By eight o'clock last night, I had asked and prodded Eliza so many times to write a spelling word, finish a problem, or pick up something she left on the floor, my patience well ran dry. I had barked and prodded at my children for so long, I simply couldn't do it anymore. And the bickering? It was draining and tiresome. The girls were unkind to each other only to wax so silly a few minutes later I had to get out the tobasco sauce for potty language.
I had lost my temper, raised my voice, and dumped Eliza in a wrestling heap on her bed for a time-out.
I was done. Done with the day, the attitudes, the ears that went missing, the insane messes, and this old house that is perpetually falling apart - one knob, one faucet, one bit of molding at a time.
So I sat down at the computer to check the Ohio polls. It was Super Tuesday and I cared, but more than anything I needed an escape. Just a few moments. Because everything I was trying to do felt futile. No one was listening, no one was coming when I called, no one (except me) cared that bedtime was getting later, and later.
While clicking around, I saw Ann's recent post. I scrolled down and her words drew me in. I stayed and read, and suddenly, I was crying over the phrase, "All is Grace" as my kids yanked cushions from the couch, hid in their fort when I told them it was time for baths, continued to tear the toy room apart, as if there were any toys left to be torn from the shelves or drawers.
It was that word. Grace.
Why do I forget that it is there?
Ann's words were a comfort. All the hurts and jabs I'd tossed out, all the shortcomings of the day, came tumbling in, and I wept. I saw Ann on the Kathy Lee Gifford show and I thought, "If only I could be that good, make a difference like that, love my children like she does. If only I had eyes to see the grace-miracle..."
I was comparing, wanting, knowing full-well she has days like mine. But it wasn't the kind of sizing up that brought me down. It was a belief that there is a better way. So I clicked out, grabbed the boys' pajamas and picked up Spencer to take him to the tub. Eliza saw the tears still wet on my cheeks and asked, "Why are you crying Mom?"
All I could say was, "Because sometimes I'm not a good Mom."
Minutes later while bathing the boys, a note came crumpling through the slit beneath the door.
They loved me. They wouldn't listen to me. But they loved me.
I broke. And all those merciful places I shut down when frustration gets the better of me began to open. That point of breaking, of crying, of surrendering to someone bigger and better, drained the angst right out of me and I embraced the gigantic mess we'd all made. The words I'd said. The streamers still hanging from Saturday's birthday party, the pencil shavings on the carpet, the can of peaches someone knocked onto the kitchen floor, juice still pooling.
What did those things matter, really? They were just that. Things.
But my children? They were living souls - sent to me to protect and love. At all costs. And I realized that all these expectations of perfection only set me up for failure.
Leonard Cohen sang,
"Don't dwell on what has passed away... forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."
So I tried to ease it in. Bit by bit, to those dark corners of my soul. The ones that need lightening and lifting.
But sometimes illumination is slow. I doubted. I worried. That my children will hear only disappointment and correction in my voice. That I haven't been good enough for them. That splitting me five ways will leave them with just a sliver of a mother - an unfulfilling place for all of us.
And that is how I went to bed. Heavy.
But this morning, the light cracked the clouds, just above the tip of the mountain. And it streamed into the living room, into Ali's pink rose that was opening.
It washed across the kitchen table as Gordy and his poodle ate cheerios.
It tangled into Ali's hair, as she leafed through a book, sleep still visible in her eyes.
And I saw it. Noticed it. At all its lengths and angles.
So I sidled my inadequacy next to His promise. That His burdens are light. And his grace is sufficient. Even for me. The daughter he knows is short-sighted at times, impatient, and ought to cross herself more often.
Eliza didn't respond last night when I kissed her on the cheek, when I told her how much I loved her. And no reciprocation from her was hard.
But as I made her breakfast this morning, combed her hair, and slid her lunch bag over her shoulder, I could feel the light gently filling me up. I washed the boys hands, carried Sami from her bunk to the table, and returned to make my own bed, all the while letting the light seep in.
As I pulled our quilt from the floor, I found this love note Eliza had made for me a month ago. I had folded it carefully and scooched it under the bed one night, so I could sleep. Pulling it out, I spread it flat. So I could read it again in the light. A stack of cut-out hearts, taped together. Love rising out of the rubble.
There is no perfect offering. And that is okay. It's okay to be broken.
That's how the light gets in.