Even When…

Sarah 2005Today over at Extraordinary Moms Network I posted a little ditty that almost perfectly sums up where I am as a parent today. Go ahead and have a look … I’ll wait.

She’s fifteen now. Fifteen going on thirty. And I swear to you, there are days when we look at each other and wonder, How on earth am I supposed to live with THIS for three more years?

At least. Best case scenario.

If you ask her, she drew the short straw in the Mother Lottery. Her model yells (or yells back). Drinks (a glass of wine at LEAST twice a week, usually while daughter is giving me the stink eye). Is woefully unfashionable. Cramps her fashion style (“No, you may NOT wear black eye shadow”) and sense of propriety (“Yes, you must wash the pen design off your hands before Mass”). Worst of all: HER mom makes her do chores (like a SLAVE, like emptying the dishwasher and setting the table EVERY DAY and cleaning her room).

I’ll admit, I do get crabby sometimes myself. The only time I wake up without the sound of a howler monkey in my ears is when I’m on a business trip. Each morning I fall over the dog, who is cringing under my feet the moment she enters the room. There is not a lipstick, cookie, or bottle of nail polish I can buy that has a snowball’s chance in hell of winding up anywhere but in her room. She speaks, and the room turns blue. She sees her brother, and drama ensues (a fight or teary-eyed accusations of neglect, depending on the day). Her first mother tells me she was just like this at Sarah’s age, which she says to be comforting but actually terrifies me.

But here’s the thing … I love her. Her color. Her exuberance. Her insatiable need for love that induces her to cuddle up to me as close as possible on the couch at night, and plead for her father to tuck her in at night. I try to imagine what it must be like for her, to BE her. I see how she struggles. And I wish I could swish a wand and make it all better.

But that’s not what I signed up for. That’s not what love is about.

Almost fifteen years ago, we signed up for this. God knows if we’d known the wild ride in store for us, we might have run screaming for the hills. But we didn’t. So we didn’t.

Do I love her as much as I’d have loved “my own child”? I don’t know. There’s really no way to know. But this much I can tell you:  She has taught me, the hard way, what it means to really love someone. Because true love most often comes not in the shape of a heart … but of a cross. It means not loving because, but loving even when.

 

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Blameless?

naughty kidDo you ever feel like diving for cover when you hear the school bus pull up outside your house?

I sometimes do. Bracing myself for the drama, I toss something in the oven for supper, flop on the couch with the dog and a cold glass, and paste a smile on my face, trying not to think of all the work I still need to do that evening.

If it’s been a particularly arduous workday, I turn on my ER reruns and try to decompress a bit before the door slams. But I may need to rethink that strategy.

This morning a paragraph from one of the readings leaped out at me:

I will walk with a blameless heart within my house;
I will not set before my eyes whatever is base (Ps 101).

Now, the psalmist didn’t have access to ER reruns, but he knew a lot about human nature. He understood the temptation to find a handy “escape” from the realities of life. And yet, life has a way of breaking through.

Nine times out of ten, my R&R is interrupted by the sound of teenagers quarreling — doors slamming, glass breaking, high-pitched demands for snacks. You know, life. And more often than not, my response is less than maternal — loud, self-centered, and irritated beyond words.

I feel justified in my outrage, of course. They are perfectly capable of getting a snack or drink, and coming to settle in next to me for a chat. Or better yet, go with me to walk the dogs.

On the other hand… “I will walk with a blameless heart within my house.”  Am I truly blameless in the drama that ensues? Isn’t it just possible that by escaping into reruns, I am unwittingly putting up a “keep out” sign — and my kids, who haven’t seen me all day, express their legitimate need for my full attention, any way they can be sure to get it?

In Psalm 101, the psalmist connects the dots between what I see and who I become. As an adult, I manage my own time and can decide if some “down time” is in order. As a mother, I must also consider what my actions are saying to my two high-anxiety, stressed-out teens. When they see me, how do they feel? Welcomed … or tolerated? Relaxed … or nagged? Loved … or lectured?

Who have I become to them? Is it the person I want to be?