Family Stories and The Year of Mercy

I know I'm going to mess up my kids. I've come to peace mostly with that. It's what my kids will make of all that which stops my heart as I'm staring out my kitchen window, watching them happily dig in the dirt with nothing but a few figurines and some sticks they found in the yard. 

My parenting funnels through a limited point of view. I see this. I'm working with that which I know and feel deeply. Homeschooling (where we can afford it) and an abundance of free time for my kids for starters. I'm an introvert. Our home is therefore mostly a steady hum, a lake lapping the shore. I cling to calm & quiet. We read lots. I seek out the light of simple pleasures like someone else digging for gold. 

But other mothers are different. They run their littles around town for talent and connections. (And so much noise!) They have photos stacked and phone numbers saved--proof positive of their motherhood dropping itself in the bucket: we've done all these things.  I'm not that mom. I'm not frantic to get my child in the right school or the music lessons at age whatever. But I don't scoff at that mom either. I do see good in that, truly. 

And it's not so black and white as me or her. I'm in a season of building up magic in the ordinary days at home. All too soon, I might also be "working" out of a van or hustling to make things happen for my kids so their lives will fit some bill, some dream that can't happen on the wisps of children's books, home cooked meals, and forts dug up and built from scraps in the backyard. 

Even so, my love and hard work can't cover it all. There are only so many cards I can play in one child's upbringing. I'm like a lot of moms. I love how we're doing things, but sometimes the angst tugs at me and I hope I really am in fact doing things the best I can ...  and my mind flys off to all four corners finding more to do and things to change.  

I wish my mom knew all the things I think she did right. I wish she and my dad could know just how deeply, deeply grateful I am. That I won't ever care about not having the cool clothes as a kid or that they couldn't pay my way through college. That I never needed them to look any part or for me to have any specific experiences or certain possessions to make me feel that I matter to them. That I love who they are, that I know they have always tried their best, and that I released all the rest a long time ago. 

But I am not promised the same sort of release from my kids. I like peace. I like good endings. We aren't all cut from that same cloth and that's okay. But knowing that I'm not guaranteed, after a life of sacrifice and fierce love poured out on my children, good will and warm peace from them in return is different altogether than being free from that hurt should it come.

Maybe other mothers just assume their kids will always love them lots and be by their sides. I don't. I know rejection and indignation weave themselves (small or large) into even the happiest of stories.  All things are possible: even good and beautiful aims poisoned by the harshness of life's unbound surprises and silent changes in our hearts. 

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Thomas and I have been saying the Our Father and the Hail Mary before bed every night for months.  (To be fair, I do the same with Alistair & Emerick at their bed time, but they seem way more interested in their sixteen sips of water.) 

"And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." 

He needed to know more about that one night. So I told him. As we let go of others, we get set free too. Forgiveness is a mutual, shared experience. We don't forgive others and go unchanged. The chains come off us too. 

The severity with which we harbor hurt, we cut our own selves off. The more we cling to judgment, the tighter we confine ourselves in judgment. And with each time we decide that grace and faith and mercy can, by some unknown way, cover the cracks and gaps of love misdirected, miscommunicated, mistook -- we come to know peace. And that peace leads to true and incredible joy. 

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I am writing the story of our lives here. I like this story. I try to do my best. My kids will leave and write their own stories, and I hope they know the power in that pen--that they like writing their own entirely independent stories too. Maybe they will look back with fondness at the time we had together. Maybe, maybe gray disappointment will be ribboned like a snake within generous splashes of a colorful life: meals at the dinner table, books read aloud of valor and adventure, and vacations of hiking to small waterfalls and singing in a car piled knee high with magazines and gas station food packaging. 

I don't have control over how they feel about our story here. I don't have control over if they hold it hostage, if they find the good (and how much), or if they decide in the end to give the details we made up as we went with what we had some grace and good will.

But I do have control over how I respect my mom and dad. How I speak of and treat my in-laws. How I think on my story lovingly without letting that compete and therefore decrease from different ways to love that I see in moms close to me. How I choose to walk [my self] along this path just as much with intentionality as I do with a spirit of letting go. 

I give myself that mercy (with much sought out practice this year) and in doing so must give that freely to everyone, especially those closest to me. 

I don't need my kids to be okay with it all. What I need most is, after being good and caring and thoughtful as much as I could, for me to be okay with it all-- to be so focused on being humble and knowing I was never enough in the first place -- that I can smile and say, "We tried our best and that's what we are still doing."  And then keep on doing just that.