Is it possible that the measure of the quality of our lives comes down to what happens in one brief moment of time? I suppose I would like to think that the sum total of all the moments or the average, medium, mean ( never really understood that part of math anyway) can add up to a “general” sense of goodness or rightness. However, I am starting to think this is not the case. It is beginning to seem that in one single moment, we can become or not become the whole of what we want to be. If that is the case, then there is really no hope for success.
I am a struggling parent. Mothering does not really come naturally to me. I have been at odds with it from the minute it began. I have not yet achieved an entire day of good mothering. Of course, from the outside, and to most of the rest of the world, that is ridiculous. I am better than most, and in some circumstances, even better than better than most. However, I have gone to sleep every night since the first day of mommyhood, December 21, 2001, thinking that I could have done better.
These are not the words of an anxious, paranoid, overly critical person – as I am not really any of those things. I am just honest. However, I have held out hope that the sum total of my mothering might leave my children with the overall feeling of a happy childhood and good parenting. This may not be. A few days ago, Sophie had a sleepover at camp. She left on Thursday morning and did not return until Friday afternoon on her regular bus. I was proud of her for going, excited for the fun she was going to have and helped her prepare herself to have what she needed in a stylish, modest, not scheppy way. It was as nice to have her go as it was to have her return. Coinciding with the scheduled return of her bus, which comes somewhere in the vicinity of 4:30-4:50ish, I had a repairman in the kitchen trying to fix my rather expensive ice maker on my rather new refrigerator. I usually greet her at the bus and get nothing much in return other than her backpack unceremoniously tossed my way. She is not big greeter nor is she fond of the hug.
I had my eye on the window watching for the bus while I talked to the repairman. Just my luck, the bus pulls up in the one second I am not standing outside and she gets escorted to the door by the counselor. I am at the door, I give her a big hello, a kiss and take her bag. She gives me the 9 year old version of hello and goes to do I don’t know what. I learn several hours later that she is pissed off and hurt that I was not waiting outside when the bus came. She said she was waiting all day to see me and I wasn’t there and that I was more interested in the refrigerator.
She is still harboring a bit of resentment almost a week later. I have apologized, explained that I was in the kitchen and came right to the door, and was sorry she was disappointed and blah, blah, blah. I am not angry with her for her feelings, I am heartbroken that I did something, however unintentional, that hurt her and I now suspect this moment in time will be one of the things she remembers and repeats about her childhood.
I cannot determine what will be imprinted on her brain, but I have my suspicions. No one cares that the truth is that we traveled around the world to get her, gave her a wonderful home and family, and that I have tried to be the best mother I can with my limited skill and ability. I paid thousands of dollars so she could go to that camp and have given her the sun, moon and stars without any hesitation. But, the moment, the one moment that I had to talk to the repair man and was not waiting outside, is what I have become to her.
Is this true about everything? I think it is. We say one thing wrong to a friend, and the friendship can be over. We make one mistake at work and can be fired. We take one misstep in a relationship, and it can be changed forever. This is a lot of pressure to live under. Sure, we all make mistakes, but the truth is, those mistakes can cost a lot even if we kid ourselves into thinking they don’t.
Does all the good parenting in the world get thrown away in the moments of poor parenting? I said above that I have not yet achieved an entire day of good parenting. At some point in everyday, I fall victim to my own emotions. Those emotions often have nothing to do with the children, but I am affected by them anyway. After an entire day of playing or indulging, I feel it ruined with a snarky comment, a raised voice, an impatient tone. A day of fun and frolic can end with an exhausting and frustrating bed time resulting in a sour taste left for all.
I know I may be faulted for rather unreasonable standards, but if I don’t have high standards for myself as a parent, what should the high standards be saved for? I am not hoping to achieve Martha Stewart-dom nor Baby Einstien- like scheduling. I am only wondering when, after all these years, I might actually get it right for one entire day?????