(Written May 29, 2012.)
Years ago, I heard a story about a mother who took her son to a therapist because she was having issues with disobedience and disrespect, more so than she had had with her other children. At the end of the initial intake appointment, the therapist looked at the mother and said, "So you're telling me that your son attends school every day, maintains decent grades, doesn't drink or do drugs, has friends you like, and goes to church with you every Sunday?" That was the last appointment. It's not that the therapist was dismissing the mother's concerns; she was just putting them in context. That mother had a good kid -- a kid who, from time to time, made some rather routine, lousy decisions.
The last week or so in the Welch household has had its ups and downs. Which is to say, it's been fairly typical. I've been called "stupid" and "mean," watched my 4 year old hurl a toy utensil at his grandmother, witnessed an ugly, pre-nap tantrum that included throwing a bag of Pull-Ups down the stairs, been kicked out of anger, been blamed for things that are utterly absurd (like losing a school paper I had never been given), told a child that he may not throw paper airplanes in the kitchen only to see him do it again less than a minute later, listened to the big boys call each other names, discovered a bathroom drawer coated in toothpaste and petroleum jelly and full of half used tubes of toothpaste and sticky toothbrushes, been told by the seven year old that I treat him like a slave (when I asked him to clean up his own mess), and heard "no" and "It's not fair" more times than I care to count.
Sometimes, I just want to pull my hair out.
But this is what else happened this week: I woke up next to my four year old (the big boys took turns sleeping in our bed while Daddy was in China), and when he realized where he was, his eyes widened, a grin spread across his face, and he gently stroked my face, saying "I love you, Mommy." When the four year old got up from his nap, he picked up every strewn Pull-Up without being reminded. The seven year old asked what he could do to help with dinner and didn't complain when the answer was "set the table." When the four year old was an inconsolable mess before dinner, the baby crawled up to him and rested his head in his lap. The four year old asked if he could have a picture I drew and whispered in awe as he held it delicately, "It's beautiful." The seven year old came to me trembling with regret, asking for forgiveness for kicking me. When I couldn't snuggle with the four year old who was upset that it wasn't his turn to sleep next to Mommy, the seven year old lay next to him until he calmed down and then left his little brother with a beloved stuffed animal to make him feel better. And there have been countless, spontaneous hugs between brothers.
Sometimes, it takes my breath away.
There will always be days when I will need a friend or a family member or teacher (or maybe even a therapist) to help me keep things in perspective. But I'm going to work on playing this role more often in my own life. Remember the good parts. Remind myself that these little people are awesome.
"Don't become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one." (Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery) Amen.