Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Talking back

Mom guilt is a funny thing.

I actually hate the phrase.  A part of me cringes every time I hear it.  Even in my own head.

But it's so real, people.  It follows me around.  And I know for a fact it doesn't follow Joel.

No, he lives and moves and breathes just out of reach from its greedy hand.

It's the worst at night.  Once the children have drifted off to sleep, and they look so sweet and innocent in their beds, and you can't remember why they were driving you off the wall crazy just ten minutes earlier.

Tonight I was irritable.  And my temper was short.  And while I was literally wrestling Benjamin to sleep Finn started to whimper in the next room.

"What Finn?"

"I'm scared."

Benjamin pops up and I swipe his legs out from under him.  Pin him back to the bed where he belongs at this time of night.

"Come on, Finn.  I'm right here."  I snap through the open doors.  "There's no reason to be scared.  I'll be right in when Benjamin's down.  Just be quiet."

The whimpering dies down and Benjamin's jumpy body finally relaxes.  His breathing slows.  I slip quietly out of the room.  Right next door to my middle man.

But he's sleeping.  Sound asleep.

I cover his shoulders with a green, fleece blanket, tucking him in tight.

"Good night," I whisper in his ear.

But he doesn't move.



I nudge him a bit.

"Finn?  Are you okay, buddy?"

Just deeper breathing.  But I have to let him know.

"Mama's here, buddy.  I love you."

 I hate that he fell asleep scared.  I hate that my temper is so short sometimes, and that the last thing I told him was to be quiet when it should have been, I love you.

But he refused to wake up and ease my tortured heart, so I kissed his damp forehead and slowly left the room.

And so I'll write about it for a bit.  When my eyelids start to burn the computer will close and I'll head upstairs.  Where I'll check on Finn maybe ten times before my head hits the pillow.

Nothing will have changed.  He won't know I'm there.  Chances are we'll both forget about it in the morning.  He'll greet me with a small smile and, if I'm lucky, a quick snuggle.  Five minutes later he'll throw a fit about one of the many things that doesn't go his way.  I'll lose my patience.

And it will start all over again.

I'm not sure mom guilt can ever be fully overcome.  I guess I'll be 80 and still wondering if I could have done something different.

I can't make it go away.  That much is clear.  But every once in a while I am able to tell it to shut up.

Shut up, you stupid voice.  I'm a good mom.  Not perfect.  But good.  I love those little things so much.  And the truth is, voice, you'd have no power over me if I didn't.  So go ahead and talk.  Just be ready for me to talk back.

It takes courage to talk back.  Especially with so many voices telling us we're not doing it right.

But sometimes a good, firm shut up! is all it takes.

Then we can get back to doing things right and doing things wrong and doing things that (gasp!) don't matter one way or the other.

But mostly we can get back to our kids, who don't know we should be talking to them in three different languages and playing with them for five hours a day and speaking always in soft, soothing tones, without ever hinting at our anger or irritation.

We can get back to these kids who still look at us as if the sun rises and sets over our strong shoulders.  Who are starting to realize we're not perfect, and are breathing little sighs of relief.  Because they're not perfect either.  Obviously.

And if they can love us with all our messy imperfections, then certainly we can love them with theirs.

Snuggling a sick, sleepy baby Finn


  1. make me remember mine when they were young. They turned out great even with all of my mistakes. Having little ones is such a just have to stop and remember that every day.
    You obviously know that and express it so well. I love your blog!

    1. They did turn out great! Good to know mine might be okay:)

  2. I, too, am a Mom raising three boys abroad. I stumbled on your blog and have thoroughly enjoyed every word. Thank you for your heartfelt honesty and willingness to share! It is as if we are soul sisters! Kudos!

    1. That's amazing! So you can really understand:) Where are you living?

    2. Currently we are in Saudi Arabia. My husband and I are teachers as well. Started in China a few years ago and just moved to a new school. Overseas teaching is quite an adventure! I just had my third boy in Feb, so I am staying home with him full time for a few years. Hope Budapest is amazing--I'll look forward to reading more hopefully!