8.28.2007

Grateful For My Crazy Life

Today started out a little different than usual. I slept in and didn't go running because I haven't felt very good the past couple of days. I got up, still not feeling well, showered and then frantically got the boys breakfast and got them ready for the day. We rushed off to the bus stop and said goodbye to Payton. I took Parker to my Grandma's to spend the day while I got some work done. I came home and sat down at my computer. I opened the following e-mail from a friend:

Anna Quindlen, of Newsweek writes....

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in

disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three

almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three

people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be

afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who

sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and

cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want

to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously,

go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate

to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the

bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried

deep within each, barely discernible except through the

unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished

for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The

ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-

childhood education, have all grown obsolete. Along with

Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered,

spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages

dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me,

finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the

well-meaning relations --what they taught me, was that they

couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false

test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you

realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One

child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be

managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is

toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby

to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-

up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their

backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a

new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then

soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually

the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one

of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which

he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet,

and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month

old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat

little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind?

Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I

insane? Last year he went to China . Next year he goes to

college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe

me, mistakes were made. T hey have all been enshrined in the,

"Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame." The outbursts, the temper

tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby

fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup.

The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when

the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her

geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?". (She

insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the

McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without

picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include

that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first

two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us

make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This

is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only

in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them,

sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on

a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what

we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how

they looked when they slept that night.

I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next

thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing

a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what

was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I

suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because

of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true

selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off

and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often

tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look

how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like

best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my

essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was

bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a

while to figure out who the experts were.

I haven't stopped crying! I'm sitting here in a silent house, with toys scattered all around, remnants of breakfast still on the table, papers and projects all over my office, not feeling well and wishing that I could keep up on this crazy life of mine. However, as I read this it makes me so grateful for all of it. I know someday my life won't be this crazy and I will miss it. I'm so grateful for this crazy time in my life. I'm grateful for people that remind me to live in the moment. I am so task oriented that it makes it hard to enjoy the moments if I am not being productive! I think the most productive thing I can be doing in my life right now is ignoring all of my tasks and focus on enjoying the moments, which is much easier said than done. Starting today, I'm going to try a little harder to be a little better at enjoying every moment of this crazy life of mine!!

4 comments:

Reeses Pieces said...

Thanks for the post. It helped me to realize I need to put my kids and Dave first and the not so important things last.

Dani said...

Thanks. My son just left for his first day of school. I, too, am sitting at my computer with life strung through my house and tears in my eyes. I don't mean to thank you sarcastically. Really, thank you. It's like that article is reading my mind. Just this summer, I had a 6 year old, 4 year old, and 1 year old sitting on the lawn with a picnic I was too busy to join.

You are a great mom. An exceptional person. I am grateful to know you.
Dani

Daily Jot & Tittle said...

Okay, I'm still crying. That was just what I needed to read today. Thank you, thank you! I still don't know how you do it though!

D and K Gibson said...

I needed to be reminded to slow down and enjoy them at the age they are at right now, because it goes so fast! Thank you!