Sunday, June 07, 2009

"When I have children of my own...."

In my the "BC" period of my life (Before Children, that is), I would often think to myself "When I have children, MY children won't act like THOSE woman's out-of-control little monsters....", or "When I'M a mother, I will certainly never do this or that"....and on and on.

Fast forward a few years to the present.

I have a firm belief in teaching my children to be self-sufficient; I feel as though that's one of my most important responsibilities as their mother. This includes cleaning up after themselves. I don't teach this skill to make my own life easier; on the contrary, it actually takes me quite a bit more time to teach my kids to clean than to simply do it myself. But I feel it's important, so I put forth the effort (even when met with resistance!!)

In my BC days, this is how I envisioned it:

My daughter's room is usually immaculate, but if it gets a bit messy, I simply ask "Please go tidy up your room, ." "OK, Mommy!" she says, and happily skips off to clean her room, eager to please, and happy to do her part.

Now (as in, yesterday):

Despite the facts that 1) I have spent hours organizing clothes and toys, 2) we don't get more than 3-4 toys out at a time, and 3)their room is always clean before bed, my kids' bedroom is perpetually a disaster! It's amazing to me how many small pieces of doll house furniture, jewelry, Mr. Potato head parts, baby doll clothing, dress ups, stuffed animals, play food (and even REAL food sometimes, even though "we don't take food out of the kitchen").....we own, and how quickly they can be distributed throughout the entire 5500 square feet of house!!!!

So yesterday, while the 2 youngest were napping, I thought it would be a great time for Angel and I to tackle it (yet again) together, working side by side. A good time to teach about organization while sharing some good quality one-on-one time. Not even two minutes into it, she is playing and even adding to the mess, thwarting my efforts at making order. "Sweetheart" I say, in my most pleasant and loving voice "How about if you put the necklaces in your jewelry box while I hang up your dresses?" "UUGGGHHHH!!" she shouts, "Why do you always make me do SO MUCH WORK??!!! You are treating me like CINDERELLA!" I, of course, gasp in horror, thinking to myself "This is not how I envisioned it!" ("IT" meaning, of course, our little 'cleaning date', but also motherhood in general. How, despite my kind and loving words, my (almost) endless patience, my consistency in discipline, my recurrent attempts at teaching, and my constant prayers, is my daughter turning out "this way?"

And then it hit me. She actually has a mind of her own. She actually has (gasp) free agency. She is exercising her own independence, regardless of how much control I think I ought to have as 'Mother'. The best I can do is be patient, loving, calm, consistent, and lead, guide and walk beside her as she fumbles through the difficulties of preschool life; learning about who she is, where she came from, what her emotions are and mean, etc. etc.

Am I a perfect mother? Not even close. Am I trying? With all my heart. Is it good enough? Every day I pray it will be.

BC I thought I'd be the perfect mother to a perfect family of perfect children. Now I realize how impractical that would be. Thank Heaven for the 'real world' and the opportunity to grow and progress. I'm glad I've moved on from BC. I wouldn't trade my life now for the world.

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