Friday, April 20, 2012

You are only as happy as your unhappiest child

You know how it sucks when you look forward to something for months and months, then the night comes and it is really great but you do something stupid at the end that screws a little part of it up, but that small something ruins the whole night for you and you are so mad at yourself? Well that happened to my Lily tonight and I'm just laying awake hurting for her. Heart outside of my body...indeed.

Last night was Lily's 1st grade program.  She has been talking about since January.  April 19, mom, make sure it is on the calendar, make sure you can get home from work on time, make sure my camera has batteries, make sure and get a video, when can we decide what I'm going to wear, can we practice my line, here is where I will be standing, here is how the risers are arranged.  She's talked about every single detail of how the night would go.  I even know where to find her in line, and how far in her own speaking part would be.  Her siblings have been singing the songs for weeks.  

She was a little disappointed that our nanny had a test in class that night and wouldn't be able to make it.  I invited my brother and his girlfriend, but didn't tell her they were coming (because I hadn't heard for sure that they were and I didn't want her to be disappointed if they couldn't make it).  

I left work at 4, got home around 5, and we went upstairs to do homework.  She was so giddy and excited that she couldn't concentrate on learning her spelling words.  I found myself being shorter with her than I wanted to be, but something that could have taken 15 minutes took 45, and the rest of the family was waiting downstairs for us to eat.  She didn't feel like learning spelling words, and I wanted her to have a better attitude about it rather than saying, I'll never learn that word with a sourpuss face.  She did learn the three she was having a hard time with: instead, said, and thought.  (Side note: I just spelled thought wrong the first go round of typing it. :)  )  Anyway, she finally finished and went in the bathroom for me to do her hair (which was in curlers) but I told her we needed to eat, and we'd have to do hair after.  

We ate, she dawdled.  I was annoyed.  When she was the last person finished at the table (typical), and was pittering around watching what Bryson and Addie were up to, I told her she needed to hurry, we needed to get upstairs to get dressed and do hair.  She obliged but we quickly realized that the dress and sweater we laid out (last night so it would be easy peasy no decision making tonight) was size 2T, it was Addie's - and her pink sweater was nowhere in sight.  We looked and looked and finally she said she could chose a different dress (the one laid out was super summery and it was raining and 50 degrees outside) because we really only had one sweater that could match.  After much back and forth, she finally chose the dress that she wore in our family pics, but she was mad. (Note to self: must get Lily more sweaters less hoodies, why oh why do I not have a white or black sweater for that girl?!)

Her hair didn't come out great, but at this point we were kind of rushed, and I was disappointed (with myself mostly) that the dress thing took so long, when I did everything I could to make sure THAT EXACT THING WOULDN'T HAPPEN.  Overdramatic? Maybe but I was certainly feeling like no matter what I do, how much I plan ahead, it is never enough to make life run smoothly.  Ha, life run smoothly...good one, Jenny.  

Anyway, I packed up a purse full of crap to keep Bryson busy during the program while the rest of the family honked at me from the car (I joke about the honking, but that's how frantic I was feeling while loading up the bag o tricks).  As I got in the car and thought about the teenage years.  Man, they are going to be hard.  I said so to Lawrence who obviously has no knowledge of the things teenage girls care about because he rolled his eyes and said I shouldn't rush us ahead.  I thought about how much harder it will be when it's not just a missing matching sweater, but it's my sister took my sweater, it's caring about fashion, what's in style, and worrying about body shape, and acne, and hair, and, and, and....deep breaths, not a great start, but okay, we are in the car now, let's enjoy the show.  I wasn't pleased with how I'd handled the last 2 hrs of the evening, let's make the next two better.  

Matt and Heather did come, and the kids were all thrilled to see them, jumping around all crazy, like they always do.  Then it was time to get Lily to her class room and the show started.  It was wonderful, and cute, and sweet.  Lily did a good job.  She got to say the line "when I grow up I want to be an acrobat".  Which she does.  I got it all on video.  So did Addie on her camera.  Bryson was enthralled and behaved beautifully on Lawrence's lap.  He clapped and loved it when he could point out his "Loly".  All was awesome. 

After the show the kids were all over Matt and Heather again, especially Lily, and there was some talk of them coming over for a bit.  It was already 8pm, and ultimately, I didn't think it was a great idea.  They haven't seen Heather forever, and seriously the kids go CRAZY around Matt.  He's like the catnip to their cat.  He says he doesn't, but sometimes I wonder how he can think my kids are anything but monsters, they act so different and more wild around him than anyone else.  They cannot contain their excitement to be in his presence.  I told M&H that it probably wasn't the best for getting everyone to bed if they came, so we decided they would come to Lily's baseball game on Saturday and we would get together after that.

Lawrence told Lily to say goodbye to Heather and Matt and thank them for coming.  But instead she was jumping all over them, pulling on Matt's coat, acting terribly obnoxious.  Lawrence asked her what she should say to her uncle for coming, and she said nothing, then stuck her tongue out at them.  Grrr.  Lawr told her to get in the car, and I apologized, and we left.  On the way home we talked to Lily about how rude that was.  Doesn't she want Matt and Heather to come to her things?  Why would she treat someone she loves like that?  Lawr said maybe they shouldn't come to her baseball game, or even worse, maybe they wouldn't want to.  Not if she was going to treat them like that.  We were disappointed, but we didn't yell or scream at her.  We just shook our heads and got about the business of who would do what when we got home to get them all to bed before 9pm.  

No one talked the whole ride home.  Buzz kill.

After getting Bryson and Addie to bed, I went to Lily's bed.  She was reading a note from our nanny that was cut in the shape of a heart.  It said something about how sad she was to have missed the show and how she couldn't wait to hear all about the wonderful night and she knew she did awesome and she loved her.  Really sweet.  Lily hugged that little piece of cardboard all night long like it was a soft teddy bear, obviously a source of comfort for her.  

Lily was so destroyed.  She was mad at her self for how she treated Matt and Heather.  I listened to her talk for quite a while.  I told her it is okay to make mistakes, and tomorrow is a new day.  That made it worse.  She said tomorrow is not the day of her program.  She wanted to rewind today!  I asked her if we could think of some good things from the night and remember those before we go to sleep, but she said she couldn't remember anything good.  All she could think of was acting like that to Matt.  She said she was feeling really excited, but she never meant to be rude to him.  She kept asking herself why she did that.  Why would she ruin her own night.  She told me she'd looked forward to this night for so long, and now it was over and it was awful.  She was weeping and sobbing.  I told her to just let it out.  

It was one of the few times that her tears over something small made me cry too.  I could feel and taste her pain.  I wondered if we shouldn't have said something to her in the car about the way she acted toward Matt, I was feeling pretty guilty.  Were we too hard on her?  Did we make her too hard on her self?  Parenting isn't easy, and the truth is you do not allow your child to be rude to someone else without calling them out on it.  That's part of the job.  Lawrence suggested that she could call Matt, and she did, and whatever he said to her made her feel quite a bit better. She mostly cried and he mostly talked.  And at the end of the call she was crying less and I could see she was getting to a point of peace about it.  It just wasn't the feeling of elation and pride that I would have wanted her to have at the end of a night that she has been looking forward to for so long.  

I knew exactly what she meant and how she felt.

We talked about how she could show the video to our nanny after school today, and she could show her all the songs, teach her sister the movements.  She liked that.  Then we talked about her friend, who's baby brother Ethan is in the hospital right now for a virus.  I said we needed to pray for him to get better and for his mommy to be okay.  She said we should pray right now, so we did.  Then we talked about how our problems aren't the worst ones to have, and how we will be okay.  When I left her room, I thanked her for asking that we pray for Ethan right now, I told her sometimes we say we will pray and we forget, it's always better to pray right now.  I told her that I am so glad she has the heart she does.  She makes me proud.      

I laid in bed and hurt for her, rewinding and fast forwarding to things i could have done differently to protect her from the pain and anger she was feeling.  

I thought about how I wished she could just get over a mistake, a split second decision to not act in a kind way.  I wished I could tell her to get out of her own head, and know that everyone else understood, and no one was mad.  Then I thought about how that is not a quality I model for her.  At all.  

Today, I winced thinking about a conversation I had with a friend who gave me some very good, very constructive, very hard to hear advice, four years ago.  Four years later, I took the advice, I'm grateful for the advice, but I still am mad at myself for needing the advice in the first place.  If I'm honest, I don't think I have forgiven myself for that.  And in the grand scheme of things, it is a little thing, really.  

My good friend's mom posted the quote, "you are only as happy as your unhappiest child" on my facebook today.  I read it a few times, letting it sink in.  Man, we are just getting started.  This is going to be hard.  I want to get better about forgiving myself, and letting their little stuff slide too.  

As a mother and a woman, I am so self critical of myself.  It is so much easier to see what I'm not doing than what I am.  A great day, with the best planning, and wonderful intentions, can send me into a panic when the sweater I laid out says 2t rather than 6 on the tag.  I let the small "mistakes" cast a shadow over the successes.  I beat myself up.  I don't want to, but I do.  I'm not sure if I have any tools to stop.  I sure see the goodness in everyone else.  I celebrate everyone else, I use kind words, I let things slide, I tell them they are doing a really good job.  I mean it.  

Is that the message I want to send on to my daughters?  You should focus on your imperfections, rather than your amazingly wonderful qualities?  The answer to that question obviously is of course not.  

But when I tear myself down, criticize my body or my clothes, talk of the state of my house or my cars in disgust, list all of the things left to do and never the things done, say harsh words about the mistakes I make, expect perfection...I'm teaching her to treat herself that way.  

And that needs to change.  

I can't protect her from everything, and maybe this small lesson needed to be learned so that she can remember how important it is to treat people, especially those you love, with respect and kindness.  I hope that is true.  

The part that has my heart really aching is that she can't forgive herself yet.  And I know how bad that feels.  And she doesn't deserve to feel like that.  

No one does.  

Coulda, shoulda, woulda.  Sigh.  Forget it.  Let's be kind to ourselves today and let's remember the impact that will have on our sweet children.  Then let's try to do it again tomorrow.  And the next day.  Until self kindness is a habit that we pass down to them.  

What is one thing you can do today that will remind you of what you have done right, that screams to you, YOU ARE ENOUGH! Today, how can you let go of something you have done wrong?  How can you model that for your children?    

My 2012 motto is Do Not Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good.  I can say it all I want, but until I start acting like good is good, I'm teaching the wrong things through my actions and my words don't matter one bit.  


  1. It's so hard to find the balance as our kids grow of protecting them, and letting them feel the consequences of their actions!

    You pose a big question and as always, a good lesson in that our actions speak louder than our words. And the example we set is what these little people see. Being the best we can be is the best we can do for them.

    I'm so sorry your heart is heavy, and I'm so sorry Lily's day was tainted with that ending.


  2. Thanks for sharing. I know some moms that worry about me because of the high standards I have set. They say I will break just like them if I don't start patting my back for "letting things be less than perfect" My husband says that my children need to see me taking care of myself(loving myself) in order for them to have the same love for their mom that they should have.Tough stuff. Easier said than done.