Jude has this book, called “All in a Day,” and it’s my absolute favorite one to read to him. It was actually the first thing I bought when I found out I was pregnant. I was no more than about 7 weeks along, and I fell in love with the book while browsing at Barnes & Noble one Saturday. I have it memorized by now because we read it all the time, and it reads like poetry. Rylant explains, “A day is a perfect piece of time. To live a life to plant a seed. To watch the sun go by. The day starts early, work to do, beneath a brand new sky.” She goes on to explain the sense of possibility that lies in every day, and our responsibility to live up to that. I love the simple message, and truth be told, I typically remember that feeling throughout my day. But some days are so much harder than others, and it’s so easy to watch the clock or the calendar sometimes. How long till naptime? How long till bedtime? How long till my husband gets home tomorrow? How long till Jude can eat without making such a huge mess? Having a vision for the day and seeing things fall in to place is the easy part, but when things go astray it’s so hard to get back on track.
Wednesday brings library storytime around here, and Jude typically enjoys that sort of thing. Other kids are present, and there are props like stuffed animals or puppets of some kind. I’ll fast forward to the punchline here and tell you that we had a major toddler meltdown in the library this morning. Kicking. Crying. Writhing. Exposed belly as I tried to wrangle him and get him to focus on the pictures and stuffed giraffes that were today’s props. Not our most charming moment.
It was so easy to blame him. We slipped out the door when it became obvious to me that this was a no-go. As I left, I switched out our library books as quickly as possible, stuffing the two new ones in my bag and racing for the door. Walking to the car, I told him he was bad and his behavior was unacceptable, and why can’t you listen like all the other kids? He looked straight ahead. Offered no gesture or grunt or word of any kind. Then he hugged me as I put him in his carseat. It was so easy to blame him.
But here’s the thing. Looking back, he told me it was going to happen. It was the perfect storm. I’m battling a sore throat that’s worsening by the hour and on a short fuse. He is getting over sickness as well. We have a family member undergoing a serious surgery today, and it’s on my mind constantly. There were so many signs I ignored because it wasn’t fitting with my plan of the day. He was up twice last night when he’s been sleeping all night for a while now. He’s better than last week, but the bark of a cough is still hanging on a bit. He woke up for the day crying and whining instead of chattering and smiling as he usually does. On the way to storytime, we stopped at the drugstore for a second and he whined instead of happily going along as he normally would. But did I listen? No. I had my own ideas and expectations.
So after the incident, we returned home, and I tried to feed him lunch, but he wasn’t interested. I plopped him in bed an hour and a half earlier than the usual naptime, and he was asleep in seconds. When he woke up, we went for a walk in the woods near our house. We’re lucky enough to be adjacent to this massive empty space that we never really visit, but I figured why not since he seemed too busy to sit still today.
And he was so content.
He was completely happy to play with sticks or stare at trees or point at birds. Things were so quiet and far, far away from the moment of minor public humiliation that began our day. And if I’d listened from the beginning? I wouldn’t have been angry and annoyed and exhausted. I wouldn’t have been disappointed with my failed plan for the day if I’d realized that sometimes there’s a different way.
The rest of the day was better than it started, but it was not perfect to say the least. I broke my no television rule and let him watch “Barney” of all things and then half an episode of “Sesame Street” before dinner. An issue that is so small, I know, yet it leaves me feeling guilty and disappointed in my mothering and teaching. Again, having these expectations for ourselves and not hitting the mark.
If I could accept that my son has moods and feelings and, even at this moment, sicknesses that can guide the day…if I could offer myself an exception, a free pass for a day or a moment, on the mom role, think about how much more pleasant things could be – without fighting the expectations and assumptions. And yet we’re always doing this, and not only with motherhood. Refusing to accept that maybe today’s teaching will be a little sub-par because of some interruption or another. Refusing to grant ourselves an exception to the billion rules we have in place.
New mantra: I’m going to accept the fact that I am a good mother except when I’m not.
Vague enough? As long as the good days continue to outweigh the bad, I’m okay for now. And the great thing about this little journal? Without it, I have a feeling I’d only remember my sore throat, my worry over the health of a family member, and my public humiliation at the local library. In many ways, those were the forces guiding my day today, but beneath the surface, there were brighter things.
I finished an entire mug of coffee in solace this morning before Jude woke up. I managed to complete two loads of laundry despite the whiny chaos today. Jude lounged on me as he watched “Sesame Street” and cupped his little hand on my cheek in that way that he always does. We painted cookies.
We headed out for some late afternoon sidewalk chalk.
And the capstone to my day, as I read him “Pajama Time” for the gazillionth time in our lives, I saw a smirk and one little pointed finger heading to my lips as I forgot the gesture on the shhhhhhhhhh on the last page.
And all this I would have missed, see, if I didn’t write things down here for you. Mostly for me. So all in all, I’m a lucky girl. It’s been a full day. And tomorrow is a new one.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Emerson