Monday, May 09, 2005

Measuring Up

I started this post on Mother's Day, but couldn't seem to finish it. So you get it today instead. I've been thinking a lot about how I measure up as a mother. I've decided there are several ways to look at it, so without further ado:

Nineteen months ago, my life changed dramatically. I went from being the mother of one child to being the mother of three...two of which I barely knew. They had just turned three and five years old at the time. I jumped into the roll of multiple-mom head first, but I certainly didn't jump gracefully. Eagerness and social work training aside, there was still a LOT I had to learn about being a mother of multiple children - especially to children who brought enough emotional baggage to fill a freight train.

There were many, many nights throughout those first few months when I swore up and down that I would *not* be able to do it. Tai would come home, and immediately, I would disappear into the bathroom for a long, hot bubble bath - because if I didn't disappear, I thought I would snap. Those were the days when the five-year-old thought he should pee in the closet, and in the toy bucket, and under the bed, and behind the bookshelf. Or when the three-year-old would throw forty-five minute fits rather than asking for a glass of juice. Or when both of them have "stolen" and stashed food in their bedrooms in various places. Or when the five-year-old was in a bad mood and went into a rage over nothing and destroyed an entire room - or two - or three. Or the two younger ones screamed and cried all day for reasons unknown. Those were the nights I cried myself to sleep and wondered how on earth I would be able to get through to those kids.

Those days are far behind us, now, thank god. The now six-year-old no longer urinates all over the house. The now four-year-old asks for juice a million times a day, and her fits are very short lived. They realize they'll be getting food at three meals and at least two snacks a day, and they no longer steal and stash it (except for the occasional piece of candy, but hey, they ARE kids after all). The six-year-old doesn't go into rages and destroy rooms anymore. Laughter and singing takes the place of screaming and crying most of the time. I haven't cried myself to sleep in a good long while.

How much of this can I attribute to my parenting skills? Am I doing all that I can for these kids? Tai is a wonderful father, and his influence has done amazing things for the kids. And Perrin is in counseling and is now on medication, which affects his moods a great deal. But if the measure of a mother is simply how the children are doing now as opposed to how they were doing before, I'd say I'm doing pretty alright as far as the two younger ones are concerned.

The ten-year-old? I'm not so sure about. He was such a good kid - a good student, polite, considerate, intelligent, and articulate. But this past year, his grades have been slipping. Not because he finds the work challenging, but because he simply doesn't want to do the work. He's been becoming angrier and angrier over the silliest little things. And he's totally disrespectful toward his brother and sister, and many times, even his father and me. I don't know if this is simply the onset of puberty, or if it has been the loss of 2/3 of his mother that is the cause. In his case, I'd say I'm not doing so alright.

I was blessed with a mother who would get down on the floor with me and play. I remember many nights sitting around in a circle with her and my brother, pushing a ball back and forth saying rhyming words each time we had the ball. Or words that started with a certain letter. Or reading a book. Or Indian wrestling. Or racing Matchbox cars. Or playing checkers.

I don't do those things with my kids nearly as often as she did with me. I get so caught up in the, "Have you brushed your teeth? Stop hitting your brother! Do you have your homework done? What about your spelling? I know it isn't due til Thursday, but you should do it now. Did you guys bring your laundry downstairs? You don't have any clean socks? How did that happen? You had sixteen pairs at the beginning of the week! I know you don't want Rice Crispies for breakfast. Cope. Look at how nice you look today! Everything matches! No, it's not snack time - I'm cooking dinner. Yes, you can have a cup of juice. Ok, ok, I'll feed the cat. I know the litter box stinks. I'll get to it. Get your shoes on. Where did your backpack go? Do you need lunch money? What did you say about your homework? What a lovely drawing! Did you bring home any papers from school? I know the book fair is this week. No, you can't buy Yu-gi-oh books - they're a waste of money. Ask the neighbor if you can borrow her science book since you left yours at school. Didn't I tell you already to stop hitting your brother? Careful! You're going to break the tree again if you climb on that part! Have you had your medicine? Great job with your spelling test! It's garbage night, hint, hint. I know I asked before, but did you brush your teeth?"

Maybe that's the difference between having two kids and having three. Or maybe that's the difference between not raising the kids from infancy and having the chance to adapt more slowly to a growing family. Or maybe I just don't measure up to Mom.

So all told, I still don't quite know how I measure up as a mom. Perhaps that's a good thing.