Things That I Have Learned

The last few days with my older kids have been kind of rough. We always go through a reintroduction period when they come home after the long summer of little responsibility and lots of fun. Chores are an imposition, rules are offensive, and we are terrible parents for a few weeks, regardless of how much money we are bleeding for volleyball gear and ASB cards and road trips and, and, and... But it's been rough this time. And hurtful. One of my long time parenting crutches was a decision I made a long time ago to work really hard to not take anything my kids would say to me, personally. They're kids. They say stupid things. Things they don't even understand. I am the parent. It is my job to let them learn how to express themselves without being disrespectful, and the only way to do that effectively is by not reacting emotionally to every emotional outburst they have. I have done pretty well, sometimes. But the last few days has driven home a new sense of rejection and failure as a mother. These feelings are fleeting and unfounded, and I have every faith that me and my girls will be fine, but I've had to step back and go, "ouch." Ok, regroup. And it makes me look at how we got here.

I am a selfish mother. I always have been, from the time that Halle was born just after my 19th birthday, and I couldn't wait to leave her with grandma for a few hours so I could go to town and feel like a 19 year old again, until recent years, when I spent money on tickets for some show I thought was more important than a phone bill. My phone got shut off ever so briefly, along with everyone else on the plan, which happened to be my sister and brother-in-law at the time, and it didn't go over well. I don't know if I actually had bought tickets to anything around then, but probably lattes and other irresponsible things that I didn't need, but somehow justify because I have already lived the Hard Part of my life. Somewhere along the line I decided I was done suffering. Done going without. And I would beg, borrow or steal to make sure I could live the life I wanted, not the life that I had earned. There is little justice in this world, and it doesn't matter if I worked full time or didn't, but minimum wage just doesn't justify lattes or concerts when you have four kids. I know this, but I couldn't stand the thought of going through life missing out any more than I already had. In short, I had issues. I still have issues. Luckily now I have a husband to curb my issues, and shame me for considering frivolous things when we can't afford them. And remind me of my shameful and irresponsible past. But it's true. The way my girls are treating me now springs from the very same ideal that I have fostered for years. The ridiculous notion that I detest in other people that says "I am a martyr and I have done all of the things right and I deserve to get what I want!" My kids haven't watched me go without, or give up things that I desperately love. There was that one time when I had to quit volunteering at a fire department because it was more selfish time, away from them, that I couldn't afford. But it nearly broke my heart. Because I am selfish. I am always trying to justify the things I get. By selling other things, or giving something else up. I will give up lattes for a month if I can go to the  _____ show. I will sell these boots I don't wear if I can have those shoes. The problem is, I usually take a loss on some level, and all of those little losses add up, especially when you have four kids and an unstable income. But I have been so desperate to not miss out. And to not go without any more. To not drive cars that always break. To not wear anymore clothes that I hate. I have spoiled myself. And my kids too. I have taught them that we get what we want, no matter what. Shame on me. How can I wonder where their treatment of me comes from? Look in the mirror, girlfriend.

It is convicting when I realize that I have bred this monster of ingratitude and presumption. It is overwhelming to consider how to undo the damage and redefine our outlook on life. At one point I was proud of myself for raising tough and resilient kids, but now I see a house full of princesses with no gratefulness. Including myself. How can I be grateful to my husband for all of the hard work that he does for us when I know that I would have gone out and made it happen with or without him? Of course the rent is paid, the refrigerator is full, life is good. And it would be even if he wasn't here. But who is it that I would owe for it? The taxpayers? My parents? Credit Cards with no mercy? It didn't matter that I worked full time and didn't make enough to cover everything. I got food stamps which left me enough extra to go to a concert. Shame on me. I was THAT person. My kids are becoming THOSE people. I have gone seriously off course, and I am sorry. I have so many things, experiences, advantages, that I just don't deserve. And I have come to believe that I DO deserve them. It's like a terrible virus, ingratitude is. A soul-eating disease that is destroying our culture. I caught it, and I spread it. God help me reverse the effects.

Wow. That was a lot of heaviness and self-chastisement. I almost feel like I deserve a reward of some sort. But that's one of the symptoms. :) I should engage in some self flagulational cleaning. I have a lot of stuff to get done if I am going to start working every day. And not just couch time.

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