Saturday, September 1, 2012

You Are My North, My South, My Sun, My Moon



Image via Flickr  cc
Once there was a well-meaning, well-intentioned woman who had three children. She and her husband love these children and work as hard as they know how to give them food that they like, in-style clothing, a respectable looking home, and a car that doesn't have too much rust on it.

The children were all handsome and blessed with quick wit and an appreciation of a good prank. No doubt, characteristics inherited from both the mother and father, but more from the mother. The children made the parents as happy as parents could be and there was no end to the joy that they brought into the lives of the mother and father.

The father took pride in the outward assurances of all the good he had brought to his family; a comfortable home, a dinner table always full of more food than his children could eat, a wife who was able to be home for their children if they needed it.

But the well-meaning woman, who adores their children more than she could ever find the words to express, would ponder the doings of the day; did she provide them with the stuff of a happy memory? Would they look back on life with her and smile?

She thinks about their days together and there is so much that tells her how she misses the mark that the other women she knows always seem to hit.

There was the Monday last June when she was to pick up her youngest from an early release of a class, only to forget and have one of the on-the-mark parents call her at home, to tell her they had her child with them, wondering where she was.

While out shopping one day, she finds a jacket that makes her think of her oldest son. Excitedly, she buys it for him and leaves it hanging on the coat hook near the back door. He sees it when he comes home and asks her, "Whose is that?" When she tells him through grinning teeth that it's his, he responds, "No it's not."

Driving home from a store that is unfamiliar to her, she is caught in a roundabout intersection and loops through it only to find herself thrown back into the parking lot from where she first entered. It takes her teen-age son sitting next to her, who is one-month-old in driver's license years, to talk her through and out of the roundabout the second time.

Trying to encourage her happy-to-stay-home middle child to be with others, she promises him that if he arranges a bike ride with friends, she'll take care of his chores for the day. His green eyes look at hers and they strike a deal. He comes home late in the day, spent, to find that his bedsheets haven't been changed, nor his laundry folded and put away, because she just forgot.

But one evening, everything felt in place. The house was caught up and there was space to breathe before dinner. She pulled everything together for the day, miraculously somehow. More than anything that night, she wanted to squeeze in one of summer's last walks. The woman and her three sons left, planning to be home in time for her husband's arrival, when they would all eat together.

The four of them walk quickly, each boy trying to make her laugh the loudest as they take turns presenting their "walk of the day." She stays back a bit, watching her loves from behind and listening to their knock knock jokes - smiling to herself, finally feeling like one of the women who always hits the target. They return home and the first one to enter the house is the youngest. She smells the smoke as soon as he opens the door.

As they were weaving their way around the neighborhood - she, giddy from a day without failing - the potatoes that she had forgotten to take out of an oven that she had forgotten to turn off, were turning cajun blackened instead of fluffy baked, from their second hour in hell's fires. She shouts orders like a seasoned captain of a pirate ship, "Open the doors! Get the overhead fan going! Slide the patio door over!" and her children take to the commands as if they're running gunpowder to the cannons.

After she has all hands on deck, she sits at the kitchen island and tries to not cry. But the disappointment, again, of just not being able to be what she feels these beautiful children deserve, becomes too much for her to hold in.

"I'm so sorry. I am so sorry. I wish I was like the moms your friends all have. I'm so sorry."

All three of her princes surround her and promise that it doesn't matter, it's only potatoes.

Her littlest one pushes his way in under the arms of the two oldest brothers. "Naaah," he says, his little head resting against her shoulder, "I like it this way. It's more fun."

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*I had coffee Friday with a wonderful local blogger I've come to know, Jen, of tranquilamama, and she loved this story that I told her, about my week. I decided to share it with all of you today, hoping that if there's a woman out there reading this who thinks she's missing the target, that she sees she's actually nailing it, right on the head.

xo

53 comments:

  1. You think you failed and the kids think you haven't. Mine's the opposite. I thought I did okay and mine (now adults) constantly find opportunities to tell me that I did everything wrong. You'd think I would have had a clue to that, along the way, but I sure didn't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They must feel safe with you, to let you know everything.

      I like that.

      Mine? I think they feel pity for the broken woman before them (half kidding)

      xo

      Delete
  2. I love you.

    Signed, Bridgette Jones clone but homeschooling 5 kids -you can imagine what disaster that would look like...

    :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Homeschooling 5?

      why isn't this a Disney movie???

      Delete
  3. smiles....kids are cool like that...with a bit of grace for us...and we all fail you know...of course that is until they write their memoir...then the gloves come off...smiles..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brian, don't they have THE MOST grace for us?

      I am so blessed. Not a day goes by that I don't say that to myself.

      xo

      Delete
  4. a day in a life. perfect in its imperfection. those on-the-mark moms are missing the big picture, but you, my friend, are not.

    ReplyDelete
  5. a day in a life -- perfect. Those on the mark moms are missing the big picture. But you, my friend, are not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, sweetie.

      Comparison with the other is the debil.

      MUST NOT DO THAT.

      xo

      Delete
  6. How much do I love you, my friend. Immeasurable. Love stories like this, we are all human. And you are the perfect mom for your wonderful, imperfect, perfect kids. xoxoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We're all trying as hard as we can, with what we know.

      I hope they always know my heart is in it.

      Even if I never saw it growing up, I'm figuring it out. No excuses, right?

      Delete
  7. I love this. You are an amazing mama, and you kids are blessed to have you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kimberly, you made me smile today.

      Thank you!

      Now, back to battening down the hatches!!

      Delete
  8. you are just like the the mom i grew up with, and let me tell you, the memories are HUGE and WONDERFUL and most of all FUN!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anna, I'm so sorry you lost your mother when she was still so young, and you were at the age when it was so unexpected.

      I'm so sorry

      I'd love to read stories about her, promise??

      Delete
  9. I loved it so much I smiled and felt it so much I cried!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andrea, someday, I hope we meet. Thank you.

      Delete
  10. Your kids do NOT want boring. No one does. At least not anyone I like. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh I do love this. You hit the mark because you were there with your kids. Forget the burnt potatoes! They are lucky to have you as their mother.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Rach: we are better mothers than we think we are. We just have such impossibly perceived standards. I mean, we're assuming that the perfect mothers we watch with confused envy also have a household full of laughter?

      Maybe they do, maybe they don't. We can only know what our children feel and how we make them feel.

      xo

      Delete
  12. Oh I needed to read this. I so often think I'm falling behind somewhere and I probably am. It's what our kids remember though that is most important right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jess, you, are doing it right.

      I know.

      xo

      Delete
  13. You are such a wonderful story teller! Your boys are so lucky to have a mom who cares about being good to them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, sweet thing.

      I remember how I felt when we walked into that smokey kitchen.

      Another epic fail, and my boys pulled me out.

      They save my life every day.

      xo

      Delete
  14. Wait - aren't kids supposed to think their mom is uncool? This may be a bad sign...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, there are times when they are red with mortification.

      I've blogged PLENTY about those.

      xo

      Delete
  15. LOVE the it's more fun statement. we have so many memories of me almost burning down the house and the german AND American firefighters coming to our house. it is way more interesting and exciting to be our children!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. You m' lady, may just have an inkling about what I beat myself up about every day. Grateful.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is so how I feel every day. You think that you are finally ahead of the game and then something happens to smack us in the face. I always feel like I am never doing enough or never doing the right things, but then I look at my happy kids and realize that we (moms) are all in the same boat. As long as our kids are happy and healthy we are doing something right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wonder if it's like this for all moms? I see a few who walk, sniffing pies in heaven, so SURE they've hit every single bull's eye.

      xo

      Delete
  18. I love how you told this story. I frequently apologize to my daughter for what I perceive as my failings and 9 times out of 10 she has no idea what I'm talking about, gives me a hug and says you're a good Mum.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I know when I compare someone's outsides by my insides the scales will never tip in my favor. But then again, I'm comparing apples to oranges. I think it's better to have my insides match my outside than to try to hide who I am.

    You, my friend, are someone whose insides matches her outside, That makes you so much more approachable and easier spend time with (both on and off the net).

    WHY DON'T YOU LIVE CLOSER?????

    ReplyDelete
  20. Can you imagine how hard it is to be a child with parents who really are perfect?

    Sheesh.

    I think I'd prefer an imperfect mother who loves me with every ounce of her imperfect soul. Any day.

    Living up to the perception of perfection can't easy.
    Not at all.

    You're giving your boys THE best gift they could receive:
    The knowledge that we can try our best, sometimes fall short, and still be loved.

    Still. Be. Loved.

    What better lesson is there in the world?

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hey, at least you cook for your kids. I don't think mine have seen a real potato - torched or otherwise - in four years.

    Heh.

    XOXO

    A.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I cannot even begin to explain how much I love this. And you. xo

    ReplyDelete
  23. "I like it this way. It's more fun" - Bullseye. So beautifully told. Absolute perfection.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Love every single word and piece of heart here.

    And also, love every last piece of you.

    {Let's stay off the mark together, okay?}

    ReplyDelete
  25. What is it about last week?? I had one of those weeks too...where I felt I was missing the target,and so I was reminded of all the other times in my mothering career that I missed the target.

    It's good to read this from you, because we all feel we fall short sometimes, we all feel disheartened.

    I too wrote a post on my blog about my week and the feeling of letting your most precious loved ones down. I published it the same day as your post, Empress :-) And I cried as I wrote it.

    ReplyDelete
  26. A wise older friend once said that if you get down on the floor and play with your kids, you're being a good mom. The rest is extra. She meant it literally and metaphorically, I think: being with your kids is way the hell more important that whether the potatoes are cooked perfectly. And besides, we all know that in point of fact you're a fantastic cook, so glitches for you are glitches, instead of what they are for me: standard operating procedure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right? Right.

      I remember my house not being kept up BUT I also remember throwing blankets over the kitchen table and "camping out' every time there was a rainstorm. We'd take flash lights and cover them with red and orange and yellow tissue paper and pretend it was a campfire.

      I remember all that.

      House still isn't cleaned, but the time for camping out inside, has long passed.

      The time will come to someday clean the house.

      xo

      Delete
  27. I love this post. I love the part where they're trying to outdo each other with their silly walks. That's proof right there that you have done well, mama. Potatoes schmotatoes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AH! Thank you.

      They always try to make me laugh the loudest. And each one does.

      All 3 of my boys are my favorite people on the planet. And the funniest people I've ever met.

      I snort for no one else, but them. They make me do it.

      Delete
  28. It is hard, Alexandra, so hard to remind myself that I am doing ok, I am doing enough, my kids are happy. I see so much failure when I look at my days, at the laundry I said I was going to finish but then fell asleep. Anger at the dishes I said I was going to wash but that now have lasagna stuck to them because I forgot...or fell asleep. But the times when, just like your boys, my kids lift me up and tell me something great I've done when I was totally oblivious to either doing it, doing it correctly, or them noticing at all? Damn. I just might be doing this motherhood thing justice. They just might wind up ok.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Wow, I love this post. The end really got me. Funny thing is, Alexandra, as I was catching up on your posts, reading from up to down, I found myself gulping, thinking, Alexandra always hits things on target. (I was reading today's post about the website you check out with your kids together, and I thought, I never do that!! When I am busy or out of commission or just plain lazy and tired I let my son play video games...alone) Thanks for your honesty. From time to time I have wished I could be a stay at home mom, thinking that in that way I would be there for my kid 100% and be an amazing mom, the type he will remember and love forever. But knowing me it is hardly any guarantee. But thank you for letting us know that no one ever hits the target all the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You and I have known each other almost 3 years, Ceci. And it was insant friendship.

      I understand, you understand: it's an amazing, wonderful thing.

      Thank you.

      Delete
  30. *Sniff*

    So sweet. This.

    And you are perfect just the way you are. In a burned potatoes, lost-in-a-roundabout kind of way.

    XOXO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, did my boys laugh! We leave the store and then we get whipped back into the store.

      My teen son just kept saying OMG! OMG! I can't wait to FB this!!

      Delete
  31. Yup. I wonder how my kids are gonna look back on my mothering. It scares the crap out of me most of the time.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I wish more people were honest like this. Sometimes it seems like motherhood is a competition.

    We need to stop acting like we are perfect. I think that makes other moms feel bad, like you do here.

    We're all trying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you.

      I appreciate what you mean.

      Not to be defensive: I just want to be the best for my children and I feel like there is someone who could do it better.

      Or maybe not.

      My kids do an awful lot of hugging and laughing and kissing.

      I don't know...just me thinking they want perfect, clean and get crazy instead.

      I'll trust them, right? They say that's what they like.

      Thanks for stopping by. Do you have a blog?

      Delete
  33. I'm late reading this one...but it is so so great. I love the ending - your youngest knowing that he is lucky to have you in his life. We worry so often about not measuring up - there is no endeavor laden with more pressure than parenting. Sometimes we have to look for those little signs that we are indeed measuring up, even in those moments we worry most that we are failing.

    ReplyDelete

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