Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Craving Certainty

We spent Grace's birthday (this April) in Texas. At Grandma's house. I thought she would have more fun there than cramped in our itty bitty house in a city with almost nothing to do.

And it was quite the eventful trip. But in the wrong sort of way. The night we pulled in, I went to bed feeling ill. I woke up vomiting. And then Claire got sick. And then Weston. And during the entire trip, Rose screamed more than she slept.

So maybe I was on edge. Or maybe there is no excuse and I am always this way (more likely). But at some point, Grace (the only well child) became very slightly mischievous in an effort to find something to do, and I got impatient. Mad. I lectured her. (I don't think I yelled this time, which is lucky.)

When I finished, Grace looked down at the rubber ball she was holding and asked, "Mom, do you think I'm mostly good, or mostly bad?" My heart cracked open.

And just seeing it written here, reliving it, makes me ache all over again.

I can't remember exactly how I responded. Looking back now, I hope I ran to her and told her she was so good. Is so good. I know at some point I told her that just because you don't think clearly before you do something doesn't make you bad.

We talked about natural consequences. Like what would happen if she continued to the throw the rubber ball against the walls in the house. And then we looked for alternatives. Like: where could we throw the ball where it wouldn't damage anything? And what could we do with it to make it more fun?

We spent the next hour together, giddily playing outside with this ridiculous homemade ping-pong ball slingshot that was the result of our conversation.

It made me realize that the main reason Grace gets into trouble is because she's bored and she comes up with creative and sometimes somewhat destructive ways to cure her boredom. It made me remember what I tell people; why I keep coming back to homeschooling her eventually: the girl is bored. And I don't know why it's taken me eight years to really internalize this fact and actually try to help her out.

Motherhood is a challenge. It's hard. And it's lovely. And there's this lurking, hovering, paralyzing fear that I'm messing it all up, that I'm not connecting enough, that I don't know enough. that they'll grow up to be gun-toting drug dealers who hate me and everything I tried to teach them.

To raise these people who have bits of you and bits of someone else and somewhere up in their ancestry bits of people you never counted on... all that is like trying to put together a puzzle without a picture of what it looks like.

Sometimes I feel like I'm breaking their hearts. Or I'm not teaching them what I should. Or I'm lecturing them too much and not teaching them the right way. There's so much at stake; how can I be sure I'm doing what I should be?


  1. This is exactly how I have been feeling lately!

  2. This is so beautifully written. And it seems to me that you're asking the same question Grace asked. We're all asking it. And Elise! You are mostly good! More than mostly. Your heart is one of the best I know.

    Sam is perpetually bored. And I think he was as a kid. And he did get into trouble because of it, though I really doubt Grace will get in the same kind of trouble. I don't know what the answer is there. Teach her how to teach herself? I wonder if Montessori might have ideas. I don't know much about it, but the idea is independent learning/play, yes? Maybe that would help. At any rate, love you.

  3. I can pretty much guarantee they are not going to grow up to be fun toting drug dealers. Your doing a fine job and that's obvious just because you are such a deliberate mother.

  4. I wonder the same things all the time. Someone once told me that the fact I constantly worry about how I'm doing as a parent is evidence enough that I'm doing all right, and to just keep trying. It doesn't help me know what to do at all, but it helps me to keep on trying.

  5. You are all such good friends. Kristy, I know you're doing fabulous. Deja. That means so much to me. She does happen to be in a Montessori school now, and I plan on leaving her there as long as I can (about fourth grade). They do WONDERS as a cure for boredom. Seriously amazing. It's just when she comes home that I have to start getting creative. Shahna, I wish I were a deliberate mother! I'm not enough, I'm afraid. I think about that a lot. Angela: your comment reminds me of something Professor Barlow used to say in my marriage prep class about marriage quality: "If you're worried, stop. If you're not worried, start." I hope hope hope that the worrying has some positive outcome!

  6. this went straight inside my heart like a needle and thread. this is me and henry. every moment. and i'll be sitting there wondering what i've done wrong and he'll turn to me and say "mom, i love guns." and i'll want to burst into tears. and then he'll leave me notes that say, sorry i make so many bad choyces. and i just want to hide under a rock. why didn't anyone tell me that the part of mothering where you're worried about how much they sleep and poop and eat is the easy part? anyway, i have no advice. but you put it so beautifully. and i'm just glad to know i'm not the only one. and somehow i know, like everyone else, that grace will be all grace because of you. i wish you didn't live so far away.

  7. Rock climbing is what grace needs. She's got the little body for it.You guys should start a rock climbing gym in Carlsbad. Check out this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0qj9IihcZw

  8. Jes, I love your comment. It is perfect. You said what I wanted to say in your comment. Thanks for being such an eloquent friend.

    Ember and Kevin: you are right. Wanna come build us a climbing wall? :)