Monday, February 24, 2014

Mothering in the dark

Most of the time, the darkness swats away easily, no more meddlesome than a troubling fly or perhaps a noisy bumblebee. Other days though, the darkness settles on me heavy and thick. Fog rolls in over the skyline, and buildings lose themselves to the grey sky somewhere above the fourth floor.

On these days, my heart sinks at the familiar clink of her doorknob turning long before I am ready. My ire rises at yells of MY MOMMY from Caden in the back room. I scurry to him, trying to shush his yelling before he wakes the teenagers sprawled across the hall. Settling him, and climbing back under the covers, I convince myself he times his yelling and she her tiptoeing based on the ideal amount of time for me to get myself cozy. They are working together against me, I think. And I cannot shake this me vs. them mentality, even as I muster momentum to roll myself out of bed. To brush my teeth, pour my coffee, and push my feet into rumpled jeans and a black Anteaters t-shirt. Adam and I snap short over spilled cereal, and I bang the dishes loud as I unload the dishwasher, making room for the mountain of dirty pots and pans and peanut butter crusted knives and old milk cups. We tally minutes and tasks, each certain our tally runs higher than the other.And the darkness nips at my heels, treading underfoot, tripping me up in the grocery store when the children fight over cereal flavors and insist they need all-of-the-things. I whisper-yell words out loud that should stay inside my head. I apologize again, only to snap more unkindness in an effort to mold them more fully into the tiny models of adult behavior I expect and feel certain I deserve. Later, I sob into the phone that we are raising the worst-5-year-old-in-the-history-of-the-world. Our two year old is a menace and our five year old is a brat and don’t even get me started on all the unrepentant moody teenagers!


If I’m honest, I don’t actually feel ok. Rather, I’m lost somewhere beneath long strings of snow days and sick days and mountains of laundry. I question my purpose, my abilities, my reasons for getting out of bed. I want to give in to the darkness, I think. To simply climb back under the covers, and perhaps never get out. But the kiddos knock on the door, and my children cry for snacks, and Maverick barks insistent. So instead, I put one foot in front of the other, even when it’s not pretty and I’m still not sure how to shake the fog. Because apparently life keeps moving, and I have no choice in the matter.
Inexplicably, the last few weeks have mounted the hardest parenting phase thus far. Caden throws tantrums and yells loud, and Jayci struggles to find her own space in the mix. She wants him to play the way she imagines; he rebels, already, against any constraints snaked around him. She responds ugly, with cries and whines and yells and hitting.

I cannot stand the yelling and arguing thrumming angrily against nerves already strung-taut. And so we all dig in our heels, each stubbornly trying to shape the world into the one we imagine. She wants princesses and magic and little brothers who answer her bidding. He, I suppose, wants to be free to run and tackle and eat all-of-the-things. And I want children who listen perfectly, play together nicely, and mostly leave me space to breathe.

We dig in heels and pull and push and try to make it all work, and we end up hopelessly locked in the same endless cycle of me-vs-them. And the truth falls hard because in this cycle, we all lose. It inevitably ends with tears and shame and all of us certain we have missed living the life intended for us.

The shame, of course, flings the ugliest pieces back in our face in endless loops. I replay the words spat through pursed lips next to the sliced cheese at Publix. My heart sinks and I push myself lower and smaller, in shame and sorrow. The voices in my head and ears bark soft but insistent: you are not enough. Not kind enough or patient enough or forgiving enough or fun enough or anything enough.

I need the space, found sparingly and not without much searching struggle, to remember the truth. To recall whom God ordained as momma to Jayci and Caden. To remember that shame never rests on my heart the same way as repentance. To sit at the foot of the cross and beg forgiveness. And then to accept that forgiveness and walk in it. To know, even in the deepest darkness, that life and parenting are hard. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’m doing it all wrong, it just means that I’m doing it.
So if today is a day, or week or month even, for you that looms dark and foggy, know that I am with you. Because together in the fog feels much less scary than alone. I let friends in, and cry ugly in my pajamas on our new Ikea-via-craigslist-sectional. I ask Jayci for forgiveness for the hundredth time, reminded by a friend that modeling humility and asking forgiveness renders far greater grace than perfect parenting ever can. Rescued by another friend with a late afternoon trip to the park, we sit on a bench missing its middle slat and let the kids run wild. They fall and scrape their knees, barely missing a beat before running up the slide and spinning on the swings. And so too, I fall and it hurts. But I get back up and run covered in the grace that Christ extends every single time. Because light still shines, and the darkness has not overcome it.

22 comments:

  1. Oh man. That "me vs. them mentality" line is all up in my kitchen. I have never put it that way, but that is what the dark days feel like to me. Like they are doing all the annoying, childish things on purpose, at me. Mothering is the hardest thing I've ever done and I too find myself asking for forgiveness from little humans that deserve better. Thank God for Grace. Always Grace.

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    1. Totally the hardest thing I've ever done too . . . and surely asking for forgiveness is the most important part right?

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    2. I am so glad that I am not the only one constantly asking a little one for forgiveness. My 7 year old has got to be the most forgiving little girl I know... thank God.

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  2. Sweet Becca. I read this post and wish I was around the corner to swing by and give you a huge hug and tell you what a beautiful job you're doing loving your kids and modeling what it means to lean on Jesus because you need Him. You alone can be Jayci and Caden's mom. You're the one God hand-picked. And we all get it wrong a lot of the time. Thankfully, our kids don't expect perfection from us. They just want us to show up. And you show up every.single.day. And you love them even when you desperately long for peace and quiet and a cessation of their demands. They know that without a doubt. I keep thinking about these lines from a Leonard Cohen song:

    "Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That's how the light gets in."

    Your cracks let in the Light. God shows up most clearly in our weakness. In our darkness. That's where He shines brightest. "Forget your perfect offering…" We can't get it right. Thank goodness God knows that and made it so that His grace and goodness fill the gaps we leave.

    I love you. Thank you for being a woman of courage and truth and grace. What a gift you are to your children, your neighborhood, and me.

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    1. You are the best-ever at speaking life and encouragement to me. And you have done that in my life since the first time I met you in the CICU. Thank you for that, times a million.

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  3. Oh friend.. I so needed to read this today. I'm right there with you. And I'm struggling. I've been drowning in the feelings of "her against me" and sometimes even "them against me" (including my husband). I've been struggling with a 3 year old that greatly prefers her father to me and it's starting to wear on me. The darkness likes to creep in with thoughts of "they wouldn't even notice if I was gone" and junk like that. And not in a I wanna dip out on life way but in a "they really don't need me" way. It's hard. Know I'm praying for you, and for me, to know that tomorrow is easier. And the light will come :)

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    1. Oh friend, I'm so sorry. That's the worst girl - and I know it's not even true. Praying for the light of His grace to fill your heart today. Love you!

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  4. This. It's basically how I feel most of the time. Thank you for articulating it so beautifully. For helping me not feel alone. Just love this! :)

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    1. I cannot even tell you what a relief it is to hear this from a real-life-friend who I love and respect :-)

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  5. As I was reading this all I could think was... how did you know? I needed this so badly today... I have been in such a dark place regarding my parenting lately. Single parenthood has never felt so lonely and I feel like I am failing at it every day. Bless you for reminding me how hard this is, not just for me, but for every parent.

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    1. Oh friend, parenting is just so tiring and hard and gosh it takes a village. I dont even know how you do it as a single parent. You're my hero, seriously :-)

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  6. I was there this morning - felt like a dark pit. An unexpected phone call from someone who loves me gave me the foothold to climb out a bit. And this post is helping me not just move on to the next day to try harder but to stop and feel the right now, good and ugly, and rest in grace.

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    1. Sometimes all we can do is step from one foothold to the next right? grateful for phone calls from those who love you!

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  7. Yes. YES.
    Thank you. So hard...so important. So. Much. Grace.

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  8. Thanks for speaking so honestly and beautifully about how we all feel as moms on so many days. I am consistently blessed by your words.

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  9. This is my life only with almost teenagers who have plenty of *bonus* commentary for everything. The laundry mounded so high it seems like Everest... Thank you!!

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    1. The laundry. It might just be the death of me.

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  10. Love your honesty, friend. Sharing this fo sho.

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  11. I'm not alone? I'm not alone! Every beautiful, truthful, painful word reminds me that I'm OK. Human. Thank you. SO many silent thank you's are murmured when reading your posts... Clearly I'm almost a month behind on even reading this, but I think I was trapped under a mound of laundry. Love you girl

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