Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Other than I Am

Okay, so it seemed impossible a few weeks ago, but I'm actually back at work now and enjoying it.  I feel like, for the moment at least, I'm staying on top of deadlines, I have time to read and write, and I'm not feeling overwhelmed by department politics.  I only have one class this semester, and it's one I've taught a number of times, so teaching is more pleasure than pain.

I know, I know.  Talk to me mid-March when I've got two publications due at the same time and a million papers to grade and we're in the middle of doing searches for two new faculty members (for those of you not familiar with the tortured world of academe, "doing searches" for new colleagues is an incredibly long, drawn-out process, something akin to choosing a bride for your son in India and then arranging the marriage.  Across castes.  It's no joke, time-wise, and kind of a big joke otherwise).

But then, in an all-too-familiar tug and pull, I find that as demands have increased at work, at home I've lost patience with my girls.  My parenting watchword for the new year is "gentleness" but I'm having trouble summoning it.  It's like I have just this small little pool of graciousness and patience, and if it gets sapped up at work, tough shit, kids, you get mean-ass mommy!  I look at them and think, how beautiful they are, how vulnerable and strong, and wonderful.  And then out of my mouth come haranguing words worthy of a Dickensian orphanage-meister.

We went to the Western Stock Show with some friends this weekend--saw the Wild West show (lots of trick riding and firing of cap guns and so on) and then went in the expo hall to check out the massive bodies of the show cattle.  It was a lot of walking and noise for a Sunday evening, and by the end of the night we were all a little tired and frazzled.  On the long walk back to the car, I snapped something at Nolie.  "Nolie, you WILL hold my hand in the parking lot!"  I think I barked it, because our friend looked at me and said, man, you are tough!  As in, man, why are you barking at your two-year-old like that, dude?  They weren't being judgmental or anything--I think they were just surprised, more than anything, at the tone and un-gentleness.

It's frustrating to me that my standard operating mode is not one of gentleness and loving, but rather one of snide remarks and unreasonable expectations and impatience.  It's frustrating that I have to work so hard to be other than I am.  But I'm also grateful for the opportunity to practice gentleness and kindess and loving instead--I can't imagine learning to do it from anyone but my kids--and I occasionally feel a softening of the heart that suggests the lessons might be taking here and there.  It just takes so loooooooong, and it's such hard work.


  1. 1. Awesome photo. 2. I made a resolution to think before I raise my voice. Then tonight as my 4 year old rolled over in bed and said to me, "Mama, can you not be cranky with me" after I snapped at her to be quiet and go to sleep! for the fourth time, I realized that this cranky mama is what she's going to sleep thinking of. And that makes me feel horrible. It IS hard. And luckily children are the kings/queens of forgiveness as well as gentleness. So many lessons they teach me. --Cassandra http://www.dandelionbones.blogspot.com

  2. dude, this is copyright infringement. i've been making some serious dough with your image on shutterstock. keywords: crazy mama, looney mum, end o rope, rapper G, nicotine. ; )-meege