“Hey, Mom?” asked the 7 year old.
“Yes, Cai?” asked I.
“Remember when you said all the swear words today?”
“No, Cai,” said I.
“ALL the swear words in the world, Mom?”
“No, Cai,” said I.
“And the very BADDEST swear word, Mom?”
“No, Cai,” said I.
“The one you said we should never, ever, ever tell Grandma we know?
“No, Cai,” said I.
“The one that starts with f and ends with uck? And sound like ffff – uck, ffff – uck? Can you put those sounds together, Mom?”
“Still don’t remember, Cai,” said I, although he was starting to jog my memory.
“But you DID, Mom. Remember? When the car wouldn’t start? And we were late to the doctor? And it just did CLICK CLICK CLICK? And you said crap and shit and you’ve got to be fucking kidding me? And then stop laughing, and SERIOUSLY; NOT RIGHT NOW, YOU GUYS, and SHhhhh… I have to call your father, and then you used your Not Nice voice to Daddy that you always say isn’t yelling but we say is yelling? Remember that, Mom?”
“OK. Yep. I remember now. Thanks, Cai,” said I.
“You’re welcome, Mom. And Mom?”
“That really was hilarious.”
Today was… I don’t know. Fine. It was fine.
We did make it to the doctor. Eventually. Forty-five minutes late, using the car my parents brought to rescue me. If you’ve ever wondered who the people are who make your doctor late all the time, THEY’RE ME. All those people are secretly ME. I’ve booked all the appointments ahead of you, and I’m always late, and I’m so sorry. But we couldn’t reschedule, even though we did call and offer, because it was my kid’s post-operative appointment and the doctor said it had to be done today, dead car battery or no.
We came home to find that the dog had helped himself in our absence to a few tampon treats from the garbage and scattered their slobbery remains throughout the downstairs. Here’s my advice for new parents: GET A DOG, and I swear to you your children will no longer seem so gross, because no matter where my kids have peed and pooped – which, FYI, includes but is not limited to the toy box, behind the beds, in the air vents, on the garage walls, and under the front porch – they have never, to my knowledge, chewed on a used tampon. Kids for the win!
And there were at least two whiney kids I wanted to drop-kick over the back fence by the time we finished dinner.
So, you know. It was a day.
It’s easy to go through the litany of all the things I do wrong during the day. There are just SO MANY to recite. I was unkind. I was yelly. I was impatient. I was ungrateful. I said ALL the bad words in the world in front of my kids. I’m too heavy. I’m prone to panicking. I rarely floss. I’m selfish. I can’t get the knack of shaving my armpits without getting razor burn in the left pit. I go to bed too late. I don’t serve veggies with dinner. And I haven’t washed my bathroom floor with more than a towel and the water dripping off my showered body in more than a year. A YEAR.
I was in full throttle tonight. The Unabridged Litany of the Ways I fff – uck Up Life.
Which is when I saw the message from Erin in my in-box. Erin who rescued my children and me on Tuesday. Erin, to whom I’d written:
I meant to find you and thank you in person for being so kind and gracious to me on Tuesday morning when I just blew it at kid drop-off. Rather than, you know, write about you in public and never say actual words to your face. But Tuesday was a mess and Abby had surgery Wednesday and I’ve been in practical stasis or go-go-going since then. So, in lieu of being socially appropriate, I just wanted to drop you a note and say thank you. Really. I was the parent who makes your job hard, and you were Jesus to me. I’m grateful.
Erin’s message back said:
Beth, You are welcome – although we all run late in life and feel overwhelmed by it I’m glad I could spin your morning in a new direction. Please know though that you are also the parent who makes my little summer job something I love to do each year. This is why – your kids are amazing! I got to be in Cai and Cael’s group this year and they both showed so much love and care for others. Cai continually reached out to a little boy at camp with some needs and offered to play with him and sought him out during big group times when we were together. Cael spent time with each child in our group and was always eager to include. I loved hearing Aden’s story of how she overcame her fear on the high ropes course and how she worked through it to accomplish it. Ian was my saving grace to a younger child who needed comforting. So – being late one morning is really no big deal – but having empathetic and compassionate children IS a big deal – and you have them and they were Jesus to me – giving me just enough encouragement to keep at this crazy week for the next year. I’m grateful.
And that’s when I realized I’m not so horrible after all. I mean, yes; the Litany of Shortcomings is true. I’m all those things. But only technically, because the Litany isn’t the whole truth or the full measure of me. And when the Litany is used, not to apologize or show ourselves mercy, but to wallow in shame, well, that technical truth becomes the lie we use to convince ourselves we’re without value and not enough. And that will never do.
Instead, tonight, now that my kids are in bed and I’m of more sound mind, I will use the Litany to craft the apologies I owe, to practice forgiveness on myself, to show kindness, and to remember it is but a fraction of the whole person I’m becoming. I will remember that both in spite of and because of who I am, my children are learning to face down fear, to show compassion, to be inclusive, and to Love. And I will choose to believe, one more time, that Love really does overcome. Even the Litany. Even in me.
Here’s what I’d love to know, as a way to practice love together.
What did you do WELL today?
And also, what can you tell me about armpit razor burn? Because SHEESH.