am sure we all do. But to be honest, most of them were not even close to who I am today, or what my dreams and aspirations look like now. But I struggle with separating the two. How can one find the pure joy that we envisioned for ourselves in our innocence when we are surrounded by difficult moments that demand endurance?
Endure. This word is filled with meaning, deeper perhaps than most. To endure one must not just simply participate, but you must exist, live, be. To endure one must be required to bare all, to suffer, to strive. It is an action word, one that demands we don’t give up but instead press on—no matter how difficult the road ahead may be. A foreboding notion.
I know that this life is not always meant to be easy. But I struggle with why it has to be so damn hard sometimes. Why is it so important for us to experience our weaknesses and trials?
What I’ve come to realize is that for whatever reason, it is in these moments – those moments where we get down to the bare bones, the rawness of it all – that we somehow find a way to crawl out of it and learn what we are truly capable of.
Alongside endure is the idea of hope and faith. Faith is a hope for things not seen. Such a simple concept and yet one of the hardest things required of us. I often feel that I have an undying hope for good things to come. But these hopes or dreams are dashed by the stormy waves of life that crash down upon us with never-ending furor. Even more exhausting is the reality that when the waves crash down, the under-tide begins to pull at everything you once believed or held true to your heart, until all your left with is the bare and vulnerable, yet – hopefully – sturdy foundation.
I think this is where our Creator, our loving and all-knowing Heavenly Father wants us.
Not necessarily to experience the heartache, but because that is the only way he can get rid of the weather worn siding, where the frayed shingles, where the flaws and the rickety floor boards that once appeared sturdy enough were now beginning to be weakened by infestations of the world: self-doubt, constantly comparing ourselves to others, self-inflicted pains of losing a job, going back to school, or death of a loved one; it’s the photoshopped images of perfection, the friend who appears to have it all—yet has nothing; it’s the neighbors with the big house as you sit in your rental; it’s everything in the world that brings us down—and its pervasive.
A master builder understands that in order to build the perfect house, he must strip away all of the minute flaws.
Only then, can the rebuilding begin.
This is where all that was, all the beaten and broken parts are shed and the fresh, clean, smooth materials are expertly crafted piece-by-piece until all the sudden, what as a once simple and beautiful two-bedroom home, now exists a mansion filled with textures and vibrant colors. The intricate work is skillfully crafted with love and understanding. The home you once thought was everything you could imagine, now looks like a shanty in comparison to what is now in front of you.
Without these enduring struggles—the crashing turbulent waves of life. Without the sleepless nights of babies needing feeding and diapers changed; without the struggles of hormones and emotions of testy teenagers; without the stresses of work and school; without the refining of lessons learned through service, church, and family; without the personal trials of depression, job loss, inability to have babies, or struggles to find that perfect job; without all those things, we would never be able to be rebuilt into the mansion only He can see. It’s is with patience and understanding, it is by enduring and clinging to hope that He allows us to become more than we ever imagined.
This is where I’m supposed to learn a valuable lesson, and I think I have. And that is, sometimes we are allowed and capable of soaring beyond the clouds. We are strong, we are able, and we amaze ourselves by what we are able to accomplish. Those moments are no doubt to be reveled in. However, there are also those moments, those days, when all we can do is survive. Endure. So today, I say endure. Put one foot in front of the other, and pray for the strength you lack to be better tomorrow than you were the day before. And through it all, believe.
So endure, believe, and live on.