Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Strength of My Ancestors



It was one of those weeks that is typical for parents with small children. A sleepless, tantrum-filled, grumpy week. One that makes me think when my children are grown and smell b.o. and coffee-breath they will feel strangely nostalgic for their irritable mother and a cramped apartment. When I decided to start this blog, I felt it could be dangerous. People might assume I thought of myself as super-mom, that I had mastered mindful parenting and that I spent my days at home patiently guiding my children through Pinterest-worthy projects. Oh how misguided this assumption would be. This Family Tree activity was a perfect example of just how chaotic things feel sometimes. My eldest loved the idea of making a family tree and got to work right away--she interviewed her Grandparents and wrote lists of relatives, she had my husband draw her a template to enter all the information into---basically she was making me look really good. By the middle of the week, her interest waned and in the interest of blog-worthy photo ops, I kept pushing the subject. My younger would have rather sat through a physics dissertation and my youngest was busy testing her ability to swallow legos. By Halloween, we had successfully talked about family trees and our ancestors for about 2 minutes. In the eye of the storm, I managed to tell the girls the story of my Great-Grandfather's immigration from Croatia when he was 16. It made for quite the after-school special moment as we strolled peacefully down the street discussing how my Great-Grandparents met. Then my husband called to tell me he couldn't make it home until after dinner. That meant I needed to get my kids home, fed and costumed on my own. This would have been pretty simple had my youngest agreed to take a nap for more than 20 minutes that day. By 5:00, I was in my kitchen with a screaming baby wrapped around my leg, scrambling eggs while trying to finish a Pterodactyl head, volleying complaints from my eldest that the younger was (insert annoying behavior here). I had about 10 pieces of candy I scavenged from piƱata to hand out and nothing to light the jack-o-lanterns with. Did I mention the baby was screaming? Was I handling any of this gracefully or with compassion? Oh no---I was yelling and stomping and slamming and calculating how many years until my kids would start college. By the time we got everyone out, trick-or-treated, home and in pajamas, I may have aged 23 years. I had completely forgotten our intention to honor our ancestors. As we were tucking our daughters into bed, my husband grabbed a candle and said a few words in their remembrance. I wish I could say I listened to a word he said, but I just wanted to turn the lights off and have a glass of wine. Of course, once that happened, the guilt set in and I felt personally responsible for ruining Halloween for the entire Western Hemisphere.

The next morning, I woke up anxious---I was still wiped out from the day before and had a long night with the baby---how was I going to manage the day without being a snarky mess? The guilt of how snippy I had been with my family the night before was still goading me and I spent most of the morning picking myself apart.  I got in bed to nurse my daughter down for a nap---I really wished I could stay there all day, mostly because facing the day felt so overwhelming. As I continued to mentally compose the litany of wrongs I had committed, the missed blog activity came up---I forgot to honor my ancestors. "Well--today's the Day of the Dead," I thought. I took a deep breath and decided to honor them in that moment. Then I had the insight that so many of them had been mothers and they had been exhausted, sweaty messes too. And over bigger issues like food supply, life-threatening illnesses and basic survival. Pterodactyl heads really caused them no stress. So I closed my eyes and smelled my baby's head and asked my ancestors to surround me, to surround our family, to give me the strength and wisdom to mother with more grace, patience and calmness. Just saying these words to myself broke me open. I shed a tear as I felt myself relax and allowed the energy of generations past to wash away my guilt and start the day anew. 

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