Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Arrows in the Hand of a Warrior

One of the biggest struggles of raising children for me has been grappling with the "could haves", "would haves" and "should haves" of what I'd imagined life would be like without children. Efficiency is my drug of choice, and children are not particularly efficient creatures. When I am most frustrated as a parent or with my life in general, I find that frustration often crystallizing into anger that my role and responsibilities as a mother get in the way of everything else I had imagined myself doing in life. 

In a perfect world, the roles and responsibilities of parenting intertwine with everything else and enhance "what I'd imagine myself doing", rather than it being either/or, but I rarely see it that way.
I feel guilt, shame, and disgust that my habit is to begrudge my circumstances surrounding children. It makes me feel powerless that this enormous, unplanned section of my life is always overriding the planned sections of my life. Never the less, I try not to punish myself for valuing efficiency. As long as I don't place circumstances above people or my desires above the needs of my children, there are merits to productivity. [image]

I think it's acceptable that my wants come before their wants sometimes too. Most often, it ends up being a trade off - there's something I want or need to do and since they're along for the ride and neither they nor I can really change that, I try and make it worth it for all of us. I'll sift through piles of junk to my heart's content and they get to bring a small toy home or a quarter's worth of candy for baring with me. Bribery without the term "bribery" attached to it (and not so consistently such that it feels like a right) is an underappreciated tactic. In other words, many things become permissible in the interest of efficiency. I'm fairly honest with my children with what I want and what I need, just like they take every opportunity to tell me what they want and need too. 

Recently, I have begun to see that having children can be an enormous asset in reaching the goals that I've been so worried were out of my reach because of having children. I'm not advocating for using one's children as a means to an end so much as realizing that it seems like they are a blessing in spite of my tendency to view them as a distraction. 

I am not generally a shy person, but I do find myself frequently stuck in social situations that I'd rather not be in. Children are the best excuse for all sorts of things. I don't have to make as much eye contact because I have to keep an eye on my children. It's been nice talking with you, but I really have to leave now to get my kids down for their naps. I can't come to the party because one of my children has a cold. Etc. etc. Of course, most of those situations are not inconvenient at all if we're invited to something we want to attend, but it sure is handy to have legitimate excuses to get out of things. 

I don't feel guilty about using my family in this way. In fact, I find it endearing, like we have a pact amongst introverts to have each other's backs. My dad always let us use him as an excuse to avoid things ("I can't give you my phone number because my dad forbade me", or "I can't go any higher for this item I want because this is my dad's money", both of which he'd happily say to me in advance so that I could say those things honestly) and I will do the same for my sons if they want or need it. 

On the other hand, everyone's favorite thing about me is my children (Edit: I know this is not really true! I appreciate everyone who wrote to tell me so ;)). I might begrudge this, except it tends to work to my advantage too. Recently I've had several opportunities to meet and spend time with women who I've met under unusual circumstances. I am trying to learn Arabic and in general broaden my experience of life in America. The only way I know how to do this is to go directly to other people and ask in the most incredibly awkward way if they would teach me to cook. So far this has not failed to start friendships, but the lubricant is always my children. I set up time to meet with people and they never fail to add, "and bring those kids!" or "how are the boys?". 

As much as I've resisted and bemoaned my status as a stay-at-home-mom-by-necessity, I suddenly see my flexible schedule as a huge gift. The boys are old enough now that we can get in and out of the car without too much trouble and leave the house within 10 minutes of deciding to leave the house. For those of you with kids who aren't there yet, I see that tear of envy trickling down your cheek right now. This forced flexibility has afforded me the opportunity to forge relationships and spend time with people that I would not be available for if I had the jobs I have so intensely longed for and worked toward. 

As I begin to invest in these cross-cultural, sometimes cross-lingual relationships, there are frequently lulls in conversations. Luckily, watching my boys play while sitting silently with someone else is a fairly natural thing to do. There's even the option to talk to the kids when you can't figure out how to talk to adults. Adults are able to talk to children in a way that is also commenting on life or getting information across to adults within earshot. Children are a source of humor and they're also a glue. Children are bridges. 

I look at my sons in this new light and I feel admiration. I see this symbiotic relationship as the beginning of a partnership with them, where we're a team achieving goals with our interpersonal dynamic as a strategy to get there. I marvel at their sweetness and openness toward others and their willingness to trust me.  

I enjoy this feeling of mutual benefit from my relationship with my kids. I often don't feel the emotional tenderness that I suspect other mothers feel constantly, and I resent this, but also find it cloying in others (mostly because I find it very difficult to relate to). I struggle to muster tenderness or doting emotions, but I am beginning to feel the warmth of pride and teamwork. Parenthood is a transaction. Not really one that I can refuse to make, but not one that is of no value to me either. It's also not a transaction in that I don't stop giving, even if I'm not receiving. 

I'm worried that this will all unveil me as the self-preserving human that I am. I don't know how to mother, much of the time. I only seem to learn things and appreciate things in terms of how they affect me, rather than being selfless. I don't know if I'm doing this "right", but seeing the lifestyle of a suburban mother in America as having value beyond the sentimental (which I just don't feel) has been a brutal battle, and I feel that I'm finally wrapping my greedy little fists around its throat and getting things done. Less in spite of my children, and even perhaps because of them. [image]

I knew there was some verse about children and arrows, and thanks to Google, I am now reminded of the full verse, and it makes me feel like a BAMF. Psalm 127:4, "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth." I've considered my glaring youth at the time my children were born to be more of an arrow in my neck, but as usual, I am wrong. Now, I can almost feel the gleam in my eye upon internalizing the words in Psalms. It's a rush of power, and a promise of worth in terms that I understand worth. I need not mourn my seeming inability to relish the mom-life part of motherhood, but instead my sons are coming with me and standing at my side as I prepare to fight. Praise be to God, from whom all weird, unknown, sometimes humanly untimely blessings flow. 

1 comment:

  1. Love this and relate to this so, so much. I love how you're seeing a change in perspective in yourself. I want to get to there!

    I've realized how much I want to do things "right," and it's sucking the joy out of everything.

    Why can we not live closer?! You could definitely teach me how to take a chill pill and bring the kiddos along for the ride. The suburban "the time goes so fast," "I wish they would stay little forever" sappiness is not my jam either.


Related Posts with Thumbnails