And find ways to affirm the parenting skills you're proud of today. You're chock full of wonderful ways to raise your children!
If I wanted to, I could easily write a list of all the ways I'm not doing motherhood right. And there are days -- those gray and purple-bruised days; the swallowed-tears days -- that I could let the flow of supposed hardship wash over me with its filmy weight. In fact, I have done that.
All it takes is one lost temper, which begets another harsh word, which morphs into an hour-long scowl, which builds into a gripping pain at the base of my skull...
Which rushes out of my being and towards my kids. Covering their brightness with my cast-off inadequacies.
I have done that.
But I know it about myself, and I know the cascade of consequences that easily builds when I allow a bad day to have its way with me.
So this -- my shining hope, in which I am becoming well-pleased -- is what I do instead.
I choose joy.
I choose to acknowledge the nugget of irritation, and change it into something else, something workable. I work the frustration down from a pulsing, flickering bulb behind my eyes, let it fall into a thread of light through my neck and arms, let it swirl into a disk of color in my palms.
With my eyes cleared of irritation, and my hands full of possibility, I can see better how to help. I can stay calm and make a plan.
But are a million ways I choose joy every day.
By singing a clean-up song while helping Lauren put away all of the toys she emptied from the shelf.
By smiling into Mia's face as she stumbles over a new word -- so....sloooooowly -- while reading.
By noticing the trash has been taken out.
By accepting the exuberance behind a too-forceful hug on a baby brother.
By affirming an emotion.
By refusing to let another person's anger steal my joy.
By laughing at the wrong moment, invalidating my own lecture.
By seeing the worry in her eyes as she knows she's done something wrong, and letting my reaction soften to include compassion.
By respecting the limitations of a toddler's knowledge and self-control.
Choosing joy also means that I choose to acknowledge the good bits, the bits that float and dance, instead of focusing on the bits that crumble and fall. My day is filled with both. I know which bits I prefer to dwell on.
Buckling Lauren into her carseat, I see that she's run the battery down on my phone by listening to her favorite songs before school. A thin, red line is all that's left in the corner of the screen. We are late. I want to call Justin, to thank him for filling my tank with gas, but I won't be able to until I get home again. The music Lauren's been dancing to is still whispering from her lips:
Don't you blink, you might miss it
See we got a chance to just love it, or leave it
You find it and keep it
Cause it ain't every day you get a chance to say:
Oh! This is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart
Goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun.
Oh! It could be the stars, falling from the sky,
Shining like they want, brighter than the sun.
I kiss those whispering lips before she can stop me from interrupting her singing.
"I love you brighter than the sun," I tell her. She smiles as big as her cheeks will allow, pulls me to her face, and kisses me again. Her hands pull my hair in searing tugs, tangling and yanking. But I choose not to notice the roughness of her grip, the pain of the pull.
Giggling now, she says "I love YOU brighter than the sun!"
Some days, it's so easy to choose the joy.