Monday, January 25, 2010

Burning Breakfast

I missed it. It's my biggest fear.

With nine children, I'm always joking that it's a juggling game in which you have to trust that the balls you drop will bounce back. But like any parent, I worry I'm being too cavalier with my children. I know that every moment is a witness, so when my kids are late, their tardiness might not be viewed through the lens of "Oh, well traffic or oh well, she's disorganized or oh well, one kid lost their shoe or needed to go the bathroom." but "She has too many kids." and that's why they're late. Paranoia I know, but it sits in my head like a little demon, pecking at me to stress over things that don't matter and over knowing when I should be stressing and I'm not.

The demon pecked all weekend. Both basketball teams lost. The Academic Contest didn't go well. There were projects that took most of two kids’ spare time and I had to practically sit on one to get his math done. They didn't practice their music. I didn't read to the youngers. The demon loves to point out how other kids play three sports or make all "A's" or seem to be planning for the future far beyond what strategies they'll employ in the next card game of Magic or which set to play on Rock Band.

Everything they do, they do well enough to impress a bit, like silver that hasn't been polished recently, but isn't tarnished yet. Is it my job to scrub them until they shine or to let them learn to want to shine themselves? I'm not always sure.
Do I want them to score points at the game or ace the test? Absolutely. I scream with everyone else until I'm hoarse from the sideline. I suggest practicing often. I demand they do their homework. Sometimes I'm dramatic and hand them the instruments.  I've even pretended to dust or stacked them in a crazy manner to get their attention.

But I wonder, because I don't check over work much and I don't jump up and down if they don't play, should I be demanding more? Should I be drilling more? How do I light a fire under them and not burn them away? How do I know if I'm using sloth to excuse my actions or inactions?

All these great ponderables were in my head as I made hot chocolate. Then I went to check the computer. One daughter asked for grapes. I started writing. My other daughter came to tell me the baby woke up and I walked away to get him. I came back to a large burned bubbly mess of milk. Wiping up the wasted breakfast treat, I felt irritated at myself for NOT PAYING ATTENTION. I'd multi-tasked myself into a kitchen disaster that could have been much worse. And the answer was there on the stove.

One thing at a time. Pay attention. Stay awake. Don't withdraw into the cyber world of emails, blogs and websites. There will be time to write. It's just not all the time. Here they are. Read to them. Be present. Don't burn the hot chocolate because you didn't pay attention. You'll lose out on good sweet things if you allow yourself to be distracted.

So I microwaved some tea and gave the kids some crayons. They asked for a bath afterwards. I agreed.

So I'm here, finishing this up while they color, not crying over spilled milk. Thanking God for giving this silly woman a burnt cup of cocoa, and turning off the computer for the day. I can already hear the demon giving me all kinds of reasons to stay online, but for the moment, I understand her ploys. I have to stay awake. I have to trust that God will give me what I need and will help me give them what they need. Pay attention. All good things require a sublimation of the personal will, exercise, music, homework, parenting, writing, prayer. If I want a real life for all of them, I must submit. I can't be a virtuous mom if I'm a virtual mom. So, with that momentary epiphany, I'm going to go feed the baby and color now.

Have a great day.

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