Anyone remember Love Thursdays? Apparently, the tradition is still alive and well at Chookooloonks, but it seems to have slipped out of vogue elsewhere which is a shame… especially when one finds a wee reminder of love tucked inside a walnut shell on a foggy Thursday morning.
This morning wasn’t the smoothest we’ve ever had. The trouble really started yesterday afternoon when I decided to knock tax filing out of the way during the girls’ naps. Three hours later, I was hopelessly lost inside the labyrinth of IRS form instructions with bad words on the brain and nary a plan for supper. As a result, bedtimes were far too late, and we all woke up unwillingly this morning with only half an hour until school.
I felt like my head had been run over by a nice mid-sized sedan, and patience escaped me within the first minute when one daughter greeted the offer of a tissue with wailing and gnashing of teeth. The other passively protested the not-hot-pinkness of her jeans by taking ten minutes to put on one sock. Backwards. Both girls were crying by the time their shoes were tied, and I was seriously contemplating the benefits of getting a sister wife or two.
At five minutes until school, two overtired girls slumped against their overtired mother in the kitchen, our goodbye hug sagging with defeat. I could still feel the sedan’s tread marks across my skull as yet another signature on my sign-in sheet of failures—my failure to get up early, to respond to this morning’s preschool dramas with grace, to “mop up hurt with embrace,” to finish the taxes yesterday, to ration my time skillfully, to keep up with the to-dos, to be fitter, happier, more productive, to mother effortlessly…
Because it’s not effortless for me, you see. Loving my girls is the fiercest instinct I’ve ever experienced, but mothering them takes intention, sacrifice, trial and error and error again. Looking at how other moms do it is the surest way to convince myself that I suck. That mom enrolls her children in a variety of extracurricular activities; that one takes her children on weekly field trips. That one had each of her children reading by three and a half; that other one relaxes on the academics but gives her children hours of undivided attention. That mom chronicles her children’s growing-up years with breathtaking photos; that one writes books to hers. Each new way of mothering flashes in neon letters until I am dizzy from the should of it and wondering how drastically I am screwing up my daughters.
My mother-in-law doesn’t see it the same way though. When I got to spend time with her a few weeks ago, she reminded me of what matters above all activities and achievements. It’s the one thing that comes to me by instinct rather than effort, and we have so much of it around here that it shows up inside our walnuts. We love each other. We really do, even when the girls have to entertain each other because I got caught up in the difference between Form 2555 and Form 2555-EZ and forgot about supper. Even on groggy, rushed mornings when we hug through tears of frustration. Even when I think longingly of sister wives and sleeping in.
Maybe it’s impossible not to screw up our children, and the real goal of parenting should be to keep their future therapy sessions to a minimum, or maybe parenting just comes less easily to some of us. Either way, a simple shape this morning reminded me of the truth my mother-in-law shared with me—that love doesn’t just cover a multitude of failures; it renders them obsolete.