The other morning, as I was standing, barefoot on the cold tile, making kid lunches I came across a pink, heart-shaped sticky note with the following words written in my daughter's script: "I love you. Love, Mommy"
It completely undid me. Before the sun was even up. It undid me because I feel like I have been trying really hard to make our home a place of peace, which means (among other things) that I have all the laundry washed and folded and back where it goes by Monday morning so the tactically-challenged girl children can dress themselves without seizure. And food purchased and meals planned. And all the other stuff moms before me have already complained about having to do. And then there is all the energy I expend swallowing unkind words at dinner every night when the children appear to be making-out with their mugs of milk, and telling painfully long stories about who-knows-what with mouths full of food. But my relationship with my parental duties is not my daughter’s concern.
My sweet daughter wants a mom who leaves her notes in her lunchbox, and since her mom wasn’t meeting this need, she wrote the note herself. I showed my husband. He laughed, but then again he would. To him it didn’t seem like a personal critique – just another example of her go-get-it-ness. I took it out and wrote a note that was actually from me on pretty white paper with art deco cherry blossoms zig-zagging up the side. I taped it to the inside of her lunchbox lid, so that she would find it right away.
I got everybody where they needed to go.
Went for a run and felt sorry for myself.
Came home and had a good cry about my failure as a parent.
Then I called a few wise moms I know and all of them said nice things about “us” and “kids” and “girls” and “trying again.” But I couldn’t quite shake it.
By way of spilling my soul all around the town I figured out which of my lovely mom friends leaves little notes for her babies. Her daughter and my daughter often sit together at lunch, and my daughter is not a fan of being left out. I can now see, seven days past my pity party, that the note was probably 50% real need for affection, 50% real need to not be outdone in the cafeteria. So, I decided to accept that and move forward with the day-to-day work of doing my best, which isn’t always enough.
Then yesterday I had the chance to have lunch at school with Sis. I sat at one end of those long school tables that mysteriously fold into the wall of the gymnasium. But by the time Sis got back from buying chocolate milk I had been swarmed by her lunch buddies. So, there I sat, with my knees bumping the underside of the table, totally surrounded by elementary-aged girls, facing my lunch date across the table. It was really fun. I like the group of girls that Sis hangs with and they were all eager to tell me random stuff about themselves. Somewhere between the news of the 94-year old grandpa and the new baby cousin who is bottle-fed, I heard the girl whose mom writes notes say, “I wish my mom would come to lunch. I ask and ask, but she says she is too busy.”
That is when I knew for certain that the wise women who I called after my pity party last week were right. Kids are insatiable. They want everything, and then a little more. If I made it my sole quest to give my children all the attention they could possibly want in all the modes they want it, I would dead by Friday.
I looked up (again) the oft-quoted-at-weddings section of I Corinthians 13 that talks about the attributes of love. The first in the list: patience. The second is kindness. Followed by a purposeful turning away from envy, boasting and pride. Followed by much else of importance, but that it where I stopped reading this time, since my brain and my heart were already full. Love for my kid must include patience for her AND patience for myself. And kindness for both of us. And a purposeful turning away from envy, boasting and pride, since nothing good can come from those weeds that grow quickly, sending out shoots underground.
So, I tell myself again –for the seventy-seventh time – “It’s okay to pace yourself.”
And it’s also okay to leave a little stack of sticky notes by the phone in the kitchen, expressly for the purpose of reminding my babies at lunchtime that they are loved. Not because I want to “keep up.” But because it is a good idea that I learned (ungracefully) from another mom whose doing what she can with what she’s got.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” I Cor. 13:4