Living a Beautiful Life

The other day, as we were driving home from my youngest son’s lacrosse practice at 7:45, my daughter remembered she had a social studies project due the next day.

That was a Wednesday.  Wednesdays are hard.  My husband is typically out of town, and the kids have activities that are back to back on opposite sides of town.  Wednesday is one of those days were everyone has to make sacrifices – my sons, because they have to go to my daughter’s track meets, where they stand around for an hour or more to watch her run for 15 seconds (not getting homework done); my daughter, because she gets dragged to lacrosse practice for both brothers.  One has practice from 5-6:30, the other from 6-7:30.  Both practices are at the same sports complex, but it’s a good 20-25 minutes from our house, especially with traffic.  So, our choices are either take one kid to practice, come back, get the other’s stuff and turn right around and head back to drop him off, wait for the first to finish, bring him home, turn around and head back down there and then come back home again – or we stay there and make the best of it. 

We stayed and made the best of it.  On this particular day, she wasn’t running, so she had completed her homework, and it was a beautiful day.  I took my running stuff and I felt like I was winning, for a change.  We hadn’t eaten dinner and were discussing where to stop and pick some up and then she dropped the bombshell.

My initial thought was DAMMMMMMMIIIIIIITTTTTTT.  It was late, I was tired, she was tired.  She had forgotten, and after some back and forth and deep, exasperated sighs (from both of us), she apologized for forgetting. 

She’s human. She’s 12.  She’s imperfect.  I’m human.  I’m 45.  I’m imperfect.

Denying myself the indulgence of my frustration and anger, I assured her we’d figure it out.  That's what she needed from me.  A few deep breaths and a sandwich later, we sat down and got started. 

It took her 3 hours.  I sat with her, I helped her figure out where to find the information she needed, I helped her toss around ideas for how to illustrate things like the Townshend Acts and the first Continental Congress, all while getting two other children fed and one tucked in.  Together, we rolled up our sleeves and she got the project done. 

At one point, she looked at me and squeezed my hand and said, “I think you’re the most beautiful Mom in the world.”

This comment had nothing to do with my overall physical appearance.  I had been running, so my hair was sweaty and my makeup long gone.  Mayonnaise had leaked from my sub and stained my shirt and my ponytail was a frazzled, tangled mess.  My face was still beet red and the little patch of gray baby hair on my forehead was sticking straight up.

For her, it was about my heart and the fact that I hadn’t yelled at her and that she felt safe and supported and connected.  I was kind and patient with her in her hour of need and panic. And to her, that was beautiful -- me on the inside.

And it made me realize, I haven’t been very beautiful lately. 

I yelled about laundry this morning and I nag about chores, and I do a lot of exasperated sighing over the messes they leave everywhere and the fact that she asks for my help with homework then fights me tooth and nail every minute of it.  I am quick to lose my patience.  Too quick.  I have been feeling the burden of being a single parent more than I want to be and trying to do it all and be there for everyone and feeling resentful that I am losing sight of who I am and sacrificing my needs for everyone else’s.  I have a teen and a preteen and, while they’re amazing kids, they’re a teen and a preteen and they are fully entrenched in their oblivion for anyone and everything else besides themselves.  I’m at my wit’s end more than I want to be and in addition to work and being everything to everyone, I’ve coached and volunteered and I am stretched thin.

And I am yelling. And frazzled.  And just getting through.

I don’t want to yell.

I don’t want to be frustrated.  I don’t want to be overwhelmed.  I don’t want to be impatient.  I don’t want to let stress take the fun and beauty out of my life.

It took my daughter, who has the uncanny ability to recognize beauty in the smallest of gestures, in the most unlovable of people, to remind me that I’m doing it all wrong. 

I can either choose to be the happy, patient mom or I can choose to let the frazzle take over.  I can wallow in my exhaustedness and let my mantra be “just get through it” or I can stop, take a deep breath and really experience it.  When I feel frazzled, I turn to my efficient mom-bot mode, which is great for making things happen and making people think you're all together, but overtakes joy.

I choose the former.  I choose to be the beautiful mother my daughter wants to see, that my sons and husband want to see. 

The next night, my son’s practice ended early.  I made dinner and we actually ate at the table, instead of on the fly.  Just me and three kids.  We talked and I asked them questions and we laughed, which is something I feel has been missing lately.  I felt connected to them, and relaxed, and I felt like the mom I wanted to be instead of the mom I fear I have become.

My life is beautiful – so full, so busy, so blessed, so fun. 

Leave it to my Little Meems for reminding me to live it that way.


Unknown said…
Once again you have touched my heart by your mother's love. I'm so glad you are the mother that God chose for our precious grandchildren. I love you, and appreciate your honesty and transparency. Good job, Jennifer.
Valerie said…
What a wonderful post Jennifer -- thank you for sharing this! I needed this reminder too :)
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