Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Being Enough

Don't we all need a little redemption from time to time?

Beyonce got hers during her electrifying half-time show at the Super Bowl. Many people would say she didn't need any because she had nothing to apologize for at the presidential inauguration. (And she didn't apologize). Others, including myself, felt lip-synching "The Star-Spangled Banner" two weeks ago seemed a tad like a copout and diminished the sanctity of the occasion. (I'm a tough critic. What do you expect from a Virgo?!)

Well, now I say "nevermind." Whichever side of the debate you were on, if you took a side at all, or maybe you just didn't care, it is now pretty much a moot point after Sunday's performance. Beyonce, the pop goddess extraordinaire, is in the clear. Her already-lofty star is rising. Maybe she really did cause that pesky blackout!

Mere mortals such as ourselves don't have to take the heat in such a public way for our real or perceived failings or less effortful and frowned-upon shortcuts. Yet in our own way, far from a grand stage, we feel the need for redemption from our imperfections. We feel not organized enough, not energetic enough, not cool-headed enough, not financially sound enough, and more.

I know I do.

As a full-time single mother, I am "not enough" many things. I am never enough everything or maybe even not enough anything. Raising two young boys alone has been difficult, especially since they are opposites and fight a lot as a result. However, I am very grateful for many things about them -- one of which is their easygoing attitude toward the many ways I can't measure up.

I look around my home and see and feel these ways clear as day. The mess. The unopened mail. The piles of laundry. The dishes in the sink. The broken cabinet door. The peeling ceiling paint from the leak. The chilly air downstairs from the radiant heat inexplicably not working this winter. The jumble of indoor Christmas lights lying on the living room floor. The box of holiday photo cards still nearly half full. The brochures on the kitchen counter from a trip to New Hampshire in the summer of 2010. (Or was it 2009?) The coat rack still in pieces folded up inside its box at least a year after purchase.

I am also reminded of my inadequacies while out and about. The artistic cupcakes and cake pops made by fifth-grade mothers on sale at basketball clinic. (I don't bake such things.) The expensive Tory Burch flats worn at school pickup. (Depending on the season, I'm in either my black Merrell Jungle Mocs that hide the dirt or my ancient Keen Newport H2 sandals.)

I am made aware of my handicaps while trolling Facebook. The furniture pinned on Pinterest. (I am too busy to take on another online time suck.) The games I'm invited to play such as Farmville and apps I'm asked to download including "I want to add your birthday." (Ditto.) The shared recipes I won't be jotting down. (Not much of a cook.)

Neither of my sons, bless their souls, has complained about the state of our home. Believe me, they have every right to! My boys have rarely found fault with my cooking or lack thereof. Again I wouldn't hold it against them if they did. Neither has bemoaned the fact that they don't have a dog or cat, been out of the country, to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, to anywhere other than Florida by plane, or regularly attend professional ballgames like several of their classmates.

They would like all of these things, of course. Why wouldn't they?! Yes, the desire has been expressed. Now I have taken them twice to an HP exhibit at Boston's Museum of Science -- we are very big fans of Ron Weasley and crew -- and Christopher has been to one Red Sox game. But the reality is: I cannot accommodate this list due to finances and me being just flat out with enough on my plate.

Enough. There's that word again.

God gave me the right first son. Christopher, age 9, seems to understand my single-mother challenges and cuts me some slack. He doesn't get upset (or too upset) if we or he can't do something fun because of a conflicting responsibility of mine or an unwillingness to get with the program by his brother. He takes the disappointment in stride. I really appreciate that. For my part, I do all I can to oblige his desires, money-, logistics-, and schedule-permitting.

Since Charlie is still six, I can't expect him to be as mature as his brother when he is denied something he wants to do or isn't included in an invitation for Christopher. For example, two weekends in a row Chris was asked over to the home of the same friend, first for a birthday party and second for a group movie night. Charlie, who is very competitive, was upset not to be included. I have explained to my younger son many times that it does no one any good to keep tabs on how many invitations come to him as compared to his brother. Nevertheless, Charlie can't help his driven nature.

In a failing of my own, I work overtime to keep the peace by trying to find him fun plans to compensate. The first night was easy: I took the birthday boy's brother, who happens to be one of Charlie's best friends, bowling with us. The following weekend I sensed my task would be more difficult, and it was. I put out a call on Facebook for suggestions for things Charlie and I could do. When I decided on painting pottery at a nearby clay studio, I put out a second call for companions. That, plus three direct messages to particular friends' mothers, came up empty. Yet my last ditch effort succeeded when I stopped at a buddy's home, and the family invited us in for the evening.

Hurray, problem solved! (Okay, this one problem.)

The boys' fights also bring out my flawed parenting style. Invariably, Charlie creates the problem by attacking Christopher or bugging him in some way/s that is almost always physical. Christopher hates the behavior, calls Charlie a "jerk" and other choice putdowns, and tries his best to fight him off. (That's easier said than done, by the way, as wiry Charlie has taken down the largest FOURTH GRADER in the school. I have this on word from the boy himself. There are other stories I could tell about Charlie's "street cred," as one mother puts it. But I'll save those for a future post.)

With such a toughie in action -- I would put money on Charlie in a heartbeat to win ANY fight among first graders -- my No. 1 goal is to separate my sons so Christopher doesn't get hurt. Did I mention Christopher is among the largest THIRD GRADERS in the school and a member of the second-best football team in the league? YEAH. And as a fifty-one-year-old woman who has had a back injury, I am certainly reluctant to get in the middle of one of these brotherly scuffles. I have peeled Charlie off Christopher countless times, yet the older I get and the taller he gets the less I am willing to do so. In breaking up a fight, I choose instead to do what works: I order Christopher to his room. "I am NOT PUNISHING you," I clarify. "I am SEPARATING you and trying to PROTECT you."

Christopher justifiably protests, saying it's unfair HE has to go to his room. (Their room, actually.) I COMPLETELY agree with him and tell him so later after things have calmed down. Still, the fact remains: Christopher is easier for me to deal with, so I choose to deal with him. Now don't get me wrong. I come down verbally on Charlie. (Part of my not-cool-headed-enough weakness.) But I don't sufficiently punish him because I'm just too tired to be a proper enforcer.

Charlie poses a special challenge for me and, as he turns seven years of age next month, I have yet to crack the code on exactly how to handle him when he decides to go after his brother in an animalistic fashion. I've recently enrolled him in Tae Kwon Do, which he loves and is very good at. No surprise there. I've watched him win a board-breaking kicking contest against everyone in class including older boys. And, on another occasion, he beat the star student in the more advanced class, a third grader who regularly demonstrates moves to the beginners. Charlie is something else, let me tell you. I am convinced of that.

I am well-aware I do not hold him accountable enough when he shows his aggression in an unconstructive manner. I impress upon him that his conduct is unacceptable, hurts his brother, and will not be tolerated. But my explanations seem to still fall on deaf ears from time and time. They simply are not enough.

When our efforts are not enough, we need redemption. We need to say, "I AM enough." And we need to believe it.

No comments:

Post a Comment