Today is a big day for me. I pulled out my Little Yellow Notepad to make a list.
My little yellow notepad that is my right hand man, my guide to my day, my trusty counterpart – has never been neglected for this long.
Filled with joy, for the first time in over a month, I made a list.
I didn’t plan to neglect my notepad for so long; I was just going to the hospital on Chol Hamoed Pesach to give birth and planned to be home a day or so later and get back to list writing soon after.
Well, let’s just say that things didn’t go as planned.
It’s just five weeks ago that I opened my eyes and was coherent for the first time in 5 days. Trying to make sense out of where I was. A hospital room?! Tubes, wires and machines all around me, screens and blinking lights, purple and blue streaks and marks decorating my arms and legs .
They’re asking me questions. I can’t figure out what’s going on.
I grab my Siddur and move as quietly as possible to a standing position, ready to take on Shemoneh Esrei; I’ve got this.
Of the many adjustments to motherhood over the years, shortening my davening, interrupting it and sometimes missing it altogether has been something that took time to get used to and at times still makes me feel uncomfortable.
Although I know that as a mother, I can interrupt my davening if necessary, I still try to avoid it when realistically possible. Shemoneh Esrei is the trickiest – and this was my lucky moment.
Standing facing mizrach, taking three steps backward and forward, I started my rather quick prayer.
And that’s when I heard it. Two little voices. They were playing nicely. Oh so sweetly.
At least that’s how I interpreted the text message I received.
“Your boys are being extremely disrespectful; we need to talk about this.”
Another adult was telling me that my boys were disrespectful. I got an F. I failed dismally.
My energetic and sometimes rowdy 8, 10 and 12 year old were being supervised and tested by their teacher who oversees our homeschool program and apparently it wasn’t going well.
They were outdoors in 90 degree weather, at 3pm, doing testing on laptops and as 3 brothers they feed off each other when it comes to all things; good behavior or otherwise.
And here it seemed to be the otherwise.
Is she blaming me?
So what does a mom do when another mom tells her that her kids are being extremely disrespectful and not cooperating?
Like is she really trying to say, you bad mother, you taught your kids to be rude to adults!
Does anyone think that mothers actually want their kids to act that way?
Do I apologize? Apologize for what?
One thing was certain, this adult was extremely frustrated, and as the mom, well I guess it was my fault.
Hence the F.
But here’s what I’ve discovered.
Parenting is not a gumball machine.
Gumball machines are straightforward; put in a coin, get a gumball. Every time. You put in what’s expected and you get what you expect.
I’d say parenting is more like the claw machine.
Y’know, the machine at every arcade place that taunts you and you convince yourself that you are going to beat it. And as it eats up coin after coin, you carefully and steadily maneuver that claw arm, never losing track of it, hyper focused on its every move and slowly lower it, so carefully and delicately aimed at just the item you want. You’re sweating from the intense labor and watch it slowly reaching your desired prize; it slowly grasps a corner, lifts it a fraction of an inch as you watch not breathing, and then drops it, delivering you nothing.
You sweat, you toil, you make intentional decisions and mindful choices; you give all you have, you give all that you know how to give … and most likely what you get in return is not what you envisioned.
But different than the claw machine, where you walk away with nothing; in parenting you don’t walk away empty handed.
You always get something beautiful and priceless, if you stop trying to limit the options.
So my kids were disrespectful. So much so that the adult came complaining, which in my perception was blaming, and vented her frustration to me.
So do I say I’m sorry I’ve raised such rude children?
Do I say I’m sorry I told my kids to be disrespectful?
I chose something more neutral; I’m sorry you had to deal with that. I will speak to them about it.
Am I proud of them?
At that moment, I sure wasn’t.
Should I punish them? Consequences? Retribution? How dare my children behave like that to another adult!
So do I get an F? Is it that easy to fail?
Parenting isn’t a gumball machine but really it’s a lot better than a claw machine.
It’s the ultimate test of self; of patience to allow our children to grow and mature at their pace, through their stages and phases and ups and downs. Of being a guiding light and good example of what’s right and wrong. Of catching them when they fall but not shunning them when they fail. Of allowing each child to grow into their best self, not your version of best. Of loving each child even when another adult is annoyed.
So my fellow Annoyed Adult, I’m annoyed too. And to be honest, I’m sure it’ll happen again. And I’ll watch them grow into their own little people. But my kids are not gumballs and my kids are not my report card. There’s no such thing as an F in parenting.
Parenting is not about helping your kids be the best version of your dreams. It’s about helping them become the best version of themselves. And the path is a bumpy one.
The only F is if you expect it to work like a gumball machine.