This is two posts in one.
I wrote (for myself) about how things are going lately with Ender. We have a hard time sometimes...and I wish I could say it's just a stage or that it's directly tied to his age, but I don't think that's really true. I think a lot of it has to do with who my brilliant son is. Ender is extremely smart, and he is also a bit high-strung emotionally. I know this isn't obvious to everyone...for example, his grandparents generally see his softer side when he's delightfully inquisitive and patient and ponderous. He is, after all, a wonderful boy. What they don't usually see is how he acts on a normal, boring day.
I love my son. I seek to understand him, and I am trying to be humble and teachable as I learn how to be a better mom. But that just doesn't mean that things go smoothly all the time. Honestly, I hog the blame to myself because I believe Ender is innocent even when he seems not to be. I tend to believe that if I could just do things right, problems would get ironed out a lot faster.
Whether or not that's true--I keep telling myself it is even though I know that parenting is not a perfect recipe and not every mistake is my fault--we have hard times here.
So I wrote about it. Writing helps me sort out my thoughts. It helps me be honest with myself. It helps me to think deeper even if I don't end with a solution. Writing has always been a sort of therapy for me. This post will include what I wrote (which is about something that is current and ongoing; for example, today Ender told me he wished he had a different mom...he asked a question, and he didn't like my answer because it meant he wasn't right...you know, that kind of thing). This post will also include something I found today that I consider an answer to prayers. A tender mercy.
It was a simple comment in a post I happened to read nearly a year ago. I happened to be browsing my facebook page today (something I rarely do, in all solemn honesty). I happened to open the post again. And then I happened to read through a few comments. There it was! A sweet old woman shared her feelings. And it touched me, comforted me.
Here is what I wrote for myself followed by that comment that is uplifting me today (along with a link to its source).
And God bless the mommies who are deep in their hard work.
When we stayed with the family in Rexburg, Ender had a terrible tantrum one evening. He had decided we were enemies in the bedtime routine, and he screamed and slammed doors and tried to hit me. One of the things he screamed was that he hated me.
I know better than to be completely hurt by that, even though it's always sad when he says that. I simply told him that I loved him, and I sat by the door while he stormed back and forth from his bed to beating the closed door with alarming fury.
Michael brought Ender a drink of water, and the fight was over. Ender went to sleep, exhausted.
I remember just a few specific tantrums I've had; one at the age of about 7 where I threw my bedroom furniture around, wanting to destroy everything; one at the age of about 10 when I told my mother I hated her, and I wanted to hurt her when she calmly picked me up and toted me to my bedroom; and one perhaps two years ago when I was babysitting a little baby girl before Scarlett was born (I don't remember if I was pregnant-- that would be a nice excuse, but I honestly don't know if I was), and both the girl and Ender were screaming at me at full capacity, and I went kind of crazy and ran to my bedroom to pound the floor with my fists and scream and roar into a pillow and bawl my eyes out.
I know how it feels. I know how sometimes the anger just takes over (when you coax it on), and suddenly the anger will take any channel for expression. The screaming and the physical lashing out is almost a side effect, something that feels good as a release but awful in the lack of control. It's horrible. Ender and I have talked about that feeling, of how it is so hard to stop.
He gets mad a lot. I bought myself a book, sort of for Christmas, "Dreamers, Discoverers, and Dynamos." Something like that. I'm just hoping that I'll be able to reach Ender better, that we'll have a stronger connection.
As we left Mom and Dad's, Ender said in a matter-of-fact voice "I wish I had a nicer mom, different than you." We hadn't had any significant struggles that morning, and I had been kind to him. Again, it seemed like something I shouldn't let myself be hurt by, but I have to admit it has made me wonder why. On one hand, I could say it's just something kids say. And even though kids can be badly honest about how they feel, their feelings can change back and forth like a chameleon's color. It was pretty obvious to me that he was noticing the juxtaposition of Mommy and Grandma...at Grandma's house, everyone loves to meet his demands and come to his aid the moment he's distressed. Me, I'm a little more willing to tell him to just deal with it and move on.
His little comment has made me wonder if I ought to be gentler, quieter, softer, more flexible. I guess he just feels like I always have the upper hand, always the control and power. And he fights that very naturally. It's exhausting for both of us.
I'm well aware that my son is a wonderful boy. In many ways, I feel like I really do understand him. I remember being like him as a kid in the way I thought about things or the way I wanted to be included all the time. I thought my parents believed they knew everything, and I didn't like that, so I wanted to prove otherwise.
It's kind of the way a lot of kids are, isn't it. Or I should say people, since some go through those feelings later instead of during childhood. I'm not trying to paint my case Unusual. I know it happens like this in other homes. The fact is, it is hard.
There's some guilt in it all, too. Whether rightly or not, I often blame myself for the difficulties Ender and I have. I figure that it's my duty as his mother to learn how to handle rough situations with him, and it leaves me feeling like those rough situations could have been avoided had I only known how to approach it all.
I also feel guilty imagining that someday Ender will read this and feel hurt that I found our relationship...unsmooth.
The bare bones of it all are that I love my son so extremely much, and in all the nearly-five years of his life, I have wanted him to know it. Sometimes I am not very good at being a mom. It is certain my humanness will be very obvious to him as he grows up. I just hope it's also obvious that I love him and have tried to be a good mom. Sometimes I think I am, and sometimes I think I've got it all wrong.
Here is the quote I found today at the end of the post "Don't Carpe Diem" (worth a read):
As one of the older women out there, trying hard to bite my tongue and NOT say those things to the newer moms I see.....I honor you for being so truthful. Not many women admit to their own feelings about motherhood (and there are many conflicting feelings involved in caring for somebody else 24/7). And I'd like to remind other older women that today's moms have MORE work to do than we did - they also work jobs outside their homes when most of us were stay-at-home moms. That makes a huge difference in the amount of stress and lack of time for yourself. My advice to any mom today - take some time for yourself. Give yourself a manicure, take a long bath, do anything that makes YOU happy for at least 20 min. a day (or more if possible). Call it whatever makes it work for you - Mommy's time or Mommy's time-out, whatever. Just give to yourself as well. Keep it up, good soldier. You ARE doing a great job and being honest in the details of what it means to be a mom....the good AND the bad AND the ugly. Your children will grow up to be wonderful people that appreciate their mom's hard work. You'll see! -DianneU
Update: One last "tender mercy." I saw a book at the family's house called "What Husbands Expect of Wives," and because I was amused that there was such a book, I opened it. I just happened to read a certain phrase... Some women are better wives than mothers. And some women are better mothers than wives. I believe that is true! And while I also believe that things can become a little more balanced over time, I'm pretty sure I make a better wife than a mom (Michael says I am a good wife, which is just one of the ways he is such a good husband). I am not a BAD mom, usually, but I definitely have to work harder on that role of mine. But that phrase has really helped me be a little softer on myself, a little more humble and willing to learn, and I understand myself a little better.