How I do it all

I’m rolling out the pastry for great grandpa’s pie and thinking of the little time that is left and the choice between being late and finishing and she is curled on the stool next to me coloring at the wrapping for his present.

“I’m done mama,” she chirps. “Is it beautiful?”

I pull from my reverie to see that the pencil scribbles I’ve been hearing were all over the cover of the book we are giving him, coloring in the white, covering the words, and my words come spilling out sharp and unkind.

“What are you doing coloring on a book? Don’t you know not to color on a book. It is not beautiful. You’ve wrecked it.”

She lays head down, hides it in her arms as I pound away at the dough, more easily molded than the little broken heart beside me. It is the Girl who first shows mercy, running over to erase the evidence as Little continues to weep quietly into her sleeve.

It is, I think, the first time I have ever spoken so harshly to her and the pain of it mixes with the weight of the rushing, and the feelings I am feeling about someone who isn’t present, and the guilt of a hundred things left undone all crest at that moment and crush me.

But it is nothing compared to what 3 sentences have done to my 4 year old.

We will be late, I decide. We will not go, even though it’s not often someone turns 85, if I can’t sort this out first, with her, with me.

At least, that’s what I wish I had done, stopped then, and reconciled. But I’m still trying to do it all and I continue pounding pastry with a perfunctory apology and a distraction and she stops crying and walks away.

The Girl comes in as I’m finishing, to ask again a question I already answered. But she doesn’t like my answer.

“Why are you doing this?” I erupt. “Why are you doing this to yourself and me? Why are you making yourself miserable again and revisiting all the tears of an hour ago and making me listen to it? I already said no. I’m not going to say yes. Why now? Can’t you see how busy I am getting this all done?”

It’s her turn to cry on the stool and mine to swallow down aggravation and the bitter tone to my words. I put the pie in the oven pick up the baby who is desperate for me; the Boy has been doing his best to to help him while I’m busy. I set the Girl to making sandwiches while I change diapers and nurse him to sleep and his smile and hand brushing my face softens the hardness that has been pressing and the ball that clenches tight. I catch Little, running through the bedroom as I’m finishing with diapers, hold her close and whisper, “I was wrong to talk to you that way. I’m so sorry. My heart hurts that my words hurt you. Please forgive me.”

She looks down, avoids my eyes, staring at her toe as it works a hole through the hardwood and then brightens, “I forgive you mama.”

She says it like it’s the password to her release and I hug her tighter for a second and whisper thank-you before letting go and watching her run off to play. She will probably remember this, and whenever she searches the annals of her childhood to justify her teenaged insistence that hers is an unhappy life, this day will be rehearsed. It will serve me right for all the times I did the same.

It’s only after the baby is asleep, and the lunch eaten, the Girl made me a sandwich too, that I recover some sort of sanity. I call the person I’m feeling feelings about and say them out loud, which almost immediately disperses their bitterness. I make another call to let those waiting know to go on ahead of us. We’ll be there when we can. I will not do it all today.

Then I frost the cake and call Aaron to apologize for the state I will be leaving the kitchen in. He makes me laugh by pretending to care.

We leave, a full hour behind schedule, and I once again ask forgiveness in the car for my words and actions, a path of repentance that is worn, maybe wearing thin, and I console myself with the thought that it’s more useful to children to see how their parents handle it when they inevitably fail than to never see them fail at all. I’m good at failing it seems. I have a lot of practice.

So please don’t ask me how I do it all. You really don’t want to know. It’s far from pretty and I often fail. I’m learning as I go. Just like you.

all content © Carrien Blue

12 thoughts on “How I do it all

  1. With you in the pain of our eruptions. I was thinking the other day that though I once hoped to raise children without issues (to deal with later in life), it might be better that they have to lean into His arms for healing when they are older. It might make them stronger than if they didn't have issues.

  2. This post reminds me that I am not alone in the failure club. And that apologizing to my children can teach them things too. Thank you for sharing, and I pray the rest of your weekend is relaxed and joyful.

  3. well, i said i'd comment more… 
    i'm mother to only 2, but that feels like a lot to me some days.  it is so easy to say or do something i regret – i find myself doing it more often than i'd like with my 2 almost 3 year old daughter in particular.  thank you for being transparent – it's not that i like to see someone else fail, but i guess i'm using it to remind me of how i want to deal with things – whether it be by getting it right, or by failing and putting it right.  asking forgiveness of children is so important, as my parents tried to show me growing up.  thanks again.  

  4. I read often, haven't commented before but wanted to so much now to say Thank You for your honesty and sharing your struggles. They are mine too and you are describing my kind of day. If more mothers were willing to be so humble and honest there would be less secrecy in the motherhood club and less beating ourselves up that we are the only ones failing. I have plenty of practice too. But, like you, I also believe that if our kids see us struggle and most of all apologise then we are setting a better example than to appear perfect at all times.
    Thank you again and I wish you strength.
    Simone from Sydney

  5. 🙂 about the first sentence.

    You're welcome. Thank-you. This was actually pretty hard to write, I had to
    fight the urge to change the story so I didn't look so bad. You are right,
    there should be less secrecy in the motherhood club.

  6. It seems like recognizing where it comes from is half the battle (impatience, irritants, time constraints, hunger, too much to do, etc.).  At least for me.  When I am able to recognize WHERE these nasty things are coming from, it helps me understand myself better and work towards axing it in the future.

    Because yes, it can be so hard sometimes.  But keeping the lines of communication open are so vital.  I definitely remember the times my mom apologized to me as a teenager.  It left a big imprint on my mind.

  7. Oh my goodness!  This post brought tears to my eyes – – it sounds like me, so many times!  Sharp retorts, regretted, but not immediately rectified.  Sad, hard hearts, angry internal dialogue.  Wow.  Well written.  And well resolved, it sounds like.  🙂
    Blessings to you.
    Rachel in Idaho

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