Sometimes there are magical, shiny moments where all four of us are sitting together in the same room, either doing the same thing or separate activities in a solidarity of simple togetherness. In these moments, the house is put together and deep cleaned four times over. The pets don’t shed a hair and never scoot their behinds on our carpet. Homework and workwork is done and we are either doing deeply educational activities or wrapping ourselves in fuzzy, warm quality time. We are all prepped for the duties to come and the chores have been done with reckless enthusiasm. All is well in our humble life and the flutters travel from my core to my limbs. I think I want to live in this moment forever and I want the boys to use this exact moment as the defining cornerstone of their childhood.
Enter the conflicted gremlins. I panic in my ideology struggle.
These times are real, but so are the messy, falling apart ones. Times when the house is seeping black goo from its seams and we step over mysterious sticky spots for the 144th day in a row. Times when we argue, lose patience with each other and spit nasty attitude venom. There are moments when everyone insists upon slurping their cereal and half-assing their table wipe-downs and laundry detail. In these times school is hard, extracurriculars pose problems and work is impossible. Life just plain sucks. All four of us squint at each other in an effort to wrack our brains to rediscover the good times. Was it all just a myth? Our memories betray us. Instead we wallow in despair and cannot remember any sunshiny days.
In theory, I want the boys to know that this is real life too. It’s a hard one because I want them to have a realistic view on everyday living, but I don’t want it to be traumatic either. Maybe I do want them to remember the sticky, gooey times as being the cornerstone of their childhoods. Then, when they fly out of the coop, they won’t believe they are failures when everything doesn’t go their way. When failures come or hard times knock, they will remember this isn’t their first experience with the ugly.
When I am clear headed, with both the flutters and gremlins pushed away, I realize that both are equal parts truth. Both tell the whole story and sing the whole song. I hope they remember that life is both beautifully easy and disgustingly hard. I want them to appreciate both and not feel guilty for either. I want their picture to be whole and unedited. I hope they remember that there are lessons to be learned in both the ups and the downs. The life pendulum will not always be stuck in a lopsided position. When life is hard, I hope my boys sit there a while and realize this is not the end and there may be enlightenment given. This is only part of it. When life becomes easy again, I hope they don’t feel guilty for enjoying that other section of living. Learning may come in those times too, or they can be used as resting periods when it becomes easy to breath again. The boys don’t have to be looking over their shoulder for tragedy either, instead using these times as a refill station. Enjoying the moment, learning and taking huge gulps of fresh, bright air.
How the hell do you try to create a beautiful childhood for your children, but still keep them realistic and un-entitled, safe but un-sheltered? I certainly do not want to be chasing after my boys, putting up fake plastic scaffolding and demanding that magical memories be made. That’s just childhood trauma waiting to happen. I also do not want to push them into a pessimistic life view. The balance and realism is hard to find sometimes because when we are in one stage, good or hard, that’s all I can see. Of course, I never overgeneralize anything.
I swear to tell my boys the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I hope they see their childhood in the light of full honesty. It’s hard though when you are in the moment of either extreme. Maybe my boys will turn out to be more even keeled than their tipsy mom. Even if they don’t, I guess I’ll be able to guide them through the swingy seas.