The Saturday before Easter we dyed some eggs. We didn’t last year, so I thought we were doing pretty good to have all the Easter-y treasures of yore unpacked from boxes and to have the time and energy to do an easy thing the kids have been asking about.
Callie has been sprouting lately. She’s reading Harry Potter, loping through school and solicitous of the baby. I cut her hair short again; it’s curling more in the humid California air. Some afternoons I can smell the ocean, though maybe it’s the bay: I should notice which way the breeze is blowing when it brings the salt and the cry of seagulls.
The kids had lots of options for decorating their eggs. Dyeing, painting, stickers and the most popular: magic crayon then dye. Callie wrote out her secret special message and then carefully dyed her egg. It said:
I hate you, Mom!
Perhaps this was a simple rebellious inversion of the dye carton’s suggested “I love you, Mom!” but it pretty much broke my heart. These past few months have been really hard, and harder still has been my frustrated feeling that things should not be this hard, that this should be an adventure, that it could be so much worse, that I am a terrible mother and that not only do I not blame Callie for hating me, I hate myself.
Tom has gently (and not so gently) prodded me, for using the mean voice, for being so impatient. Avery has escalated into almost-teenage emotional swings and I have found myself responding in kind, as if I am suffering a second, more violent and less-justified adolescence of swirling anger and inability to pull back and accept. To calmly respond and patiently redirect, to be more understanding and a safe haven for my children instead of their harping interrogator.
Then, this week, I don’t know what the turning point was. Maybe it was the Uchtdorf talk we discussed in church, about the five regrets of the dying. It kind of made me a little mad on Sunday. “I wish that I had let myself by happier,” when all I have been asking for for the past two months is to be just a little happier, to feel love for my children, to want to want to be with them, to be able to see and hear the endearing things they say and enjoy them, instead of standing helplessly as the fighting and whining and screaming bleed together over the whole of my horizon until my only recourse is to hide.
It is one thing to not like everything your children do while being able to recognize and rejoice in your deep and abiding love for the people they are, the souls that you catch a glimpse of at least once in awhile, and a completely other thing to spend days and weeks truly regretting having ever had them, feeling like it was a mistake, that you are not capable of being their mother, that it is an injustice to saddle them with you and you with them.
But the tide did turn, in the past few days.
I love my children again, and this morning I even liked them. And I realized that when they express anger or hatred for me or how I’m being at the time, when I was stuck in that morass of regret and entrapment, if felt like forever, if felt like, of course they don’t like me and I don’t like them, hasn’t it always been this way? It felt permanent and hopeless as if we have always and will always be like this. Unhappy.
But then I realized that the girls and Tom can criticize how I am acting, how our family is functioning, how I am yelling and swearing, because I am NOT always like that, we are NOT always unhappy, I do not always yell and swear. If they were used to that always from me, it wouldn’t be noticeable or worth pointing out.
So thanks, Callie, for telling me that most of the time you do love me. Ditto.
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