I've been reading Anne LaMott's Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. It's almost as good as Traveling Mercies, a book that healed a lot of my twisted views on faith and God, I think. LaMott's faith is in Jesus, and mine is not, but her frank description of her own weakness and her search for divinity appeal to me. Also, she is incredibly angry at George W. Bush, and writes about it throughout her book, and places that anger within her faith in interesting ways. Sounds familiar.
In Grace (Eventually), LaMott seems to define grace as those moments in which you are, quite literally, saved--whether from yourself and your intentions, or from harm, or from despair if you are harmed. Grace is what revives you from yet another alcohol-induced stupor so that you can choose to drink again or not; it means the menacing-looking guy on the trailhead in front of you is just angry, not homicidal; it is what gives you hope in raising your children in this world, even when everything seems to be going to shit; it's the little bit of love or succor that keeps you, if only for instants at a time, from death or suffering more than you can bear when alcohol or the maniac or the shitty world do get you after all.
Anyway, if this is grace, I seem to be surrounded by it--we all are. But since reading LaMott's book, I think I'm becoming increasingly grateful for the many moments of grace I'm afforded. I wrote in my last post about wanting to spank Addie. My frustrations with her only continued, grew, over the last two days, until I read a blog from one of the writers over at HipMama, who coincidentally has struggled with the same urges (Peculiar Old Bird, I'll link to your blog if you give me the okay). A few things she wrote, and that were written in her Comments, really struck me.
One was that these moments are about figuring out how to deal with my anger, not Addie's. Exercising regularly definitely has been helping with my frustration level, and that's one of the things this writer mentioned. But she also mentioned another key thing, and that's changing the types of expectations you have for your child. Could it be I'm expecting too much from my three-year-old? And her inability to meet these unrealistic expectations is leading to my frustration? And if I can't control my frustration is my expecting her to a little ridiculous?
Yes, yes, and yes. What a relief. What a moment of love and succor, from another mama honest and real. Just change your expectations, and all of a sudden your child is meeting them, is doing great, isn't making you crazy.
Another few pearls, coming at me from different readings, messages floating in from the universe, little precious stones of grace: from How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will, Too, the idea that preschoolers are not developmentally able to hear and do what you tell them every time. From a physiological standpoint, they are just unable sometimes to filter and order information the way we think they can. Peculiar Old Bird says this, too: sometimes you have to say something many times before it finally sinks in and translates into action. But that doesn't mean it isn't sinking in. Grace--eventually. We don't always get to determine the timing.
And from the book Passionate Marriage (why I'm reading that is not bloggable at the moment), the idea that we don't always give our loved ones credit to individuate, especially our children. They're incredibly resilient. Though I'm a huge fan of attachment parenting, I think it's important to acknowledge this piece of it, too: our children are their own beings, not just attachments to, outgrowths of us.
Here's the rub: I've been working really hard at being a present mama this summer. I've been leaving the computer in the office, not manically checking email, not mentally checking out when I'm with the kids. This has had some lovely rewards--I notice more about my children, I'm not as stressed out, I'm not divided in two, between work and parenting. My love for my kids just grows and grows.
But I've also been bored, and maybe a little unfulfilled at times. I think I can address this without having another huge pendulum swing--all work! no parenting! I think just giving myself some little pockets of time throughout the days that I'm home with them would help a lot. The girls are able to play together for short periods now, and as long as I'm nearby, I think I can be pretty well assured they won't kill each other (though I have a good story about Addie strangling Nolie with a necklace as I was trying to check out library books yesterday). There is also free daycare at the YMCA we just joined, so I can use that, too. I could use these times to read a magazine, work out, or read a friend's blog, or putter in the garden. In other words, I can't just be the kids' own personal clown for sixteen hours a day, just like I can't be turbo-professor at work sixteen hours a day. As the kids and their needs change, so do mine, and I just have to (get to?) keep making these adjustments as we go.
I find myself breathing a little easier as I write this, inhaling all that grace. It doesn't matter what you call it, I guess--these little realizations that make life better--but they're gifts, no matter what.