Legos. Markers. Library books. Angry Birds. And Grace.

I cleaned the boys’ bedrooms.

Yes, I know they should clean them on their own. There are many things they should do. Add this to the list.

I laid down the ultimatum a couple of weeks ago – you have an afternoon to clean your room. If you choose not to, then I will clean it for you. And believe me, young men, you do not want me to clean it for you. My process involves trash bags. And no sharpies for labeling and retrieving.

I wonder if every parent ever has tried this tactic. I remember wailing at the kitchen table, grieving the contents of the trash bag, most of all the lavender corduroy pants. (Let’s all just take a moment for lavender cordury pants.) To put away or throw away: that was the question.

My mom still talks about the time this backfired on her. She swept through my brother’s room, filling bag after bag of his stuff, and she told him he could earn it back. Seven years later, he graduated from high school, and my mom found the trash bag of his treasures where she had hidden it in the back of her closet. At that point, my brother said, “It’s all right, Mom. You can have all that stuff.”

I tend to operate well under deadlines, great and small. When I write, I set my timer for 8 minutes and 44 seconds. Nothing sacred about that amount of time, just a good formula that is neither too short nor too long. And if the timer beeps and I have more to say, well, then command-R. Reset and we’re good to go. Check back in with me in another 8:44.

I do the same thing with cleaning. I set my timer for 15 minutes, thinking, ‘surely I can clean for fifteen minutes. I can do anything for fifteen minutes.’ And then I gain so much momentum that by the time those 15 minutes are up, I barely want to pause long enough to make the beeping stop.

Such was the case with the boys’ bedrooms. I was Tazmanian in my degree of productivity.

What I didn’t see coming, as I cleaned the boys’ rooms was the spiritual metaphor in this gift of grace.

In part, they hadn’t cleaned their rooms because – like their mother – they don’t like such menial tasks. But also, they didn’t clean their rooms because they didn’t know where to even begin in this sea of Legos and markers and library books and angry birds and yogurt wrappers and divorced pairs of socks.

I cleaned their slate.

When they came home, when they saw their carpet once again, they spilled with thanks. Thank you, Mommy! Oh, thank you! One of them actually knelt down to the floor to enjoy the plush carpet on his fingers and against his face. Thank you, Mommy.

They wanted out of the mess. They didn’t know where to start.

I get that, guys. Been there too.

Hope for My Girls

He had waited in line to share his words with me.

(It always humbles me when people will stand in line to do anything with me.)

He said,

“I’m proud of you. And I know that sounds strange, because I really don’t know you at all. But I have two daughters, and ever since I became a dad, my entire perspective on women has changed. Whenever I see a woman who is owning her life and walking with dignity, it gives me hope for my little girls. And that makes me very proud of you.”

Thank you.

Oblivious? Or Choosing Not To Notice…

It’s not that I don’t know that someone else should pick up the dog poop around here. It’s not that I don’t know that responsibility builds character.

I know boys should fold clothes.
I know boys should sort laundry.
I know boys should make their beds in the morning.
I know boys should take their dishes to the sink, learn to load the dishwasher, perhaps even learn to unload it, if our cupboards weren’t so tall that even I can’t reach the top shelf when I stand on the stool.

I know that the second half of the downstairs room – which I haven’t yet named because it seems like it should be the family room and yet the fireplace seems like it’s in the family room and I don’t want to call the downstairs the playroom because I want the football team to go down their someday to play pool and ping pong and watch approved movies, and I don’t want my son to have to invite them to the “playroom” – is filled with boxes. Half-empty boxes, at that.

I know they could at least be – what’s that word? – Consolidated. I know it. I know there are legos on the window sill in the laundry room. I know the boys’ hair is too long, their feet are dirty, and their toenails need trimmed. I know that one’s shorts are dirty and this one chewed a hole through the collar of his tee shirt.

Just please don’t think I don’t know. I do know.

But if I acknowledge them, then I have to do something about it. I have to train the boys instead of doing it myself, and if they are trained to do it then I must follow through with consequences when they don’t keep their responsibilities.

Believe me, it’s easier to just let myself off the hook than to imagine I’m raising helpless husbands and careless leaders.

Or, maybe I do want you to think I don’t know. Maybe just imagine I’m oblivious, that I just don’t know the details of this chaos.

I know. Believe me. I know.

Harvest Entitlement

“Boys, I bought new summer shirts for you. You can choose which one you’d like to wear to school today.”

There comes a time when their search for seasonal clothing isn’t about tidiness. Although it might be about laundry. Meh. That’s not what this post is about.

“Oh, I love these. Thank you, Mommy.”
“And look at mine! Angry Birds and Perry Platypus‚Ķ dude! These are awesome!”
“What?! I didn’t get anything like that!”
“But you have skateboards and robots and drums on yours.”
“I don’t care! You know I like Angry Birds! You know that! Why did you buy me stupid shirts?”
Shouting, pouting tantrum.
Well, you ungrateful, entitled little snit.
“You may go to your room. You are very ungrateful, and that is not okay with me.”
“But you KNOW what I like!”
“And I did my best, young man. I had to buy what was in your size. There were no Angry Birds in your size. Upstairs. Go.”

I choose not to connect my children’s behavior to my identity or worth. (This is a daily choice.) As long as this attitude of unappreciation continues, I will withdraw the favors I do for you. There are certain things I am required to do, and those basic needs are met. So you can find your own breakfast in the pantry. Pack your own lunch. Gather your own backpack. I’ll meet you in the car.

There are moments in childhood when you realize you’ve pushed your mother too far, and the only way to reconcile this situation is to form a sibling team. In solidarity, they gathered themselves for the morning. They completed every task on their own. And not only did they meet me in the car, but we pulled out of the driveway ten minutes ahead of schedule.

There are moments in parenting when you realize you’ve been doing too much for your children. (Ding! Ding! Ding!) Turns out, I’ve been the one running around like a wild, crazy woman, grabbing shoes and coats and backpacks and lunch bags and homework, all while they simply lifted a foot so I may tie their shoes.

How did this happen? I’ve read books about this! I’ve taken measures to prevent this! When I was a teacher, I coached parents on how to break this pattern! And here I am.

Well, there I was. I shall be there no more.

There was a brief exchange of apology and forgiveness before they walked up the sidewalk and into school – oddly, they didn’t have to run to beat the second bell. We hardly knew what to do with our timely selves. In fact, Tucker actually did go in the wrong door and was gently penalized. Sorry. We don’t know the protocol for families who are on time.

I came home. Poured my coffee. Sat on my deck, which is maybe one of the best things about this house. Sure, I had a deck in the previous home, but it backed up to a four lane road, which only came in handy when I was locked in that blasted bedroom.

Anyway, I have declared this my spring and summer writing space.

I read from Galatians. “Let us not grow weary from doing good. For at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

I sat back in my chair and heaved a giant exhale of maternal exhaustion. I am weary. I am weary from doing good. I am raising leaders. Kingdom makers. By God’s grace, I am raising men who will be faithful husbands and loyal dads.

And at the proper time, together we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. In this field, I envision and pray for a harvest of integrity. Dignity. Respect. Responsibility. Leadership.

I am weary from doing good. Or even from doing not so good.
I’m waiting for that proper time. Bring on the harvest.

Foregone Conclusion

“Tricia, you seem to write and think and talk about marriage as if it’s definitely going to happen. Like it’s a foregone conclusion.”

Actually, that’s exactly what it is. I know I’ll marry again. I know this with an absurd sense of clarity and assurance.

“So does that mean you’re seeing someone?”

Nope. But one doesn’t need the bird in her hand to know that she’s made for the nest.

I think he’ll know that he knows. I already know that I know. We simply need to know each other. There is a place in my heart with his name on it, even though I haven’t yet fallen in love with him. But I’ll know when I do.

I think he’s looking for me.
I think he’s been waiting even longer than I have.
I think his heart has been broken in the way that brings perspective.

Perspective that shows you not to worry about little things,
not to fight about stupid things,
and to let most of it go
in the name of peace and grace and love and
I’m happy to see you again.

Perspective that shows you it doesn’t matter if the boys’ fingernails are trimmed,
that sometimes it’s good to eat dessert first,
that hellos and goodbyes matter,
the scattered Legos are a work in progress,
and silence is a language all its own.

I think he loves God and asks questions.
I think he’s solid in his career,
he’s established and confident,
and we can fearlessly support one another
and dive into a life of words together.

I think he’s smart and funny and thinking, and thereby the most handsome man in the room.

I think he’ll be afraid,
because so am I,
because the only way to be fearless is if you’ve never loved to a place of brokenness before.
I think he’ll be courageous,
because so am I,
because the only way to live is to love enough that you might break into pieces.

I think he wants to be a dad to somebody.
Or to two somebodies.
I think he understands the heart of an artist,
the mind of a writer.
I think we can walk alongside one another,
creating a sum that is greater than all its parts.
I think we will create.
I think neither of us can breathe unless we do.

I belong to him,
and I’m making today’s decisions with him in mind.
I think we will be great.
And we’ll know when we know.

It’s a foregone conclusion.