Monday, March 17, 2014

The Mothering Chronicles 10: NOT a Good Momma

I smelled it from the homeschool room where I was trying desperately to meet a writing deadline--scorched sauce.  But how could that be?  I had put the fancy heat-diffuser thingy-ma-jig under the heavy bottomed, iron pot.  I had turned the heat down below low.  And I NEEDED that sauce to be perfect.  It was for someone else's dinner.
Telling myself not to micromanage myself, (who has time for that when you have two kids and a husband, right?) I kept working.  Plunk, plunk, plunk.  My fingers flew on the plastic keys at a frantic pace.  I was making great progress, and with that sauce simmering, I hoped to finish the project just in time to make the ziti, go to the bank, race to soccer, fold the laundry, and contact the t-shirt company for camp. Perfect.
But the smell. 
Why was I continually getting these heavy wafts of tomato and flame?
Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer.  Scolding my nose for it's poor sense of smell, I headed into the kitchen to investigate.
It turns out my nose was right all along.
The flame, I discovered as I hung my head upside down, was no longer on low.  It was on high.
The highest high.
The high past the word HIGH on the knob.
The high where the flames lick the side of the pot and you want to immediately commit a crime because you know it isn't good. 
To confirm, I opened the lid.  About two inches (I'm not even kidding) of tomato, meat, onion and basil were cemented to the bottom of the pan with the top six inches spastically spitting and bubbling almost ready to succumb to the pot of scorch.
Entirely ruined.
Outside, giggles erupted.
Two boys tossing a ball.
Now just follow my logic here.  I've got ruined sauce.  Clearly, it wasn't me who did it.
That could only mean one.blasted.thing.
One of them turned the heat on high. Since I don't think our house is haunted, it had to have been one of them.
Had to.
And this was my response:
I slammed the lid down.
I turned the flame off.
I opened the door.
Which one of you turned the pasta sauce on high?
The words were short, sharp blades.  Each one meant to stab.
And they knew.  Immediately they knew.
The guilty party, with shoulders tightened and voice timid said, "I did.  I accidentally turned it off when I was making cocoa and figured it would be best to turn it on high."
I didn't reply.  Not with words.
But I slammed the door.  Harder than I have ever slammed a door in front of any human being in my entire life.
The house shook.
I think the neighbors may have heard it.
I think Africa heard it.
And I saw his shoulders slump.
Because that's the kind of mother I can be.  The kind that gets so tightly wound up in a schedule that's stuffed like a Christmas stocking about to burst open that she cares more about some stupid marinara sauce than she does the precious soul of a prince her Lord entrusted her with for a short season.
And there are more things.
More times.
More moments.
Mad.  Raging moments of reckless rants.
And they so rarely ever mean a smidgen of harm, these precious boys of mine. Truly, they are angels encased in human form with hearts that desperately desire to please.
And of course I'm ashamed.
Because no one else on the face of this planet would explode like a land-mine in the face of one of their children, would they?
Not the good moms, anyway, right?
But maybe there are a brave few who would just stand beside me for just two or three brief moments and raise their hands in solidarity?  Maybe one or two of you out there have fallen so far short of the glory of God when it comes to this daunting task of mothering that you truly believe no one else could ever be as bad as you?
Because I have.
And there are other failures too.
I can't for the life of me get it together to pay my children the allowance I owe them for the past like FIVE years. (What type-A-organized-freak-thought of allowance anyway?  Shouldn't my kids pay me for living in my house?  I've finally told them, they'll get it in the form of one lump sum when they are ready to purchase their first car.)  I'm pretty much convinced if they go bankrupt it will be because I failed to demonstrate responsible finances to them.
Good moms have jars labeled, "Saving, Offering, Spending."
Also, my 14 and 11 year olds put their own laundry away. 
By themselves. 
Once every season I go through their drawers in a tirade and demand to know why everything isn't perfectly folded and organized the way I showed them three months ago. 
Good moms put their kids' laundry away in perfect piles until they graduate and go to college.  Right?
I know they do because when I was growing up, I knew two perfect moms, and that's what they did.
They also did all . . . ALL . . . the housework.
One of them was so organized that when her daughter got up first thing in the morning, she was standing at the door with a vacuum. (I know, right?  Who blasted vacuums at 6 AM?)
She also cleaned her daughter's bathroom everyday.  And don't forget about the laundry.  (That's where I learned closets could be neat.  I hadn't known about color-coordinating.  I just thought if stuff was on hangers and not on the floor you patted yourself on the shoulder and called it a day.
Good moms use Tide and fold laundry.
Also my kids eat Ramen noodles.
Processed.  Evil.  Unbalanced.  And I don't even do the cooking of those curly cardboard noodles.  THEY DO!  By themselves.
Good moms cook biscuits for breakfast and make their kids wholesome, balanced lunches everyday.  They also give them weird snacks like whole wheat crackers with smiley faces made out of raisins and cucumbers.
And good wives pack their husband's lunches for them, but that's another blog.  I'll deal with my failure as a wife on another day.
And did I also tell you that I hate playing with blocks and Lego?
What?  I do.  I hate it.  There is nothing fun about stacking little splintery slivers of spruce 2 x 2 squares into houses, farms and towers only to topple them over two seconds later.  Please, kill me.
And Lego?  Primary colored pieces of plastic meant to torture my very soul to the core of its being.  They don't match my house!  And my kids have bins and bins of this stuff.  They love it.  It's like a foreign language I never, ever in my worst nightmare wanted to learn to speak.  Then I had boys.
What, God?  Is that like a practical joke?
But don't good moms adore every little, annoying game their kids want to play?
While I'm at it, I'm just gonna go ahead and let you in on this little tidbit too.
My eldest son was truly a perfect human being until he went through puberty.
What in the world?
Puberty totally punked me.
That voice?
He sounds like an opera singer with a perpetual frog in the throat.  That or a seal with laryngitis. 
Good moms definitely don't tell their pubescent sons to . . . please not talk.
Also, in case you wondered, I rarely wake up ahead of my children. 
I know.  I know.  Dirt on my casket, right here and now, folks. 
I am a demon-mom.
My eldest is an early-bird kinda kid.  (Another practical joke from God.  Thanks for that.)  Since the moment we took him home from the hospital in my 1987 grey Chevy cavalier, he has been the cherub that rises with the sun ready to chirp and chat long before my poor, heavy lids have lifted to greet the day. 
Nowadays, my alarm goes.  I turn it off.  I wait.
When I hear the flapping of his feet (that somehow recently outgrew my own) on the oak floors, I quickly hop up, yank on my sweater, and act like I've been awake for hours.
Because don't the good moms get up early and pray for their children's spouses or some spiritual thing like that?
And speaking of praying for kids' spouses, I guess I'll have to apologize to my daughter-in-laws someday because I remember to do that like two times a year.
And when my boys went through their obsession with Star Wars phase, I almost died. They knew everything about Star Wars.  I mean everything.  We're talking they read some kind of Star Wars Encyclopedia that was longer than any text book we've ever studied.  Do you know to this day I don't think I've stayed awake through one single one of those boring, life-stealing, brain-cell sucking movies? 
Are you totally kidding me, God?  Hello?  Ann of Green Gables?  Gilmore Girls? Anything but Star Wars.  REALLY?  Ugh.  (Practical joke number 3)
Clearly, the verdict is in, and I am just not a good momma.
And if you are wondering if I might be completely screwing my kids up . . .wonder no more.
I can answer that question for you.
Most definitely, I am.
Some days I honestly think it will be a miracle if these boys survive me.
And if we're confessing, which apparently I am, I'll just go ahead and lay all the cards on the table for you.
I also broke my niece's wrist.
Playing a game where I catapult her across the room with my legs--that's how I did it.
Clearly I should have had the good sense to see her bones couldn't handle the likes of my thundering thighs as they threw her through the air across the basement family room.  Clearly I should have considered a landing pad. Any self-respecting, responsible adult would have thought about that.
I didn't.
Horrible judgment.  All mothering and Auntie privileges should be revoked.  That poor sweet girl was so brave, and in that moment, I felt the full weight of my failure like a five million pound iron sign dangling from my neck that read:
And goodness gracious it's a heavy weight to wear.  And surely I'm not the only one who has ever felt like they couldn't breath under it's suffocating accusations.  And it may seem like I'm only a little serious when it comes to Star Wars and Legos, but can I just be really, brutally honest? 
There is rarely a day that goes by where I don't question my ability to parent.
But here's the truth about that kind of question:
Doubting our ability as parents is doubting the wisdom of the very God who granted them to us in the first place.
Was it not God himself who said, this:
Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me . . . saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.
(Isaiah 46:9,10)
My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My GOOD pleasure.
He gave us these sweet children.  It is a part of his GOOD pleasure.  It is a part of His purpose that we--floundering, failing, fumbling me and you--be their parents. 
And don't we just need that balm for our weary souls?
And did He not also say,
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Eph. 2:10)
Somehow, this sixty-seven inch, Star Wars loathing girl is God's handiwork created to do good works (And isn't mothering one of our greatest good works?) which God prepared in advance. 
The one who hates getting up early.
The one who hates Legos. (Does anyone normal really like them?)
He picked my soul, designed me, knit me together in my mother's being, formed me, fashioned my personality and then sent me to earth KNOWING I'd get to be the mother of two young men one day.
And the last time I checked, this God that breathes and mountains sprout up like Jack's beanstalk, does not make mistakes.
He doesn't, because the scripture says, "The Lord is righteous in all His ways and holy in all His works.  (Psalm 145:17)
I went ahead and double-checked with Webster (Well, in the interest of full-disclosure, I actually checked with because I can't even get my act together to buy a current dictionary and mine may or may not be dated like 1935.  Whatever.) and righteous?  It still means morally right or justifiable. 
Translation? God's choice of me as these boys' momma is justified.
Am I really going to doubt a righteous God's decision?  Really?  I mean sometimes we screw up royally and slam doors and forget to wash our kids' soccer uniforms and maybe we yell sometimes or forget the school fundraiser, but here's the rub:  God chose us.
God chose us, and we can spend our life trying to convince Him it was the greatest mistake of His reign as God of the universe, or we can pull up our britches and get a grip because our kids don't need good mommas, they need the right mommas.  And that, my friends, means you, and it means me. 
Because while we're running around doubting God, our kids are growing up, and we're missing it.
And I'm pretty sure God said doubters were like waves of the sea, blown and tossed about.  And if that's the case, maybe all of our families are a little sea-sick. But it's not in you and me that sea-sickness comes to our family, it's in the doubting of us as God's choice.
Maybe, just maybe, I'm not the only mother who has ever felt so entirely inadequate, so completely and utterly a failure that it would have been better if anyone else on the entire planet raised her kids.  Maybe some of you need a little reminder that we can in fact do this. 
Sometimes I look up at God, hot, slick tears sliding down my face, and I say, "Lord, I am so messing this all up.  Why did you give these poor boys me as their mom?"
His words flow, and His truth restores my soul.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature . . . For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Peter 1: 3-8)
There's no book that can teach us how to be a mother better than The Book because it contains the truths of who He is.  It is through our knowledge of Him--this God that chose to call us to be moms--that we are given everything we need for a godly life.  Given everything. Every single thing we will ever need as a mother.
Isn't that my greatest hope as a mom?  That I would be a godly mother?
I actually get to participate in His divine nature because of His precious promises.  And if you and I get to participate in that divine nature, than surely, there is hope we can make the right choices as mothers, right?
I'm not crazy.  It's all there in scripture.
Don't misunderstand me. I know Jesus promised where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.  But I don't take that for granted.  I don't assume that means I give myself a pass, a get-out-of-jail-free card.  I assume that means His grace will sustain me as I make every effort to add to my faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control perseverance . . . By every effort, I assume God's Word literally means EVERY. EFFORT.  Every book I can get my hands on.  Every scripture passage I can learn on the subject of mothering.  Every bit of godly, wise advice I can glean.  Every ounce of energy and strength I have poured into this great privilege of mothering.  Because these children deserve that.
I assume that means His grace will give me the strength to open the door I slammed, walk outside and take that young man's hand and tell him, it's just spaghetti sauce.  Tell him I'm sorry I slammed the door.  Tell him he's much more important to me that a good marinara sauce.  Tell him its okay that he turned the heat up, and I am a dumb yutz sometimes.  Ask him to forgive me.  Ask him if he wants to throw the football because I may not like playing with blocks, but I love throwing the football. (And so does he.)
Because that's what we do.  We fail sometimes, and we seek forgiveness. 
Someday they'll fail.  They need to know how to humble themselves and ask for forgiveness too because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 
Then we forgive ourselves for failing because why would we withhold forgiveness from ourselves when our Father isn't withholding it?
And we move on.
We make every effort to add to our faith in a sovereign, RIGHTeous God, goodness and self-control, and perseverance. 
Because we may not be good mommas, but we are the RIGHT mommas.
And if God, who is always right, chose us, isn't that enough?
That sign around our neck?  We've been lied to, friends.  It doesn't say:  Not Good Enough.
It reads:
Handcrafted by the King.
You are wonderful mothers.  You are.

The Mothering Chronicles