Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mirror, Mirror

Stepping around wooden puzzle pieces and strewn piles of clean, once-folded laundry, I was utterly exhausted before even half of the day had been lived. The morning was chaos. The girls screamed at each other more often than they spoke. They swatted and pushed more often than they smiled. When they weren't behaving badly, they were playing with such vigor and volume that I couldn't think for all the noise and action.

Mia wanted to play 'skunk' while I was getting dressed for church. Lauren wanted to be held above all else. They tripped over each other's voices in a raucous competition for my time and arms, and it was all I could do to stay calm.

I wanted peace.

And space.

In the midst of the mad morning rush, I struggled to maintain patience. I struggled to keep my voice even, when all I wanted to do was shout "QUIET!" Which would have defeated my point. I struggled to keep my countenance placid, when all I wanted to do was screw up my face into a frightening ROAR of reproach. Which would have counteracted the calm I was so desperate for. In hours - mornings, days, weekends - like this, I plunge so far into the well of patience that I don't recognize my surroundings anymore. I don't even recognize myself. I am not patient. But somehow - I act that way. Who is this woman, calmly responding to the screeching whines and destructive messes around her? Who is this woman, bottling up the ferocity that is moments away from exploding all over an already chaotic morning?

Even if I don't recognize myself as the woman with the wellspring of patience, I do understand that her patience is necessary, because the alternative is ugly.

But, is it still patience if I'm screaming inside at my lack of control?

Is it still patience if I would rather lock myself in a closet than listen to one more second of whining?

Is it still patience if everything on the outside looks calm and reasonable, but everything on the inside is a monster of seething frustration?

Is that true patience?

I don't think it is. I think it's a fragile mirror that, when tempted by too much chaos - too much loss of control - will shatter.

And then who will I be?

My mirror will shatter. And I'll just be one more addition to the chaos.

11 comments:

  1. When that happens what you will be is a typical, normal, sane, and good mother who sometimes needs to retreat from the clamor and chaos of kids in order to meet them again, refreshed. None of us has a bottomless reservoir of energy. (Even us hyperactive types don't -- in case you have not noticed, we are like the eveready bunny: we go and go and go and go, but eventually the battery is drained and we drop wherever we are. No planning about it - just dead asleep on the couch, or floor, or wherever.)

    Kids actually do grow up, quiet down, and even survive our well intentioned parenting deficiencies.

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  2. Is it true patience, to "fake" not being bothered? Maybe, maybe not. What your children will remember is that you responded with grace rather than shrieking, with control rather than an enraged lack of restraint. They'll remember the love behind your carefully chosen words and actions.

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  3. Beautifully written. And beautifully felt. I suspect half the "battle" is in even having enough sense to think and not just respond from the same chaos that is around you. Thank you for articulating these feelings, that are many of ours as well.

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  4. I agree with the above commenters. No mom can hold out at all times against frustration. Your huge effort to do so is a gift to your children. I didn't snap or raise my voice for the first four years with my daughter. Now I've chalked up a couple of lapses, but I continue to remind myself of how she will remember her childhood. That motivates me to new patience.

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  5. I've felt this way so many times and (selfishly) I'm really glad to see this description on your blog. You're making me feel normal! This post is beautifully written and honest and, reading this, it's even more clear that you're a mom--a good mom and a real mom--living in the real world with real kids.

    And yes, I think you showed real patience. Not the kind that lets you get through the 38,000th reading of the same three-page story, but the kind that keeps you present and interacting with your kids when all you want to do is scream and hide. Patience AND self-control, that's an important combination.

    Besides, I'd be willing to bet that you'd discover new founts of patience and wisdom (callling your mom, sending the girls to their rooms for awhile, etc.) before you ever really let things shatter. If your blog is an actual representation of your life, then it's safe to say that you're a really good mom and (even when they're grumpy) your kids are happy, healthy, safe and fine.

    So I say, cut yourself some slack and make that handsome husband of yours give you a massage.

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  6. My spiritual adviser recommended an excellent book which suggested the perfect solution. The book is 10 Prayers God Always Says Yes To and suggests that, in your situation, you pray God give me patience and peace. He really does come through!

    As a mother of 5, now all grown, I can easily put myself in your shoes, so don't be too hard on yourself!

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  7. It's those chaotic days that help us appreciate the wonderful ones....hope the rest of the day went well, afterall it was a BEAUTIFUL day.

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  8. Wow, Sarah...truly introspective...and very accurate of what we all feel every now and then (or more!). Thanks for sharing...such good thoughts to ponder.

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  9. Thank you all for such wonderful comments! I think it helped to just write out my feelings. Isn't that how it usually goes :)

    This is one of my main inspirations for blogging: spilling my dirty water all over the place and finding friends who will tell me that they've done the same thing, who'll then help me mop it all up with encouraging words. You all are great :) Wanna have a slumber party?! Or maybe just a wine and Halloween candy party...

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  10. Just playing catch up here...really do wish I could've read this last week because I was feeling the exact same way. I never realized how impatient I was until I had a child.

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  11. Wow, that was a great post. Patience is practiced, so I'd say you get an A for effort! When I need patience (OFTEN), I pray the Hail Mary. Reflecting on Christ's mother really puts things in perspective.

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Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?