I am starting this year by claiming defeat. Last night, I fired off an email to my kids’ principal, begging the school to take them back. I tried. We all tried. And cried. And then tried again. But this is not working, and something has to give. If I’m not careful, it will be my very fragile state of mind. This past year has taught a lifetime of lessons, but one of the most apparent to me is that children are not meant to learn via blips on a screen – recorded videos from some revolving writing instructor sitting at a kitchen table 200 miles away, pages of social studies transformed to digital drivel, Michigan’s economy laid out before a third grader in 4 interactive maps, 2 color-coded graphs and 16 clickable boxes, each containing their own individual set of instructions. I watch my son stare into the monitor, eyes beginning to glaze.
“Mom, did you know…(grunt)…when I was three…(grunt)…I got poop stuck…(sigh)…on my butt?” his enormous eyes blink and head tilts to see if I truly grasp the magnitude of this experience he’s sharing.
I am not a saint…and frankly, it isn’t even something I aspire to be. But this is the go-to description when people discover we are foster parents, and it occurs to me that as compliments are showered upon us, onlookers might get the impression that in order to foster, one must be extraordinary or special or saintly. We are none of these things.
“I’m selling the shop,” he said. “With places like these, you never know what kind of offer will come when you’re finally ready, so if you get one that’s any good, you have to take it.” A week later, he walked out the door into retirement and my beloved heroine was left slumped over a laptop, deflated once again.
Yesterday, I cried into the arms of my six-year-old.
We were on snow day 12 or maybe 27. I’d long since lost count. We'd been riddled with fevers and vomit and rashes and runny noses since the onset of winter.
Mama, you need rest. You need a space of your own to know what you know and feel what you feel, sheltered from the eyes and the point of a finger, away from that obligatory smile and laugh and nod along to sentiments that do not move you.
Last week I prayed for calm. I prayed to be a loving mother as I glared at my small children, their blinking blue eyes looking back at me, curious boys wondering where their nice Mommy had gone. Who was this shell of a Mommy sitting before them, threatening to crack right there on the living room floor?
The accumulation of stuff – especially after kids arrive – is a blessing and a curse as are so many things in life – wine, dairy, sunshine, toddlers, marriage. The new trend toward minimalism is shouting at us to wake up and see past the shiny lie of consumerism, but I can’t seem to hear the call over the roar of my 72” LCD, the battery-powered four-wheeler screeching through my kitchen, and the gigantic new-to-us Suburban sitting in our three-stall garage.
It’s Saturday morning, and I’m trying to warm myself from the inside out with a mug of lukewarm coffee. We’ve just returned from watching my oldest play football in the unforgiving air of late October, observing from the sidelines in our bag chairs, using our two youngest children as human blankets to shield us from the cold.