motherhood

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To young families at Christmas

Published December 25, 2015 by joypatton

IMG_0710For all the moms who are just beginning families: be intentional about the traditions you begin. They will be the things your kids remember, and it becomes very sweet as your kids get older and take over.

I remember one of the first Christmases we had as a little family. I tried to do all the things my family did and all the things everyone else said we should do. From big meals to Santa to Elf on the Shelf. I was exhausted at the end. So I decided to start some new traditions. The only rule was that it had to be easy for me. Yes, it sounds selfish, but going into Christmas with an exhausted mom is no fun either.

Fifteen years into making our family, I wanted to share some of the ones that have stuck, and the payoff is good.

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Joy, Hope and Faith in 2009.

Christmas Eve – I remember coming home from Christmas Eve service after getting everyone dressed. I wanted a big meal, but I didn’t want to make it at the end of the day. So I started doing a pot roast in the crock pot. All you have to do it warm rolls when you get home, and you have a great meal. This year was ingenious because I used stew meat instead of a roast. Delicious! (See the recipe below) After dinner, everyone opens one gift: a pair of PJ’s. Everyone has a new look for Christmas morning, and the little ones satisfy the urge to open a gift.

Overnight Breakfast Casserole – What I love about this one is that you make everything the night before and let it sit in the fridge. On Christmas morning, I just wake up and put it in the oven while we open gifts. This is one of my kids’ favorite traditions. My oldest told me this morning, “This casserole is the only reason I get up on Christmas morning now that I’m a teen.” The best part is that this morning I got an extra hour of sleep because my 13-year-old helped me make it last night, and I told him he could start baking it in the morning. I got out of bed, and it was all ready to go. Merry Christmas to me! (See the recipe below.)

Kids Giving Gifts – One of my favorite traditions is having my kids buy each other gifts. I used to think everyone did this, but I have found out that it’s not very common. When we do our Christmas budget, I include enough for each kid to buy each of their siblings a $10 gift. It helps them to think about each other and keeps them focused on others…a little. This Christmas we used our Citicard Thank You points from my husband’s business card to buy gifts on Amazon. All the kids made wish lists, and shopping was really easy. Each kid sat with me at the computer and picked out gifts for each other. When they came, they helped wrap them. It was so sweet to watch Faith’s face light up as she watched her big brother open the gift she picked out for him.

I love this because it teaches my children how to give good gifts and think of others. This year we didn’t have enough money in the budget for them to buy gifts for mom and dad, but my oldest used some of his own money to get gifts for Andrew and me. They were things we actually wanted. He has learned to watch and listen to see what people need. He has learned that giving gifts is as satisfying as getting them.

As far as Santa and Elf on the Shelf, I’ve tried to avoid them, partly because we didn’t do either one in my family of origin. I don’t like that Santa gets credit for the best gifts, and an Elf that goes around the house and makes more messes for me to clean up is insanity defined.

We dabbled in Santa with my boys, but when they figured it out, we decided not to attempt it with the girls. However Faith, my six-year-old drug me back into it this year and her older sister Hope (age 8) played along with her. They each got one gift from Santa, and the stockings were filled after the kids went to bed.

I’ve learned that inviting some close friends over for Christmas dinner in the evening is just right because by that time we are tired of each other, and we prefer to travel to Ohio at Thanksgiving so that we can have our own family traditions for Christmas at our house. Last night we had our own little candle-lighting service. My boys instinctively started humming “Silent Night” because that’s what we always sing at church.

From left to right: Faith, Hope, Kyle and Connor

It’s so rewarding as a mom to watch these traditions become a part of the fabric of our family. The kids did most of the decorating this year because the decorations always go in the same spot, and they know where to put them. When I am old and tired, they will carry on. When they start their own families, our traditions will help them enjoy the holiday as parents.

I’ve seen the reward of being intentional about these things. As a young mom, sometimes you wonder if the day will ever come. I’m here to tell you that it will. When it does, it’s very sweet and fulfilling to a momma’s heart.

 

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Stuck: Letters from Prison

Published March 29, 2014 by joypatton

letter-writing-picLately I’ve been thinking about and having conversations with other people about the idea of being imprisoned in a metaphorical, spiritual sense.  It’s a season when you just don’t feel like you have what you need to do what God has called you to do.  I have been through the wasteland and discovered who I am and who God is and who God says I am.  But now, I just feel stuck.  I don’t lack the vision, but I do lack the resources…the time, the money, the magical networking connections and coincidences that make a project go. It’s a time that feels like God is intentionally keeping my world small.  I dug the ditches, but he has to make it rain.  I set the sails, but he has to make the wind blow.  There is no rain, and there is no wind.

Maybe it’s a career that you want to have, but just can’t get the right opportunities.  In fact, you land exactly where you don’t want to be.  Maybe you are a full-time working mom that would rather be a stay-at-home mom, but the money just isn’t there or you feel like you’re working alone.  Maybe you dream of adopting a child, but your life circumstances make that impossible.  Maybe you want to serve more at church, but the real job in the real world takes everything you have.  Maybe you have big plans for what you would like to do, maybe even kingdom work, but you deal with a chronic illness that robs you of energy and keeps your world small.  Maybe it’s been a series of unfortunate events that has taken away people or events, and you feel like you are starting over.  Maybe, like me, God gave you a dream, but the dream doesn’t put money in the bank, at least not as much as your family needs.

Almost a years ago, the walls had closed in so much that something needed to change.  I had publishers that were interested in my book, but none that actually pulled the trigger.  I was booked to speak for a women’s retreat, and then I was unbooked.  I was told there was a teaching spot for me at church, and then there wasn’t.  So I did an online Bible study that was very successful, and then I tried another one that didn’t work so well.  The entire year felt like a series of “yes’s” followed by “no’s.”  The walls were closing in, and the money was tight too.  We had cut everything I was willing to cut out of the budget, so it was time to make a change.

Reluctantly, angrily, I started looking for a job, a very depressing process when you haven’t held a full-time job in 13 years and haven’t even had a part-time job for three.  I sent my resume off into cyber space with no response.  It didn’t stand a chance next to people who had actually been getting real experience while I was at home with preschoolers.  I made excuses about how I could never find something that would fit my schedule or pay enough to cover childcare expenses.

But when I told some friends I was looking for a job, I got a part-time job as a personal assistant that could work around my schedule.  This job got me working again.  I remembered how good it felt to be paid for the work you do, something full-time motherhood doesn’t grant.  I also realized that my purpose in life was very simple: to love and serve people no matter where I was.

Then at the end of the summer, we decided I really needed to be working full-time, another Facebook post got me a another part-time job as a PR assistant.  This prompted me to find a full-time childcare solution for my 4-year-old.  I worked in the morning in Nolensville and then drove to downtown Nashville in the afternoon.  I was still loving and serving people, and my work was appreciated.  That felt good, but I began to realize that I really missed teaching.  I was made to teach.

Then I found out about a long-term substitute teacher position at my son’s middle school.  I was offered the job, even though it meant having my own son in class.  But the benefit was that I got to know his friends and teachers.  When the teacher I was subbing for came back, I started subbing every day.  I remembered that I loved teaching.  One day when I was subbing, I met the principal and told her that “Any day I’m teaching is a good day.”

The depression and the anger slowly lifted, but the uncertainty remained.  But God had a plan, a plan that he unfolded right in front of my eyes.  I interviewed for a high school English teaching position that was opening mid-year.  The principal offered me the job at the end of the interview.  What??  So here I am, loving and serving people, teaching senior English, Film as Literature and Creative Writing at a school that “does things differently” with a different kind of students.  It’s a perfect fit for me.

I was talking to a fellow teacher this week.  He asked if I still felt like I was still in prison.  I smiled and said, “I’ve been moved out of the maximum security part and now I’m on a work relief program.”  I don’t know when this sentence will end.  I don’t know if the walls will magically fall down, and I’ll discover this is my new dream.  I do know that I really love my job.  I am grateful for God’s provision for our family and for group health insurance.  Any day I’m teaching is a god day.  Anywhere that I can love and serve people is a good thing.

That’s the trick of prison: learning how to be who you were made to be, to be fully alive and not give up hope.  Joseph modeled that for us in his prison experience.  He was still a leader.  He still used his gifts.  He still interpreted dreams, and he never lost hope.  At least not in the parts that we see.  He ultimately trusted God with his dream, and that’s what I must do as well.

Saying Good-Bye to Camelot

Published March 20, 2014 by joypatton


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Today is my youngest daughter’s fifth birthday.   It has been five years since I was pregnant.  Four years since I have nursed a baby.  Five years since I have held a sleeping infant of my own on my chest, which is the best feeling in the world.  It signifies the end of an era.  No more kids to potty train.  No more Mother’s Day Out programs.  No more play dates.

Last fall things  changed in our family.  I was working full-time for the first time in 13 years.  I had a conversation with my close friend.  Her youngest was going to kindergarten, and she was looking at having her days open and free, wondering how she was going to fill them.  We were both lamenting the fact that it had been weeks since we had seen each other, since we

have sat down and talked while the kids played.  “Who knew the preschool years were Camelot?”  I commented.

In the preschool days, I carpooled to Mother’s Day Out with friends.  And during the drop off, we would sit and chat for an hour or two depending on the day.  We would have play dates or swap childcare.  We were constantly in and out of each other’s homes.  During the preschool years, I went to Bible studies and enjoyed two hours of kid-free adult conversation.  I even taught Bible studies.  I remember climbing the stairs one morning, very pregnant, asking God to give me the strength and the words for the study I was leading at the time.  It wasn’t easy, but I don’t regret it.  Looking back, I’m grateful that I took advantage of the opportunities that I had then.

The other day I was driving to work, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for those years.  A gratitude I don’t think I felt most days of those years.  But that day, I was grateful for my Camelot.  For the friendships formed.  For the foundation in God’s Word.  Because now, in the real world, I need those friendships and that foundation more than ever.  I don’t have time for two hour chats over tea and weekly Bible studies at church.

I’m not in Camelot any more.  Most week days my only goal is to make it to the end of my day, and the weekends are about getting the house set up for the busy week ahead.   My youngest daughter will grow up with a working mom and not a stay-at-home mom like my oldest son knew.  This is where God has me now.  This is his provision for me and for my family.  It is good.  It is just as much God’s provision as it was for me to be at home during the early years.  We are all still adjusting, but things are going well.  I’m sure that when I say good-bye to this era, I will be even more grateful for it than I am today.  

So if you are in Camelot today, enjoy it.  Take every advantage to know your kids, to know your friends and to know God’s Word.  You won’t regret it.  

Glorious Impossible 2013

Published December 27, 2013 by joypatton

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The term “glorious impossible” refers to the impossible things that God does for his glory.  The Christmas story has so many “glorious impossibles” in it, and Carl Cartee wrote one of my favorite songs about it that our church often sings at Christmas.  You can read my first blog about it here to get the whole picture.  But this year God gave our family its own glorious impossible.

It was a few weeks before Christmas and our Christmas cash envelope was completely empty.  The money was tight this year, and in this last month of the year, we felt it more than we had before.  Because my husband is self-employed, a paycheck is never guaranteed, and even when we were able to pay ourselves, it wasn’t enough to make it all the way down the list.  By the time the other budget items had their say, there was no cash left for the Christmas envelope.

We had made it through the year working hard and being open to every opportunity God put in front of us.  We both picked up part-time jobs.  Andrew worked as an umpire during baseball season.  I took part-time jobs catering for weddings, being a personal assistant, working as a PR assistant for a marketing firm, substitute teaching and writing and editing on the side.  God even sent a wedding cake client to help make ends meet.  All the while, we knew I needed a full time job.  My resumes evaporated into cyber space, and I never even got called for an interview.  After being out of the work force for 13 years, I began to doubt my chances of getting back in.  The closest I came was a long-term substitute teaching position, which God used in interesting ways, that lasted for two months.

In the last year, we cut and slashed our budget too.  We got ride of cable and satellite TV.  We used coupons and menu planning to cut the grocery budget.  We were even down to one car for awhile because we didn’t want to get a car loan.  But finding extra cash for a car was as impossible as finding cash for Christmas.  The next thing on the budget chopping block were the kids’ extracurriculars, and that one we wanted to put off as long as we could.  Not to mention, the house repairs that needed immediate attention and sucked up whatever cash was left.

But then December was coming, and it looked like it was going to be impossible to pay for Christmas with cash this year.   Life with one car was impossible as we tried to figure out how to get six people where they needed to be every day.  My husband was ready to go get a car loan, and I was ready to buy a jalopy just to make it back and forth to school.  But then we compromised and moved some money around that was held for our salary to buy a car.  It seemed impossible to find a car in our price range that my husband wasn’t embarrassed to drive.  And yet once again God made a way for the impossible to happen.  We found a Lincoln “Alligator” in great shape, which Faith called the “Crock”.  After taxes, title and new tires, we had $400 left.  And this was the extent of our Christmas cash.

One night we sat down with our cash and made our Christmas budget.  We decided not to get gifts for each other, but to instead fix the fireplace that had been unused for six years.  We also wanted to give the kids money so they could buy gifts for each other.  That meant their “big” gift budget was $50 each.  Sadly no gifts for extended family, friends and teachers.  And no money to send Christmas cards either.  I sighed as I put down my pen.  I tried to make myself content with what we had.  My husband tried to tell me it would be fine.  We told ourselves the kids would be fine and having a small Christmas could actually be good for them.

On December 23, I was walking home with Connor from his pet sitting job.  He was telling me how hard it was for him to be “poor.”  To not have what other kids in his school had.  I tried to explain that we choose to live like this because we don’t borrow money and that everything comes with a trade-off.  I reminded him that his dad and I both grew up the same way.  We were always the “poor” kids in rich neighborhoods.  That night Andrew and I both agreed that we needed to get our kids around some people who really were poor.

I also found myself complaining to God.  I hated that our year had been so hard financially.  That we were both working our tails off and getting nowhere.  I remembered thinking that we weren’t poor enough to be on anyone’s radar.  That no one even knew we had nothing in our Christmas cash envelope.  That my kids would have a crappy Christmas, and it made me mad.

Then on Christmas Eve morning a strange car pulled up across from our house.  As three men pulled packages out of their trunk, we thought the new neighbors were trying to celebrate Christmas in their new house.  But then they crossed the street and came to our front door with six large gift bags labeled “teen boy,” “tween boy,” “older girl” and “younger girl.”  Andrew was puzzled and asked who it was from.  They simply said they were asked to deliver it to the Pattons and didn’t know where the gifts came from.

I was hiding around the corner still dressed in my pajamas.  Tears filled my eyes as I remembered complaining to God.  I heard his small whisper in my heart, “I know how hard it is.  I see you.  I see how hard you have been working.  I love you.”  I told him I was sorry for complaining.  We did not deserve this.  We didn’t even know how anyone knew.  We knew that there were other families much poorer than ours, much more deserving of this gift.  We honestly didn’t know how to feel in that moment.  The shame of the reality of our small Christmas threatened to steal our joy and our gratitude.

Very early on Christmas morning, Kyle stood by our bed and whispered that he couldn’t sleep.  I think he was imagining what lived in those mysterious boxes delivered to our door.  Soon enough everyone was awake and Christmas morning went on with our traditional breakfast and reading the Christmas story.  We opened the Christmas presents we had bought, and then it was time for the “bonus” Christmas.  Andrew and I looked at each other, not knowing what to expect.  We opened the envelope to the “Parents” hoping for a clue to the identity of our benefactor.  Instead we found a generous gift card for ourselves.  Kyle opened his smallest present first.  When he saw the $50 iTunes gift card, Andrew looked at me and said, “That was our whole budget for him.”

And the gifts kept coming.  Name brand clothes for the kids with names they couldn’t pronounce and stores we had never been inside.   Hope squealed with delight as she opened her “American Girl” doll from Target.  As we looked at the carnage of boxes and wrapping paper left behind, Andrew and I agreed it was the biggest, most expensive Christmas we had ever seen in our lives.  We couldn’t imagine who would have given this kind of Christmas to us.

This was our glorious impossible.  God gave my children a Christmas they would never forget, and something we could hope to do for someone else someday.  He reminded us that he sees and he knows and he cares.  His lavish grace is upon us even when we don’t ask for it and don’t deserve it.  And once again God in his mysterious way made the impossible possible.

Two Worlds

Published July 30, 2013 by joypatton

A baseball game in July in Tennessee. An all black team versus an all white team playing for the World Series Championship. Two black umpires. LaVergne versus Brentwood. One loud crowd and one quiet. One with chants and cheers and one with jeers and golf claps. I hate it. I hate the bad calls. I hate the tension. I hate the division.

We are almost at the end of the first game, and we are losing badly. Another bad call, and the parents are complaining loudly. “Bad call! That was horrible!” And then I heard someone make it personal, “We know which side you are on.” The umpire warns our coach that if he can’t control the parents, he will get thrown out of the game. I hate it. The tension is too much. We should win this game because if we don’t, we have to play this team again with the same umpires. I don’t think I can do this again.

Faith brings me out of the tension by announcing that she has added a new friend to her club. Her name is Cora, and in a few minutes she is sitting in the shade of our tent. She’s an adorable black girl with pigtails, and these little girls have no idea what’s going on in the rest of the world around them. They only see friends to play with. I smile and welcome her under our tent and ask her if her mom knows where she is. I’m reminded there is a bigger game to play than the one on the field.

We lose the first game and take a break before the next game. Some parents go to inquire about whether we can get new umpires for the second game, but there’s no resolution. The parents pace and stretch, and Connor sits under our tent trying to re-set for the next game. “Are you going to be able to put that game behind you?” asks one of the parents. “Yes, sir,” Connor replies.

Second game begins, and we come out swinging. For the other team, this is their third game in a row. Everyone is tired. Then they hit a homerun, and we slowly lose our lead. The chant comes from the other side, “Uh, oh…Stealers, Stealers. Uh, oh….Stealers, Stealers.” We clap a little harder and yell a little louder. We come back and tie, but in the next inning, they pull ahead. Connor throws fourteen pitches to end an inning, but the next one, he is tired. The coach pulls him after he hits his third batter with the ball. Another good hit, and they are ahead 12-8 going into the bottom of the fifth inning.

The moms can’t take it. We leave the stands and go for a walk. Two of the moms have walked down to the end of the fence and are smoking. Another mom is looking for a strong drink. One of the dads says he forgot his valium. We are all discouraged; some even turn on the coaches and on each other. Two of the moms can’t handle the tension and leave in a hurry before they start to say things they will regret. It’s ugly. I hate it. I find another conversation to distract me from the game for a few minutes.

Our boys held them in the top of the sixth. As they come to the dugout, we cheer for them and encourage them to stay in it and not give up. Even though in our hearts, we have mostly given up. But the boys have not given up. They hit the ball, the other team makes costly errors, and we are tied. Connor goes in as a sub runner on second. He makes it to third and watches for a chance to steal home. His chance comes when the catcher misses a wild pitch. Connor slides into home for the winning run. In minutes, the team piles on top of him.

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Both teams stand on the base lines for the award presentations. I linger for awhile and then head to the stands to start packing up. I didn’t know my proudest moment was yet to come. They called Connor’s name, and I stand to watch him. He heads toward the other team to congratulate them like his teammates before him. But before he gets to the coach and the team, he stops at the mommas standing on the field. I see my talk, lanky white son giving big bear hugs to each of those beautiful black women who have cheered their team on all day. Then he hugs the coaches and goes down the line congratulating the team. “Uh, oh…Patton, Patton. Uh, oh… Patton, Patton,” the women cheer.

Then I hear, “Where’s Connie’s momma? Which one is Connor’s mom?” These women have come looking for me, and I go out to the field to meet them. They embrace me with the same embrace they gave to Connor and tell me how they love my son and how sweet he is. We laugh and congratulate each other on a battle well-fought. It’s good for the boys to see. It’s good to leave it all on the field. They even try to teach me the cheer, so we can use it at Cooperstown. “Uh, oh…Sting, Sting. Uh, oh….Sting, Sting.” My husband assures them that I don’t have the rhythm for it, and I try to prove him wrong.

I walk off the field smiling. I’m so glad my kids don’t see color, that they understand so little of what the world used to be like. When we watched the movie “42,” it showed a world that seems so strange to them, so unfathomable the way that black people were treated. I’m so glad it’s 2013, and thankful for all the hard-fought battles that came before. Battles that allow black and white girls to be in the same clubs and teams to play on the same fields. So thankful for open hearts and open arms that take us in. My heart is full.

Good vs. Bad

Published July 16, 2013 by joypatton

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I’ve been realizing lately that I have two columns running through my head all day long. One column keeps all the good things I’ve done and one keeps all the bad. Mostly it’s good mom vs. bad mom. I have been realizing how often I tell myself I’m a bad mom in one form or another. (See last week’s post.)

For example, this morning started off with the good mom column. I spent time checking my kids “work boxes,” giving points for yesterday’s chores and loading them up with chores for the day. I even included “fun chores” like playing UNO Attack together. But this could turn out to be an item in the bad mom column if they actually attack each other during the game. You see, I’m a bad mom because I haven’t taught my children how to play together without fighting. Then at work I realized I didn’t have my phone within ear shot. Bad mom. Fortunately when I checked it, there were no urgent messages, so the work boxes must be working. Good mom.

This afternoon I came home and the girls wanted to go to the pool. But I couldn’t take them because I had to take Connor to the doctor. This is bad mom because I let him play in the woods, and he got poison ivy because I didn’t make him shower when he came in. Every time he gets poison ivy it takes over, and we can’t get rid of it until he gets a steroid prescription.  Bad mom.

While at the doctor’s, my dear husband texted to say he was taking the girls to the pool. Bad mom because he had to stop working to take care of the kids. When I got home, I made a good mom choice…I think. Andrew stayed at the pool with the kids and I mopped the floor. It could be bad mom for not choosing to spend time with the girls or it could be bad wife for not spending time with the husband.  But it could also be good wife because he came home to a clean house.

Tonight the boys went to a baseball game, so I was trying to find something fun to do with the girls. We decided to go to the mall and ride the little train. Bad mom for teaching my girls that shopping is what girls do for fun. Bad mom for not being content to spend the evening at home. Good mom for spending time with the girls.

When we got there, I had no cash. Bad mom. After the train ride, I let them pick the restaurant in the food court. Of course, it was pizza again. Bad mom. I picked the salad. Good choice. But also ate a big helping of pasta. Bad choice. I did have a diet Pepsi that I split with my daughter. Now this one could go in either column depending who you talk to. Bad for the caffeine and letting my daughter have it and that all diet drinks are just bad for you and you should just have water. Good because it was diet and had very few calories?? So confusing. I realized that pasta was a really bad choice when I went to try on clothes and everything made me look fat. Very bad choice.

Then we went to the playground at the mall. Good mom. And I just removed the sucker from my daughter’s mouth so as not to worry other moms that she would get a sucker stick through her brain. Good mom. But then again, I’m sitting here typing a blog instead of engaging with them. Bad mom.

Maybe your columns are different. maybe your day is measured by smart vs. dumb or cool vs. lame. Do you think that God keeps this kind of record of your day? If he did, would his record match yours?

As I have considered it, I think the answer to both of those questions is no. When God looks at me he doesn’t see two columns. He has no cosmic scale. When he looks at the chart of my day, the current of his thought is love. His abundant, free-flowing grace covers my day. His mercy is new every morning. He keeps no record of wrongs. It has all been forgiven. He is far more concerned with my heart because when my heart is turned toward him, the choices that matter fall into place. My heart turns toward him because of his great love for me, not because I’m trying to keep points in the good column. I also don’t avoid him because I’m afraid the bad column will bring his wrath, which is completely deserved. Instead I turn toward him because of his steadfast, everlasting love.

When I judge my day according to columns, it also affects those closest to me. They get columns too: good kid vs. bad kid, good husband vs. bad husband, good friend vs. bad friend. But when I learn to accept the grace and mercy God pours on my day, I am free to pour out grace and mercy on those around me. And they feel loved.

Consider this question: how many checks in the bad column could your child have before you stopped loving him or her? This is a ridiculous question because I simply can’t come up with a number. No matter how full the bad column was this good mom would always love her kid. So then if we know how to love our children in spite of poor choices, how much more does our Father in heaven?

I’m learning to replace two words, good and bad, with one word… LOVE. To receive it from the Father and to give it to others.

What are your columns today? Will you believe in and accept the Father’s love?

 

Bad Mom

Published July 8, 2013 by joypatton

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.

“Please Mom?”

“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.

 

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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.

 

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