Eye on the Prize

“The rewards far outweigh the challenges everyday,” she said, a fellow mom of two young children, and she too can count her own challenges on a daily basis. I think she was speaking in hopeful suggestion, the careful answer moms give when push comes to shove and someone might be listening to see if she loves her job.

I respectfully disagreed. I’m not sure that’s true.

Right now, the challenges most often outweigh the rewards. There is lots of pushing, shoving, fighting, arguing, complaining, whining, fighting and destruction. All day long.

There is lots of wondering, waiting, worrying, negotiating, praying, and hoping. All day long.

There is lots of wishing I hadn’t just said that, or praying they won’t remember this, or wishing I could hand-write and carefully choose the childhood movie scenes they’ll take with them to adulthood.

There is lots of praying that God will fill in the gaps I left wide open today.

But then, when I’m not expecting it, they will hold hands on a walk. Or they will pray without prompting. Or use manners without reminders. Or play together without invitation. Or one will say, “He’s my brother and I like him.”

But those are the delicious meatballs on the mound of my spaghetti day. They are the best part, but they don’t make the entire meal.

For now, there are more challenges than there are rewards. The rewards are precious and so, so worth it… but they are not far greater than the hard moments in between.

But. BUT. I have my eye on the prize.

Because one day, they will be grown men. And one day, I will look at them through the eyes of someone who has just met them.

And in each of them I’ll see a man who is patient, kind, leading, genuine, and careful. And I’ll think, “Yep. That’s who he is. He does that now because we did that then.”

So today, I’ll stop complaining about the life stage, resenting the loss of my freedoms, imagining a different lifestyle, and wishing them to grow.

Because this is one good gig. Even if I could change it all, I wouldn’t change a thing.* Even on the hard days, my path is privileged.

I love you, sweet boys. We did okay today.

Previously published on Teaching Tuck and Ty, March 2010.

*”Even if I cold change it all, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Nine months later, everything would change.

And now, two years later, there’s a list of things I’d change.

Still, I stand by my original assessment: “Even on the hard days, my path is privileged.”

Sparkly, Shiny Promises

I’ve aimed for a special treat for the boys each day of spring break.  Today, we visited the arcade with a handful of quarters for their glorious spending pleasure.

Tuck spent his coins on experiences: virtual motorcycle rides and shooting galleries.

Tyler spent his coins and best efforts on things: the Claw Game with sparkly, shiny promises inside.

Tuck found exactly what he was looking for; Tyler left empty-handed.

He was most distraught, begging for more quarters.  It’s a hard life lesson, that first trip to the arcade, when you realize the odds are against you and the machines are rigged.

“See, buddy, let me tell you: those are tricky machines and it’s very, very, very hard to win the things inside.  But they don’t want you to know that until you’ve put your quarters in and it’s too late.”

(I did, by the way, warn him of this pitfall before he put his quarters in, before it was too late.  But my words were useless until he experienced it for himself.)

“Well, then that’s a meanie bully game.”

“It is, kiddo.  You’re right.”

“It tricked me.”

“I know, buddy.  That’s how it happens sometimes.”

You give what is asked, and you don’t get what you want.  The shiny promises leave you empty handed.

…Sometimes you just have to love what’s in your hands.

He stationed himself outside the entrance of the arcade, personally alerting passersby to the fraud happening just inside those doors.

On our way out, I gave each of them two more quarters to use in one of the guaranteed-prize, toy-vending machines.  A hope for redemption, albeit a toy no bigger than a dime.

Tucker got a blue ninja.  Score.

Tyler got a green dinosaur.  Disappointment struck again: it wasn’t as big as the picture on the outside of the machine.

I get it, kiddo.  I wish I could tell you this isn’t how it goes, that life owes you a full refund.

Sometimes, you’ve got to invest your energy in listing all the ways you can imagine, pretend, and utilize a teeny-tiny green dinosaur.

Sometimes, you just have to love what’s in your hands.

“Be Joyful Always”

I am called to be joyful always.

I’m thankful this biblical imperative does not call me to ‘be happy always.’

I am thankful that Courage isn’t listed as one of the fruits of the spirit, that I can trust the Spirit’s fruit in my life when I feel little to no bravery.

Whether we are blindsided by a sudden crisis or have been running from one for a long time, we only have three choices:

  1. Ignore it and hope it will go away.  (It won’t.)
  2. Try and live with it.  (But you can’t, not forever.)
  3. Look for the gift without fear and benefit from it.

When we do, we emerge on the other side, surprised by joy.

I wonder where and when ‘the other side’ is.

“Be joyful, because it is humanly possible.”

~ Wendell Berry, poet

All Before Noon

These things have happened today.

Tyler was awake for much of the night, not feeling well. Which means I was awake. And when he was sleeping, he was still writhing and restless, which means I was awake.

Tucker was up and shooting hoops by 7:00 am.

Tyler woke up feeling revised and energized enough to wrestle with his brother. And their wrestling follows me around the house. “Mommy is home base!” Players slide into home base… A LOT.

My very sweet neighbor stopped in to tell us they are moving out of state in two weeks. Gifts for everyone. Which is kind and gracious, but all I could think about was my giant, matted hair, my peeling sunburned nose, and my mismatched pajamas and bra-lessness.

When the garbage disposal wasn’t working, I fished out the culprits: a shredded ziploc bag, two magnets and an aquarium stone. Awesome. Also, my hand in the garbage disposal elicits an immediate gag reflex.

And this just in: writing about my hand in the garbage disposal elicits the same effect.

My son is wearing black socks with his shorts.

In the rental car, the boys sit beside one another on the backseat. And this is all things I can’t handle. How do parents drive cars? I will kiss my minivan when she comes home.

The pediatrician confirmed a double ear infection. Thankfully, they don’t charge per ear. A buy-one-get-one deal.

I have visited two gas stations today. At the first, I forgot which side the gas tank was on. When I pulled forward to turn my car around, I lost my spot in line. Forget it then.

At the second, I was poised with the gas tank on the accessible side, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the blasted thing open. Freaking rental. Forget it then.

And my children are asking anatomy questions I really don’t want to answer for another few years.

Let’s wrap up this day. Try again tomorrow.