Bad Mom…

The truth is, I am not the mother that I hoped to be. I am not even the mother that I determine each day to be.

Every morning, my darkened house is broken into by the light of the sun, shining, even through the distance between us. Its golden fingers sneak through the gaps in curtains, its glowing feet, move impatiently, just outside of each creaking doorframe. Closer and closer it comes, illuminating everything in its path, a lamp being shone across a model train village, until finally, it crescendos. Like silent cymbals, the dawn finishes its breaking, the most polite of burglars, stealing only the shadows that remained.

It is then, sitting in the audience of that silent symphony, that I dare to dream. In the quiet presence of fleeting darkness and all-encompassing light, I plan my day.

I tell myself that today, I will be kinder. Today I will be fun and funny, all day, not just in bursts. I won’t get angry over spilled milk and loud objections to chores. I will not feel undone by the constant stream of discarded toys on the staircase, will not grit my teeth at the side-winding parade of possible paralytic danger that they pose. I will Pinterest and play, cook flawlessly, and without silent complaints. I will clean, like I am having an out of body experience. I will clean, and enjoy it. I will be the love child of Monica Gellar and Cinderella, singing and lovely, as I work my mannish hands to the bone.

I tell myself this, or at least picture it, while I sit on the couch, coffee in hand. My family still upstairs, peacefully sleeping.

And then they wake up, and so do I.

Would you like to know a secret? Not every day, but most, I feel as if my best is not good enough. I try, dear goodness, I try. But often, I feel as if I have failed to hit the mark on some unseen Mommy Measuring Cup. I pour my tired body into bed, exhausted, hoping that what I have accomplished will still be Enough.

But will it?

Didn’t my own mother do her best? Didn’t she try to carve out a beautiful life for us, with the only spoon she had been handed? Didn’t she scrape and save, sew and mend? Wasn’t there always more reasons for her to be stressed than I have, always more month left at the end of her money?

Then didn’t I forget her hard work, dismissing it as not good enough, before going off to college, to make my own life? I did, and I know I did.

Sometime between second grade and fourth, a chasm started to crack between us, opening wider and wider each year. Then blowing irrevocably open, a not so grand canyon between us, worsened by the dynamite of my rebellion.

Parts of me that were meant to remain soft, were hardened. My own hurts rang in my self-righteous ears, and what could have been worked out, became impossible. Where my heart had been tender, bitterness and crags of resentment now filled the landscape, making any effort on her part perilous.  I held my nose so high in the air that it is amazing that I never caught any birds with it.

I deserved better, I would do better, I would be better.

Now, I am five kids in. Sure, we have more, seemingly, than I did growing up. But I didn’t just want more, did I? I wanted, well, I guess I wanted perfection.

I look around, (isn’t comparison a killer?) and see so many mothers who seem to just have this. They are the Mommy versions of Usain Bolt, sprinting past me. Their perfectly coifed children quoting Tolstoy in the mall, while my three year old tries to scratch the skin from my face because I wouldn’t buy her a millionth stuffed animal. Women who never eat carbs, and who use all the time that this must save them, to do things that amaze everyone.

I don’t want to be them. Well, not really. I want this life, with this man, with my own children. Face scraping and all, my own free dermabrasion. They are the very best things that have ever happened to me. And even if I feel at times like I am not everything I should be, or could be, I am still so grateful to be their Mommy. I’ll keep trying, and fighting for them, and cleaning the toilets I detest. Someday, when they have children, I hope they will see me with perspective. And I hope that even before then, they’ll know that I did my best.

While I may never be the mother, or person, that I dreamt as a young girl that I would be, I hope to always be the mom that my children really need.

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How To Ruin A Family Vacation, Part Two

  • By this point, you should be experiencing some of the rotten fruits of your labor. Your body should be responding in ways that let you know that you are on the wrong track. Tension should be starting to manifest itself in your neck and shoulders, spreading up to the base of your skull, and aching in a way that emphasizes the fact that your twenties are long gone. Your mouth and throat will begin to show their support for this predicament by jumping on the drying up band wagon, detouring almost every last milliliter of saliva to other parts of your exhausted body.
  • Water, that’s what you need. Pass out the last water bottles that you brought with you. Barely contain your excitement that there is enough water bottles for everyone to have their own. Open yours, but take only one drink, you’ll finish it after your shower. Thirsty or not, you have children that need to stop jumping on the beds, and be encouraged to sleep in them.
  • Now, take the most green shower you have ever experienced. Conserve that water flow, baby. No whales are going to miss the amount of water coming through that shower head. Over the next few minutes you will not only receive second degree burns from someone using the sink in the other room, but you will also realize that your hair has congealed into one, hugely unattractive, dread lock. Spend the next several minutes trying to undo whatever mad science project is going on between your hair, hair products, sweat, questionable motel shampoo, and the trickles of scalding/freezing hard water at your disposal.
  • Be thankful that this is not your life. Well, it is, but only for one night. Gratitude will help bolster your spirit, and keep you caring enough to still be disappointed when the next day turns out poorly. You only have to get through this night. And by night, I mean morning, as it is now after midnight. Time to get a drink of water and lay down for a few hours rest. Tomorrow isn’t just going to ruin itself! Hydrate, like an Olympian. You are going for the gold, are you not?
  • Except, you can’t. Realize that your family members are all part camel, and they have filled their humps with every last drop of drinkable water, including yours. That’s okay, you’ll just swallow your pride, that should take a while.
  • Lay down on what can only be described as a rock bed on worn out springs. Pretend that you are at the suite at the hotel that you actually booked. You know, the one that you are still being charged for, because your psychic abilities are as poor as your mechanical skills, and your reservations are non-refundable. Knowing that you are throwing hundreds of dollars away, with nothing to show for it, will go a long way towards the successful ruination of your vacation.
  • As tired as you are, you might be tempted to give in to the lull of your husband’s 10 decibel snoring and enter into deep sleep. Resist. The ability to let your hopes be knocked around like a pinball depends partially on your inability to relax. Make sure to wake up fully at least 9 times over the next six hours. You, my friend, are an over-underachiever.
  • The next morning, put your husband in charge of securing a mechanic. Do not question his ability to do this. Instead, try desperately to entertain five cranky children through their disappointment, in a small motel room. Wait for several hours for your husband to return. Then, do not physically attack him when he shows up, nourished by the restaurant he discovered while out and about, “with an amazing salad bar”. You want to ruin your week, not your life. And if this is how you fare in a small space with people that actually love you, you have little hope of surviving prison. Also, you do not have the coloring or body type to pull off an orange jumpsuit.
  • Instead, be uncharacteristically patient when your husband says that it’s all good. Waste time trying to keep your failing trial run at the tiny house movement as clean as possible. Cleaning will ensure that you do not feel at all like you are on a vacation, and will remind you that you are currently without the actual comforts of home.
  • Agree to hold hands when your husband suggests that you all pray together as a family. Do not be at all suspicious when he begins, even though this is not a normally occurring event. After all, you are doing a pretty fantastic job of messing this up, but maybe some divine intervention could help things along. You’re not sure, but you think your insurance covers An Act of God…. Now, wait for it…. there it is! Hidden in the prayer your husband is saying, are the words. “And thank you God that the mechanic will work on the van tomorrow, and that we will stay here for one more night…” Those words will be quickly followed by the dollar figure that your salad consuming husband has already agreed to. This is where you will lose it. Right here. Right at the corner of this little trip already costing your family four digits financially, and the prospect of staying in a hooker motel, again. Act immediately. Do not allow yourself time to think or calm down. Yank your hand away from your husband and drop an F-bomb, while he is still mid-sentence with your Creator. This will not only shock your husband and children, but will allow you to feel a unique emotional cocktail of shame, embarrassment, and anger. Look at you go! You’re better at failing than you even thought!
  • Now you’ve done it! Your lack of holding it together has opened wide the barn door for your children to fall apart. Your motel room will quickly resemble a casting call for The Real housewives Of Hillyard. Chaos will ensue. Dr. Seuss was right, today is your day! No one can spoil a party quite like you can!
  • Buckle down. You’ve got to keep going, the time is half through. Just keep doing what you’re doing for the next 24 hours. Then, check out of your motel, and try to entertain your children for 5 1/2 hours at a truck stop this close to a bustling freeway. Pay the mechanic, up front, of course. Then get your hopes up right before he informs you that you have cracked your head gasket, and maybe the head.
  • Finally, do what you should have done from the start, and call your best friend to pick you up. When she drives from two states over, with a tow trailer hooked to her 8-passenger Nissan, you will really let go of all the remaining pieces that you were holding onto. You’ll just stand there and cry. Because you feel like you’ve been through so much, even though that seems so shallow, because this Missoula not Syria. But also because you have someone that loves you that much. And because she made you laugh when she said that she only wished you had broken down in Florida, so you could squeeze in a vacation.
  • You’ll head back to the place where you started from. You’ll have lost your minivan, a chunk of money, and most of your self-respect. But at some point during the last leg of the drive, you’ll realize that you are smiling, that you are just as safe now as you were all along, and that still have everything that you cannot live without. Before you can stop it, you will be filled with gratitude. While your weekend earned a gold star in awful, you’ll be thankful for how other things in your life are turning out.

How To Ruin A Family Vacation, Part One

  • There are many steps to properly ruining a family vacation. You’ll need to fully dedicate yourself to the process, but stay focused. Vacation annihilation is possible. And since I have personally accomplished this feat, I will describe the process in several easy steps. Feel free to make different twists and turns, to really ruin your own family’s time of relaxation to suit your specific needs. Own it, that’s the key. After all, the money that you’ll be wasting is your own, your sad and vague Facebook posts should be as well.
  • But for reference, here’s how we managed to really excell at our most recent stressful summer situation:
  • First, and this requires some pre-planning, pay off all non-medical debt. Then, to assure that you never go back into debt, get rid of all credit cards, except for the absolute necessities. (I.E. your Target card and Nordstrom card.) This step may seem unrelated, but trust me, it is imperative to making sure that you cannot charge your way to frivolous things such as safety and bliss.
  • Second, instead of being at home with your family enjoying a long, lazy summer, go back to work. In fact, work more hours in 8 weeks than you have cumulatively throughout the previous year. This step is critical, as it ensures that both your children and husband will be disappointed with you. Their loud vocal hysterics will completely strip you of the feelings of accomplishment that you had after working all those long, emotionally draining, shifts caring for foster children. This disappointment will set your trip off on the wrong foot, helping to make sure things go roughly.
  • Next, plan almost all of your family’s trips for the last 3 weeks of summer vacation. Doing this will heap pressure onto what other people refer to as “dog days”. Well, you’re no mutt, so get out there! Plan for spontaneous fun in carefully detailed increments. Doing this with a fast approaching timeline in mind for the end of summer, is a helpful way to have something hanging over you. It creates a real lose/win situation. Even if you lose at winning, well, you’ll win at losing.
  • Speaking of winning, try your hardest to plan this particular trip to coincide with your body’s monthly reminder of it’s former fertility. This will allow you to get the most bang for your emotional buck. Yes, ma’am. Your three days of hell won’t be glossed over by a sunny disposition. In fact, your entire weekend will feel like an emotional montage with a diverse range of characters. You will feel everything, EVERYTHING, even things that don’t actually happen. And also cramps.
  • Once those things are in place, secure a toddler between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. Place the toddler behind the driver and just out of the passenger’s reach. Make sure that the toddler drops their favorite stuffed panda to the left, so that it cannot be picked up by anyone in the vehicle. Do this precisely as the vehicle is careening down a 6% grade for 3,000 feet at 85 miles per hour. It is imperative that the toddler both screams at the top of their lungs steadily, and that they kick the back of the driver’s seat. This should be done in a random, but unrelenting, pattern, with a fierceness that channels Bruce Lee.
  • Do not bring enough tablets for your children. Believe that they will become better people if they learn to share, and hold fast to this belief, even when backseat infighting makes you want to throw your ideals out the window with the dang panda.
  • Once you are 125 miles from your destination, and over 200 miles from home, hear something strange from the front of your car. Pull over into the overwhelming darkness, right next to America’s creepiest farmhouse, and get out of the vehicle. Realize that you have no cell service, and also that no one would hear you screaming. Make sure to pick up each lid and bottle from the water that your husband is furiously dumping into some angry car part, because you care. But, also in case a creeper with a saw is watching, and would decide to spare your family based solely on your stewardship of the planet.
  • Drive to the next town, once it is questionably safe to do so. Realize quickly that every hotel is booked for the night. Receive a warning from a kindly mechanic that your water pump is breaking and that you should drive no farther than a half mile, or risk blowing your van’s head gasket. But, he says, don’t stay in that motel over there with children. It isn’t safe and it’s kind of a Crap Sandwich (and no, he didn’t say crap, he said something else.)
  • Determine in person that every other hotel/motel is still booked solid, and get the last room available at the Crap Sandwich motel. It’s almost midnight, and the only other option is to sleep in the parking lot. Notice while unloading your children that the light in the parking lot is being provided by the adjacent building. You know, the one with the sign on top advertising a liquor store/lounge and exotic dancing.
  • As tired as you are at this point, do not give up. Hold fast. Your vacation will get much, much worse over the next 48 hours…