One of my favorite books, Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, contains wisdom that aptly describes the condition of my heart over the past week and a half:
“The human heart is like india-rubber; a little swells it, but a great deal will not burst it. If little more than nothing will disturb it, little less than all things will suffice to break it. As in the outer members of our frame, there is a vital power inherent in itself that strengthens it against external violence. Every blow that shakes it will serve to harden it against a future stroke; as constant labour thickens the skin of the hand, and strengthens its muscles instead of wasting them away: so that a day of arduous toil, that might excoriate a lady’s palm, would make no sensible impression on that of a hardy ploughman.”
Yes. I felt like my heart was breaking as my kiddos left for school and I sat here contemplating how I was going to reconstruct a meaningful life from flotsam and jetsam, but this quote buoyed me up as it has on other emotionally stormy occasions, gently reminding me that although I am so very sad, I am also resilient and should search for pieces of hope amidst the wreckage of despair.
I enjoy the after school hours so much more now than I use to. Previous to this school year, Vivi would walk in the door, and Tad, like a little puppy just wanting to bounce and play, would pester her and cause a ruckus. The hours from 3-5 p.m. that used to be contentious and mostly miserable now actually border on pleasant.
Tad also use to buck my attempts at infusing structure and implementing routine. Having spent his day at school in a structured setting, he is now much more amenable to following instruction at home and getting his responsibilities done first and playing later. Vivian, unfettered by her overly rambunctious brother, is also able better able to focus on her after-school routine.
Ariana, who has always been pleasant after school, continues to be so. She started early morning seminary yesterday and, no less miraculous than the parting of the Red Sea, she has gotten up on her own at the first buzz of her alarm and without waking Vivian with whom she shares a room.
I am still like a little dinghy without a sail, scrubbing grout lines until they sparkle, steam-blasting plumbing fixtures and baseboard crevices, and trying to accomplish all the menial domestic tasks for which I am reluctantly responsible so that my time and attention post school pickup can, instead, be directed to my kids.
I’ve never, ever been the June Cleaver kind of mom with a flair for making my kids’ childhoods magical. We are operating at a frenzied survival mode pace 99.9% of the time; however, I’ve started a simple tradition of setting out a little snack for my kids right before I leave to pick them up from school. Each day, they eagerly rush into the house to discover what edible surprise awaits them. A glass of chocolate milk and crackers? Veggies and a little hummus? Apple slices and peanut butter sprinkled with a few mini chocolate chips! The simple, premeditated refreshment helps them to know that I’ve been looking forward to and planning for their return. Tad marveled yesterday at my 6-days-straight snack streak, further attesting to previously sporadic, less-than-stellar motherly moments. Vivi said that I was “amazing” when she found out that today’s snack was microwave popcorn. Truth be told, I felt more accomplishment from their snack astonishment than from the spectacularly clean master bathroom that I slaved over for four hours while they were at school. I guess all these years of setting low expectations for my kids is finally paying off!
Flotsam and jetsam. What shall I make of you today?