Thursday, November 5, 2009

...a family, all just trying to get it right.

This afternoon I had one of those defining moments as a parent. The kind of moment that brings into sharp focus the magnitude of our impact on our children and the enormity of our job as parents. The kind of moment that has given me a constant and physical reminder all evening with the stinging and fatigue of eyes that have wept. An all too familiar feeling sometimes.

It was 17 degrees here in balmy Edmonton today. Unheard of for the 5th of November. Early dismissal at school so a perfect day to stay for a long, lingering play at the park. We stayed too long. Joyful play turned to frustration and unkind words. Words, that as soon as they are spoken almost choke a six year old with regret. But their fragile little egos hold fast to their convictions and sorry is a word too hard to utter in this frustrated state. I was serenaded with muffled sobs the whole walk home. Wishing I had a transporter beam so that we could just be home, cuddled up on the couch and talking about how darn hard relationships are sometimes. How grown ups feel the same frustrations with our friends sometimes but we just don't have the guts to tell each other how we are feeling most of the time. The walk, the sobbing and my frustration with not being able to help her with just the right words had worn me pretty thin by the time we got home. When we got in the door it was like my patience abruptly expired. Everything she said sounded like a whine after all that crying and I just didn't want to hear it anymore. She was tired and hungry. She asked for a granola bar. I just couldn't make another decision and sent her to ask her dad. We have been working pretty hard to help her notice her whining voice and when she asked him for a granola bar he asked her to try again in a different voice. Poor dad. He didn't know the ordeal we had both just endured and Meg couldn't handle this blow to her ego. She came back to the front hall where I was hanging up coats and melted onto the floor. I left her there while I continued to tidy her school things away. When I came back around the corner there she was... knees to chin, tears streaming down her cheek, practicing out loud "Can I please have a granola bar" in the nicest voice she could muster between sobs. And then muttering to herself that it wasn't good enough.... What had I done? Why does she have to feel that way... that aching, tormented, struggle to try and just get it right? I gathered her up in my arms and cried my heart out with her. I don't even know what I said to her. We went to the kitchen and got a granola bar and then I cradled her in my arms again and told her how much I loved her. Dave looked down at the two of us crying in a heap on the floor and said "I don't know how I am doing as a dad but I can tell you one thing Meg, you have the best mom in the world." ................... Stunned silence .............

And there we were the three of us...clearly all just trying to get it right. And as quickly as if nothing had happened at all our lives just went back into step. Meg ate her granola bar and got out her colouring book, I sorted through Meg's school bag and Dave got out the ingredients for supper. And I wonder, will that be one of the moments that Meg remembers, reflects on and agonizes about for years? Or maybe her moments and mine will be completely different. Or maybe there will just be some sort of psyche imprinting from this experience. It will add another layer to her armour. She won't remember the incident at all but her psyche has been undermined... or strengthened(?) by the experience.

I don't feel like the "best mom in the world" and by his comment I know Dave doubts himself as a dad. Both of us have had life long struggles with "trying to get it right" despite the fact that we know there is no "right". And I have watched Meg colour inside the lines since she was 3. Painfully realizing that my paralyzing quest for perfect would be an enduring legacy.


  1. This post was beautiful as was the one before it and the one before it.

    I just popped over here by following your comment on Brooke's blog. "Lola" caught my eye. I'm pregnant with #3 and Lola is our girl name. We danced to the Copacabana at our wedding... ;-)

    Anyway, I have just spend who knows how long reading every post I could scroll through here. I think you are a lovely writer, and everything you had to say really resonated with me.

    Just thought I'd say "Hi!"

  2. I wept as I read this post, Trish... maybe because i know the bench Meg was sitting on as she wept and practiced her words, maybe because I can hear her and know the look she had on her face... and maybe because I can feel in your words here exactly how you as a mother were feeling at the time.. And maybe because I know, without a doubt, that Dave is right.. Meg has the best mom in the world.

    It's this knowing in our hearts, this awareness of our children's inner needs, that at these tender times what they need is someone to Stop. And listen to them. Hear their words. Listen to their hearts. Feel with them. These are the important moments. And whether she has a conscious memory of these moments or not, she will remember, above all, being heard. And this is a lasting legacy that you are giving her.

    This parenting thing is HARD WORK... and you and Dave are doing what is needed: growing and changing with your girls as their emotional needs change.. even when they are changing faster than you can keep up with sometimes.

    I learn from you as you walk along this parenting journey... thank you for reminding me of these important lessons.

    Much love to you, as always................
    xoxoxo ~ C

  3. Becca, thank you! Brooke is one of the reasons I started blogging so it's great that one of the first "strangers" to comment on my blog came through her. I also looked over on your blogs (made a sassy comment) and "flipped" through the pages until my iPhone grew too heavy to hold as I lay cuddled up in my bed. Your writing is so damn engaging. Funny, honest and warm. I wanna come live it your house (and not just cause you make sugar cookies for dinner). Thank you for your comments. I'm pretty new at this so I love to know that I am not blogging into a complete abyss. Lola really is what I can't get enough of lately. At 4 months they really become fascinating little creatures, don't they? Many belly blessings to you Becca, as you grow your little Lola or August. I will be along for the ride as I witness your journey through your beautiful blog.

  4. And Cindy. I think you wept because you could feel the ache in my heart, after all you reside there. Yep, it is hard work and at the heart of it I know that I am perfect for it in my imperfection. Ups and downs and the messy, joyful frenzy of it all. I am making it my daily practice to live it in fullness and out loud. Peace can come later....Or never.

  5. Trish, you have such a way with words. You manage to get down on paper the tiny intricacies of life that make families real. Thanks for sharing.