Friday, July 6, 2012

Living in a House of Mirrors: What Children Imitate?

So much of a mother's day is filled with teaching her children how to live rightly and then attempting to fully demonstrate in action teaching before ever-watchful eyes that miss nothing.

These little eyes follow her every move, note her every facial expression, mimic her every action, and repeat every syllable that escapes her mouth.

For me, these are the eyes that turn the red "record" light on with my every screw up, shutter flash when I fall on my face, registering their disappointment that I am not always the perfect, understanding mommy they wish I was.

Three tape recorders play back a version of me in all their stories, Little People exchanges, puppet shows, and interactions with each other.

It's like living in a house of mirrors where I'm constantly confronted with the best and the worst of who I am.  Sometimes I cringe at how accurately they mimic my tone, faces, and hand gestures, make a mental note not to use that phrase again.  This week, it's the word "stupid" I need to remove from my vocabulary. 

I struggle to crucify the "worst" of me, knowing that I have little paparazzi following, even if I don't see them hiding behind the swing set, peeking around the corner of the dining room, or leaning over the stair railing.

And then there are those times when I can breathe, when my heart leaps at that rare evidence of parroting gone right, proof of my imprinting something positive on tender hearts.

Yesterday afternoon, I rounded a corner to find my youngest son lying on the wooden paneled floor, Pooh Bear blanket drawn high up under his chin, and an arm half covering tired eyes.

Emerson spoke a few simple words aloud, the kind that caused my feet to stumble and pause.

"God. Please make me better. Please God. Amen."

He wasn't talking to me, didn't even look at me as I passed.  Such prayers aren't a big deal, are just part of the daily fabric of life around here; they are just what came natural, what he knew to do when he hurt.

Later in the day, Amelia couldn't find kitty (a maddeningly daily occurrence in this house).

"Mommy!  I can't find kitty!  Wyatt HID her again!  Do you know where she is!?"

My reaction was less than kind and maternal.  No. For the thousandth time no.  And I don't care about your stuffed kitty either.  She's made of cloth and poly fill that has been squashed such that her proportions are no longer very cat-like. Go love a different animal!

Thankfully, I squelched that entire thought and found, instead, more inspired words on my lips. "Why don't you pray to God and ask Him to help you find kitty."

Without a word, she padded to the prayer closet.  I didn't hear any words, but minutes later, she bounded downstairs, one kitty found.

"See," I smiled.  "I told you God could help you find it when mommy couldn't."

Then today, after praying for rain and then praying thanks for God's bountiful response, the electricity went out for four hours.  The children and I played Monopoly by the light of two oil lamps, read books near unclothed windows, and talked about the power truck came down our driveway twice.

When the lights finally came back on, I heard Emerson down the hall in the kitchen say aloud, "Thank you God for turning the lights back on."

I sighed. The house of mirrors was kind to me today.

Unfortunately, I know too many reels stored inside their heads could show too much of me that I'd like to hack off with a butcher's knife and burn beyond recognition, but even in the midst of the negative, I see light and faith growing.  It gives a mother hope--not only for them but for herself, overcoming the sins of the flesh to live triumphantly in the spirit.

Image: "Alternative Reality" by Josephine Wall

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