Friday, April 23, 2010

We Take Turns

As a mom, our hearts run the gamut from overflowing with joy to aching with pain. Today, mine did both. I was helping at our school’s “Exploration Friday,” a special day held every few months, where the kids have the opportunity to participate in special classes and activities led by parents and other community leaders.

Today I was helping a parent whose group was making Mother’s Day cards. I know first-hand the specialness of those adorable hand-made gifts – names written on multiple lines because they run out of room before they run out of letters, lots and lots and lots of glue, pieces coming off the page, etc. Little kids’ Mother’s Day cards and gifts are the best!!

Glue, markers, scissors, instructions . . . some kids pick it up quickly and are off and running. Others need step-by-step guidance as they carefully complete each task.

As I sat down next to a five year old who was struggling, I started asking him what type of flower he wanted to cut out for his mom. He said, “I don’t have a mom.” Pause. “My mom died.” Oh my. “Ok,” I said to myself, “How am I supposed to respond?” Seeing that he seemed to have accepted it and was smiling as he worked, I suggested he make the card for his dad. He happily continued on. I was still stunned and sad.

As the next class started working on their Mother’s Day cards, another little boy just sat there, seemingly “stuck.” The teacher came over and asked him what he was going to make for his mom. “I never see my mom. She works until midnight every night,” and then he mumbled something about wanting to make it for his dad. The teacher glanced at me, both of us noticing his reluctance and sadness. And we both sensed that he was looking for acceptance - permission to validate the person who was truly his “mom” in the sense of the everyday. Grateful for my earlier experience, I casually let him know that another boy in the prior class had made his card for his dad, too. This seemed to free him up. The teacher and I locked eyes, both saddened by his reality and aware of his internal struggled to come to grips with his own confusion about the feelings he was experiencing.

I don’t know his mom, and I don’t know his situation. All I could think was that his mom’s heart most likely breaks many nights when she comes home and her kids are sleeping. She, too, probably vacillates between being glad she has a job to help put food on the table, and anger and sadness that it’s at the expense of being with her kids. I’m quite sure many dads experience the same thing.

I know that parenting is an ongoing challenge. We all make sacrifices and do the best we can. I walked away grateful that I have a home office and am usually there in the morning and throughout the day, and then I have the privilege of tucking our kids in bed each night, alongside my husband. If you saw my facebook post earlier today, you may have noticed my prayer – it’s that I can be a loving, nurturing parent to kids when their parents aren’t there. As my friend said a few hours ago (I had tears in my eyes as I told her the story), “We take turns.” Yes, we do. And I’m grateful for the men and women who are there for my kids when I’m not, whether it’s because I’m actually gone or I’m having a bad day and the kids have a grump for a mom!! We take turns.

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