Thursday, July 16, 2015

Throwback Thursday: A Tattoo on Your Face

To my friends up to their eyeballs in young uns, I offer a post from a few years back. And I'll add two irrefutable statements, both of which you already

1. It does indeed get easier.

2. You'll miss these days more than you can comprehend.

Over the past eighteen months or so, a number of alarming headlines have bounced around the blogosphere linking children and unhappiness. Childless couples report more contentment, these articles seem to conclude.

I’ve read a few and, frankly, I’m a bit skeptical. I wonder what exact questions were posed. I wonder where in the parenting spectrum these parents were exactly. I wonder if the writers queried empty-nesters or parents in the big, thick middle of it. I wonder what had transpired in the fifteen minutes prior to the interview.

I didn’t care for the popular book, Eat, Love, Pray. Short on commitment and long on navel-gazing, I found it to be one long essay on selfishness. The author did, however, offer a memorable and fitting metaphor for parenthood: Having a baby, she says, is like getting a tattoo on your face.

I’ve written before that parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. No question about it. But what worthwhile endeavors don’t require hardship, perseverance, even suffering?

Medical school, law school, business school? Hard, hard, hard. Planning a wedding, remodeling a house? Hard and hard. Running a marathon, opening a business? Hard and harder. Finishing a PhD, writing a book? Both hard.

Is it surprising, then,  that raising an eternal soul to adulthood is trying at times? Does a mother admitting her struggles means she wishes she’d done things differently, that she would reverse course if she could?

 I think not.

While we were dealing with the emotional and physical upheaval of sub-fertility, I found myself growing distant and angry with God. I sat in a confessional with a very young priest and poured out my soul. After going through all my anguish over our repeat miscarriages, I went on to confess my perpetual sin -- the struggles I have with my kids. At this point, I began to lose Father.

“You’re upset about your miscarriages,” he began.


“But you’re frustrated with the children you have,” he continued.


“But you wanted to be pregnant …?” he went on, brows knit, clearly puzzled.


Confusion began to morph into bewilderment. As I said, this was a very young priest. Fresh faced, he even had braces on his teeth. If it wouldn’t have been horribly patronizing, I would have patted him on the back and said, “Trust me, Father. You’re going to hear a lot of this.”

Mothers, of course, totally get this. Completely frustrated with you children? Check. Desperately hoping for another one? Check. No contradiction whatsoever. Friends of mine have laughed out loud when I’ve shared this little exchange with the priest. No mystery there.

So when I read that parents report unhappiness, I wonder if that is the whole picture.

We have had an exhausting year, a year that’s left me convinced I need to lighten the load so that next year isn’t déjà vu all over again. I’ll have to jettison activities I value. I don’t, however, plan to jettison the children. I don’t even plan to jettison the idea of another child.

Parenting demands heroic fortitude. Yesterday – on Mothers’ Day, no less! – a nameless member of my family decided to irritate his brother by yelling, “You’re mustard! “You’re mustard!” over and over and over again.

I mean, where do they get their material?

For my part, on a day that I’m supposed to be celebrating motherhood, I found myself saying, “Stop saying bad words!”

Yes, mustard is now a bad word. This, sadly, is the comical state to which we are sometimes reduced – censuring our children for calling each other the names of condiments.

Yesterday John – who may or may not be the very same child calling his brother mustard – shot a rocket into his cheek and then spray painted his forehead forest green. All this in the span of thirty minutes. While I was home. And supposedly supervising him.

While dealing with John’s mishaps, I was also simultaneously supervising the construction of a diorama (hence the spray paint) and helping a neighbor’s child with a research paper. In the midst of it all, I spotted Ainsley dashing down the hall carrying the keyboard. Finishing a research paper without a keyboard? That would make the hard list as well.

Only God could have anticipated these mind-numbing antics. Only God could have sweetened the whole deal with joys innumerable, joys as unexpected as spray paint on a toddler, joys more profound than any I’ve taken away from other human endeavors.

Jennifer Fulwiller writes that "Life doesn't have to be easy to be joyful." So true, so very true.

I just finished the morning shuffle. I close the van door and carry baby Ainsley into the house nuzzling her cheek and hugging her cuddly self clad in a flannel blanket sleeper that makes her even more irresistible than usual. I hear John's sweet laughter as he sits engrossed in The Brave Little Toaster.

These children of mine have, indeed, tattooed my face and my heart and my memory.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sacagawea Meets the Third Reich

If you should find your seven-year-old son's long lost Sacagawea coin, he might launch into a whole slew of questions about who she was and why she wound up on a dollar coin.

Being a former history teacher, you'll launch into a long-winded discourse on Lewis and Clark, President Jefferson, the geography of the Mississippi River, Mark Twain, Manifest Destiny, and They Might Be Giants' rendition of James K. Polk.

The boy who clearly has not watched Night at the Museum often enough.
When a discussion of western expansion makes the seven-year-old's eyes glass over, you'll back up and talk about the thirteen original colonies and the American Revolution.

When you mention the Pilgrims and the Puritans, he'll manifest vague but hopeful signs of recognition, and this will prompt you to ask whom we fought in the Revolutionary War.

He'll scratch his chin and furrow his brow and then offer "Hitler?" in
a quizzical voice.

You'll be forced to bang your head on the nearest flat surface.