“You didn’t go to the store yet? We’re almost out of milk!”
“I had a busy day, boys. We can go on the way back from the den meeting.” (I was lucky to get the laundry done, changing it between machines during breaks in my workday, and folding it during a conference call.)
“Chicken and smiley fries again?”
“Yes, isn’t that great? It’s something you all like!” (I can’t be a short-order cook every night.)
“What are these piles of clothes all over my bed?”
“Clean laundry. Put it away — in your drawers — please.” (Yes, I need to specify where, since sometimes the definition of “away” is anywhere but the bed.)
I don’t know what my kids think I do all day. One day when we were waiting for the bus, they announced that they hadn’t had time to brush their teeth. I was astounded. As I reflected on the hubbub that morning: my middle son doing his homework while eating his breakfast, my oldest doing anything he could to distract him (which was something akin to yodeling after I insisted he keep his hands to himself ), and my youngest telling me he needed help with his shirt (which he did not — he needed attention), the dog and cat orbiting me, while I was trying to make the lunches and ensure everything everyone needed was laid out next to their backpacks (recorder for oldest, library books for middle, snowsuit and boots for youngest), and consume enough coffee to continue functioning against the backdrop of an early morning conference call on speakerphone, I could barely wait for the bus to come. Despite how busy I might be, I still make time to brush. “But you get to stay home all day, Mommy!” my son said. He must assume I am sitting at home in my pajamas watching Nickelodeon and eating toaster pastries (which is what he would be doing if I hadn’t reoriented him this morning).
“Where’s my homework?”
“Did you put it in your homework drawer or is it still in your backpack?” “I don’t know. Can you get it?”
“Not right now, honey, I’m doing the dishes.” “I’m not doing it then!”
“Well, think again, ’cause I’m sure not gonna do it!”
“You never do anything for us!”
What is so absurd about that comment is that everything I do is for them (though I try not to do too much of their homework) or because of them. As I have stated previously, they are my “why.”
“All my friends have Wii. We’re like the only kids that don’t have a Wii!”
“You have Xbox set up in your den in the basement! When I was a kid…”
(…but I stopped myself. Anything I said would be as meaningless as my own mom’s stories about how far she walked to school when she was in kindergarten were to me as a child, though they do mean something to me now.)
When I was a kid, we didn’t have video games or even a color T.V. until I was a senior in high school (even though they were already invented). I had to eat whole wheat bread and yogurt and tofu before it was cool (I have not yet insulted my children with tofu, but the other items are standard fare). I wore yard sale and thrift shop clothes and we heated bricks on the woodstove that would later be wrapped in towels and slipped between our bedsheets since we turned our thermostat down to just-above-pipes-freezing every night (I still love a good bargain but the bricks are a thing of the past and likely would be even if we had a woodstove).
Are my kids ever going to appreciate how good they have it? I think it’s possible when I hear a dinner prayer like the following: “Heavenly Father, thank you for this day and our food and we went to the playground and I fell down and hurt my knee. I was the line leader in school today, and then it was library day. I got a book about SuperFly Guy. I don’t really like apple but mom makes me eat it before I can have treat. Oh, yeah, and thank you that we got to go to Disney World. In Jesus Christ, Amen and a-women.”
Not long after my mother passed away, I came across a thank-you card amongst her keepsakes. I had written it to her on Mother’s Day the year I graduated from college. “You have given up so much and made so many sacrifices for us. I guess I’ve just started realizing this and I’m very grateful. And also proud. You set an example for us… Thank you for all your love and support, and sanctioning, advising, encouraging, cooking, and everything else…”
Gratitude increases as awareness grows. Maybe it will be that first time my sons do their own laundry, plan and execute a family meal, or insist that everyone stop shouting and kicking in the back of the car — it might take time, but I am sure that one day they’ll thank me.
I am eternally grateful to my own late mother, as the magnitude of all she has done for me continues to unfold.