Sunday, June 13, 2010

If I'd Only Known

I have always been analytical. Maybe it's one of those skills that you learn as a musician, but from my childhood I have always tried to "assess and then do it better." I guess that's what one of the habits you pick up from hour upon hour of piano practice... How did I play that passage? How can I play it better this time? Once you get one part right there is another layer that needs to be added. Don't be too excited about playing the right notes: now it's time to add the right dynamics and make it staccato and.... (Can you imagine how much Jared loves taking piano from his mother?)

I have always been an "analyze and assess" person and, I believe, fairly observant. So I have spent a lot of time in the course of my life evaluating and assessing things for future reference. For example, I really thought it was great that my mom had six kids. As one of the kids it was lots of fun: there were always other people to play with and talk to and lots of fun things going on. But (in all of my 8-year-old wisdom) I thought, "If I was going to do it, I think I would keep the house cleaner, instead of just being in a panic to clean up when people were coming over." I also decided that I wouldn't raise my voice to get my kids to clean up when dad had an interview at our house in five minutes (I couldn't understand why we couldn't still be cleaning-- wouldn't they just be impressed at how hard working we were?). And I would have more structured activities on Sunday instead of just watching Sunday movies or letting the kids run wild. We would have a gourmet, multiple-course family dinner on Sundays instead of popcorn and cold cereal. And I would make sure that my kids kept their rooms clean and made their beds and never had dirty faces.... yes, nuggets of wisdom, tucked away in my 11-year-old brain for future reference.

I would never let my child watch more than 30 minutes of TV in one day (like my little sister who had "The Little Mermaid" memorized!) or probably any TV at all and I would always give my children my undivided attention whenever they wanted it instead of doing annoying projects on the computer. I would always give my kids lots of warning before asking them to do jobs. My husband would never come home late from work like my dad did. He would pull more than his fair share of the house work, to set a good example for our boys of true egalitarianism. We would have a delightful family life of wonderful regularity and order. Oh, and did I mention that I would never, ever let my child go in public with a runny nose? (Yuck! How can you just not care like that?) And I would never tolerate being seen with a booger or barf on my shirt (my piano teacher had a kid's booger stuck on her shoulder during a lesson once and I was puzzled that she either didn't notice it or just didn't bother to change her shirt).

I suppose this is why we grow up and have lives of our own. There are a lot of things that are difficult or even impossible to fully comprehend without experience. I suppose it never occurred to my eleven-year-old brain that maybe my mother had fully intended to have a perfectly tidy house and for some unexplainable reason -well six, to be precise- was just never quite able to reach that goal. (In fact, my mom was a neat freak before she had kids. Much more so than her tidy-when-she-feels-like-it daughter.) It never crossed my mind that my dad probably fully intended to have dinner with his family every night too and wasn't missing just because he didn't feel like it.

I can't count how many times as a mother I have had one of those "a-ha" moments, when I suddenly realized why my mom raised her voice and got panicked to get the house cleaned up, why she let my sister watch TV when she was exhausted, why we often spent Sundays watching church movies or running wild while my dad was gone at meetings and why my piano teacher didn't bother to change the shirt with a booger on it. And it wasn't until I had my first "real" challenging job and found how exhausting and stressful it was-- or until I witnessed first-hand my husband's struggle to meet the expectations of both his employer and his wife-- that it suddenly dawned on me, with startling clarity, what a struggle it must have been for my dad to try to balance a time-consuming, competitive job with a demanding church calling and fathering a large family.

For the record, my intent was good (at least mostly). I wanted to figure out how to do things better. And I still try. But just like piano, we work in layers. And even though we try to get it all right from the beginning, sometimes we should be excited with "just" the right notes. Or even a valiant attempt at the right notes. And the additional layers do come eventually. Just not how we expect.

P.S. I would like to take this moment to say that I am really, really sorry to that one lady I babysat for that one time for thinking that her kitchen was a disgusting mess and being shocked that she would leave the house with it looking that. I can't even count how many times my babysitters must be thinking that exact same thing. But I'm still proud of myself that I cleaned the mess up for her so she came home to a clean house.

P.P.S. I can still quote whole sections of "The Ten Commandments" from memory. And some of my best childhood memories are when we were "running wild" while my dad was at meetings on Sunday.

P.P.P.S. I think eating Reese's Pieces while we watch the church history movies sounds like a fabulous Sunday dinner.


Kate said...

I have a very similar post in my blog. I was always going to be thin and beautiful like on the tv commercials. I was going to spend my days playing Candyland and pulling fresh baked goods out of the oven in my immaculate kitchen. I didn't realize at the time that kitchens don't stay immaculate if your making baked goods (mine would get messy if I cleaned it and then took the whole family out of town). If you eat the baked goods, it's really hard to stay thin. And Candyland should have an overdose warning "Use in moderation. Overuse can cause total mental collapse."

Ranell said...

Great post. Being the mother is MUCH different than being the kid, isn't it? Some stuff for the better, some stuff, shall we say, not-so-much. I'm glad I get to share my mothering journey with friends like you!