I’m sitting at a brown table built with 2×4’s under the shade of a green umbrella. Sounds of children playing bounce back and forth. Above it all, I hear my daughter Hope bossing around the other kids, telling them how to play the game. I hear a mom correct her child, followed by the familiar “No!” Internal sigh of relief that my kids aren’t the only ones who talk back.
Teens in bikinis come into the pool sipping Sonic drinks. I wonder if I will let my daughters wear bikinis when they are teenagers. It’s so hard to say no when they look so good in them. I remember when I had a body like that…well maybe not just like that.
My friend is sitting down by the deep end. I haven’t gone over to chat because I have “work” to do like writing this blog. I’m trying to collect my scattered thoughts. This morning it seems…
“Mom! I’m going potty!” announces my youngest daughter Faith as she runs dripping to the bathroom. It feels like every five minutes my thoughts are interrupted by kids asking questions.
“When can we go to the pool? Can we go to Bounce U? Have you called Bounce U? Can I bring a friend?”
In between the questions, I’m trying to check off the to-do list running through my head. Change dentist appointment. Find a place to board the dog. Call my mother.
“1…2…3…go!” I hear Kyle say in the deep end. And one lonely girl in the kiddie pool calling “Polo…Polo…Polo.”
“My name is Faith,” my daughter says when the girl calls her Marco. Guess I need to add teaching her how to play Marco Polo to the list.
The poor kid sitting behind me is trying to endure a disciplinary lecture from his mom. Another boy sits across from me working on homework in a workbook. We all try so hard to be good moms.
Kyle just walked up with ice cream. He hasn’t had lunch. How can a good mom let her son have ice cream before lunch? I remind myself that I did succeed in parenting Faith. She sits next to me finishing her PBJ so she can go get ice cream. And I am a good mom because my kids have to earn their ice cream money. Justified.
“Mom will you play horseshoe with me?”
“Not right now.” See, I told you I was a bad mom. Choosing writing over my kids. Bad mom. They want me to come swim with them and honestly I don’t want to. I would rather write.
“Not right now. Maybe when I’m done.” And the questions don’t stop and the thoughts are never complete. And I feel like I’m going crazy. Like I’m going to jump out of my skin. God, didn’t you know I was an introvert control freak? So why the four kids? He just smiles a mischievous, Father-knows-best kind of grin.
I do however stop writing to help Faith finish her ice cream, and she didn’t even have to ask. Priorities…you know? Now she’s off to socialize with the teens in bikinis. Bad mom.
But I’m supposed to enjoy this because someday I will come to the pool alone because everyone is too busy to come. I will bring my sunglasses, my book, my suntan lotion and my big floppy hat. Someday I will sit at the pool and read and only take a dip when I get hot. I will get my own ice cream and not have to share it with anyone. I could even spend time blogging at the pool and not fee guilty about it.
This was actually a writing exercise I did to help me be present in the moment and pay attention to what I was thinking about. What I realized was how often I told myself that I was a bad mom. Of course, I know all the right answers and remedies about trusting God and pleasing only him, and I have given them to people before. And yet…I still struggle, like most women do, with the internal dialogue, the inner critic, that follows me throughout my day. I wish that other people understood what I told myself on a daily basis. Maybe they would think twice before telling me what I’m doing wrong as a parent or boasting about what they are doing right. I wish my husband remembered how little positive affirmation there was in the profession of motherhood. I hope that I will remember this the next time I’m tempted to judge another mom or boast about my own shining moments, brief as they are. And the next time you see a mom being the best mom she can be, tell her she’s doing a great job and help her inner critic shut up for just a moment.