Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Boiled Frog Mom

Most people know the story of the boiled frog. If you put a frog in hot water, it will jump out. If you bring the heat up slowly, it will get boiled alive.  Lent is supposed to help us realize all the ways in which sin is boiling us alive.

Part of why the humor pieces that used to pepper every day dried up, is my children started growing up, and the other part is I got used to the reality.   Back when I had six or seven or even eight or nine, I kept fighting the reality that it would take twenty-five minutes to get out the door, I would deny the truth I'd still be changing diapers in 2015.  I fought tooth and nail the idea of having to fold 100 pairs of socks a week.

But something happened in the past four years, two of my children left for college, and all the others started to grow up a bit and so did I.  It wearied me less to take care of things. The socks still loom, there are still unexplained piles of clothing I discover whenever I do my patrol of the house, but since I now do it 6 days a week, there are fewer surprises like crunchy socks and apple cores.  Diapers and pottying remain part of life, but they've been part of our existence so long, it no longer plagues me as it did once. Did I grow up? (Some).  Did they mature? (Some).  All of this became routine, such that it no longer vexed or stressed as it had on a regular basis.  That doesn't mean they don't decide sometimes to hitch up three children to a jump rope and pull the garden cart plus two laundry baskets behind them around the house and scream at the top of their lungs or that there aren't occasionally my little pony pegasi, paper airplanes and super balls up on the balcony crown molding, only that it no longer strikes me as insane, but rather as proof they are the ages they are.   Part of that brought peace, but part of it revealed a dullness in me.

At some point, triage parenting (Get them fed, get them brushed, get them dressed, get them kisses, get them to bed) stopped working because they and I knew, it wasn't enough.   You think it is sufficient, you're making sure they're clean, they've been read to, they've gone to school and to some activity, you've fed them and bath and bedtime.  But then we had a three day weekend courtesy of a snow day.  At the end of the three days, my husband and I summed up all we'd done in the course of the time with our children.  We took them to their activities, (basketball and a party), we got them to mass, I made pancakes for breakfast. He took some on a walk while I hovered over homework and got one of the youngest, a hair cut.  They'd played apples to apples while dinner was being prepared, we'd grocery shopped, shoveled snow and some had played Civilizations on the computer, and others watched a movie on television.  Pretty good weekend huh?  Lots going on. Lots of variety of stimuli, big red check mark right?

Except I realized I'd been a disconnected part of this experience. I'd shoveled but I hadn't played in the snow with my children.  I made dinner while they played apples to apples.  Even my recreation with them was either passive --watching television with the younger set, or in command --taking someone to the barber's.   I'd somehow missed the Mary part of mothering in favor of the Marthaing.
It stung to recognize this reality, it is the way I've mothered for many years, and it is a habit that the practice of fasting, brought to light.  To which my soul said simply, "Ow. Yikes." and then, "Now what?"

Not that I was resentful of my family, all that needed to be done NEEDED to be done, but it all needed to be done with others, rather than apart.  I'd done all things with love, and for those I love, but I'd not built connection.  I'd been the background, the air, necessary, but unnoticed.   And I ached for the relationships I'd not built because I'd been so busy doing for these people I loved.

Being a mom means being present, not just providing, just so as being a dad means being present, not just providing.   I'd been doing only half of the job. Important stuff, not to be ignored. Everyone needs their teeth brushed, hair combed, proper attire to go outside and to have done their homework, that all matters, but when they leave the house, what will their memories of me be?  Only that I fed them and put away their clothes?  So why did it take so long to get to this thought?  A lot of parenting a large family is just making sure you don't forget whatever is critical to this day, but when you're so worried about missing the little big things of this day, you can miss the big little things of everyday.

It wasn't a pleasant feeling, and I knew, I'm out in the dessert, discovering something of that more we're supposed to be.  I knew if I stayed as was, I'd be boiled, but that I'd let myself stay thinking it would some how on its own, become something better.  In that moment, I hated and loved Lent. Because it shows me all the ways in which I've allowed myself to limit my love of my family by trying by works alone, to show love.  What's the cure?

Presence.  I know it is the answer, it's so obvious and seemingly simple.

(So you're wondering why I'm writing a blog rather than stopping everything and painting with my daughter)? Because that's what I'm going to do next now that she's finished watching her favorite show.  Have a great Tuesday!

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