September has been a month of blues and golds and greens. The morning fog hangs low over the valleys, and the sunshine is warm and delicious.
School is in full swing. I’m happy that the initial adjustments are over, and everyone is more or less used to the routine and eager to head off to school each morning.
A question for fellow moms: have you ever found yourself feeding the twelfth load of laundry for the week into the washer (simultaneously planning the supper menu and wondering what to do about the socks that keep on appearing in the hamper inside out, in spite of lectures), and suddenly the thought that has been niggling at the back of your mind for days jumps out at you with sledgehammer force: I AM REALLY NOT A GOOD MOM!
There’s evidence all over, once you start looking for it. Child A has been having attitude problems and you’re not sure what to do about it, Child B and Child C can’t seem to get along for two minutes, and Child D has the horrible habit of complaining about food at the table. You weren’t very patient with the dawdlers at breakfast, and you are really worried about that history test that Child C has today. You should have made him/her study harder.
There are more subtle clues as well, such as the assortment of flash cards, popcorn, and marbles under the couch cushions and the way you can’t seem to get it together with meal planning.
(But as I write this I am worried about something. Maybe the rest of you don’t have these kind of moments. Maybe you are always as together and serene and in command of the situation as you appear to be. Oh dear. What will you think of me now?)
I probably shouldn’t be trying to write about this kind of thing, because it’s too real right now for me to have any really wise, fix-it-all words. I can’t say, “Follow these four steps, and your kids will stop fighting,” because I know they probably won’t, or, “I just don’t remember my children acting that way,” because mine probably just did this morning.
It’s highly possible that we are making some huge mistakes and our kids will still be trying to wiggle out of brushing their teeth at the age of 45 and arguing over who sits where in the van at the age of 60.
Or much worse-they could end up having trouble with honesty or commitment or keeping their word or loving their neighbor.
The tale really is not told for us yet, and that’s why I suddenly have panic attacks about doing a good job with these little people, and that is also why I am not a fit person to give parenting advice.
So…the ideas I’m giving here are simply ideas to improve the morale of yourself and your kids. Because things will definitely not go well if you are stressed and certain of failure. You will have to look elsewhere for the directions on raising responsible adults. Let me know when you find them.
In the meantime…
Read with your kids. Read serious stories and silly stories, true stories and fiction. Let them choose books to read, and choose some yourself.
Take time for creativity. Pick a bouquet of autumn leaves or sew something pretty. Color with your kids.
Take walks and bike rides, together and alone, in the sunshine and in the snow.
Pay attention to the things your kids tell you. You are sure to learn many things and be quite entertained. Be especially attentive to the first grader telling you with round blue eyes about Egyptian embalming practices. “They wash the body with soap and pour salt on it till it’s hard as a rock. Then they wrap it in bandages and bury it.” That was definitely new information for me.
Clean out a cupboard or closet if you are feeling especially overwhelmed. You will feel so much better knowing that there is at least one area of your life under control, even if it is only the broom closet. Under the couch cushions would be another option to clean, and your children will be delighted to find their missing toys.
Resist the temptation to let your children escape routine hygiene and bedroom cleaning. It’s much easier to love a clean child than one with a snotty nose or unbrushed teeth, and unmade beds make everybody grouchy.
Keep your sense of humor intact. In the daily slog of keeping food on the table and clean clothes for everyone and toothpaste cleaned out of the bathroom sink, don’t forget to find something to laugh about.
And of course, pray for your kids. Pray about their safety and their health and their moods and their friends and their future.
Enjoy them, and keep it simple.