Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Modern Mother's Scarlet Letter

Last week found this mother approaching a nervous breakdown of sorts, you know, the kind all mothers entertain on those days when everything needs a do-over yet there's no time for such frivolous things.

It started when my oldest, Wyatt, left one of his two homework folders at school for the umpteenth time this year, then confessed that his reading textbook was also "missing."  This fact was confirmed not an hour later when I received an email from the teacher.  Did I have the book at home?  Uh...no. And yes...I was sure.

Then came that son's continued inability to remember to practice his typing each afternoon, even when I reminded him.  Since school started, he'd gone from 17 word per minute back down to 13, all because he kept "forgetting."

But the straw that broke the camel's back was yet another pair of stinky socks left on the living room floor.  These were the white tube socks with the emerald green writing on the toe, identical to the pair I'd found earlier that day in his bedroom...along with the other pair in the Egyptian bathroom...and the third pair on the washroom floor.

Socks, it seems, had a mind of their own and a deep desire to avoid the dark recesses of the clothes hamper so they could, instead, frolic in freedom around my house.

And in that moment of pure insanity when I would have gone screaming out the backdoor had I only been able to muster the energy, the daily activity chart was born.  X's were bad.  Check marks were good.  Peer pressure from siblings was golden.

Yet, days later, here I was again, marking another "X" on Wyatt's chart.  I sighed deep, knowing it wasn't that he intended to be disobedient.  He is just my absentminded child, so much like his father in that regard.

Still, with a lost textbook, homework unable to be completed, and a chart full of X's, I felt like sewing a scarlet "F" for "failure" on my maternal chest.  Add to that a twin sister who wanted to whine or lie about everything and a twin brother who kept being intentionally mean to his sister, and I closed my eyes to a vision of myself standing on the scaffold of shame like a modern-day Hester Prynne as other mothers averted their eyes and shook their heads at my bad mothering skills.

This mother was obviously doing everything wrong.

My scarlet failure blazed brighter at suppertime when, as usual, two out of three children were less than thrilled with what I had cooked.  The evening conversation whirled around me in tones better suited for outside than the gathering table.  The children and husband were happy, completely oblivious to the strain that had tugged at my temples all week and that even now threatened to spill over in tears.

Then, Emerson began reciting his Bible verse that sat in the center of our table.  Not be outdone, Amelia did the same.  Somewhere along the way, Wyatt spoke up, saying we needed to pray for his friend at school whose grandmother was in the hospital.  He described how she had broken her arms when she had fallen.  We could pray for her tonight, right?

My breath caught, remembering my friend telling me a similar tale about Wyatt just a few weeks prior.  After her middle daughter had requested prayer for both my friend and a younger sister's "attitude," Wyatt had offered to pray, then apparently prayed heaven down in a mighty way, unconcerned about what others might think as he spoke aloud.

This boy so oblivious and absentminded at times showed a deep concern for others, a commitment to remembering their needs, and a willingness to call upon the Lord in prayer for them.

Maybe my pinning on that scarlet "F" was a bit premature.  Perhaps I'd  tuck it in my drawer for another day.  This wasn't the progress I'd been looking for, but perhaps I'd just been looking in the wrong place. 
A week later, Wyatt's textbook has reappeared in his school desk (see this mom rolling her eyes), his typing speed is approaching what it was before, and we're starting to have more checks than X's on everyone's activity chart, even without this mother's constant pestering.

There are no sudden miracles with raising children.  Nothing is overnight.  Everything is a process.  Some moments are joyful.  Some send me to my knees.  Others send me to my bed to pull the covers over my head.

But even if I can't bring my children up to always be the brightest, the most responsible, or the least absentminded--if I can just raise them up to live for the Lord, to love Him with their whole heart, and to love others in return, I will have done my job. 


  1. Amen sister!!!! It's the long haul. People who love and need instant results will have that little trait decimated by motherhood. Comfort comes in experience- just like the one you had that tells us our perspective may not be as broad as it should be.

  2. Haha - "Socks, it seems, had a mind of their own and a deep desire to avoid the dark recesses of the clothes hamper so they could, instead, frolic in freedom around my house."

    Love that you have a sense of humor - and heavenly perspective - on this stage of life you're in with those angels :)

    1. More socks on my floor again this evening, Liza. They're mocking me as I refuse to pick them up, certain another X on the chart will move them from my floor...if only I can suppress the urge to just do it myself!

  3. "Maybe my pinning on that scarlet "F" was a bit premature." I think we all do this to ourselves at some point or another. Usually because we cant see those small miracles amid the ciaos of raising kids. I'm so glad you saw the miracle. This post was such a little spark in the day. Form one mama who is looking at her nest being empty soon, to another one right smack dab in the middle of it... GOOD JOB. Hooray, I'm cheering for you on the sidelines... you are running the miracle. Visiting from Tell His Story

  4. It's so hard to remember that it's a process in the middle! He is always working in us and in our kids! Thanks for the reminder!

    Deb Weaver