Tipping Toward Laughter by Linda Clayton

“It begins with your own awakening, your own desire for a life that’s not just lived on the surface but is rich and deep and high and wide. For sure, that’s how I want to live. So I’m going to keep learning until I take my last breath.” —  Oprah

Yesterday I began my day  in complete “Mommy Meltdown Mode.” I should have anticipated it: I’ve been in a “funk” for a couple of days. You know those days when nothing seems to be going quite as you’ve planned, you’re a little down, unmotivated and it seems as though the entire world has turned into a haven for negativity. On days like these my tolerance for everyday occurences is limited. Ordinary mannerisms and familiar quirks become a source of contention. My faults and those of others become exacerbated and intolerable, and I find myself spending much of my day biting my inner cheek to avoid unleashing a verbal assault on those around me. The toxicity of these feelings seems to bubble and boil within me, filling my insides with hate and animosity. The mere sound of someone gnashing their teeth together and smacking their lips as they eat is enough to drive me out of my mind … “Please, chew with your mouth closed,” I’ve snarled more than once between clenched teeth. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

These days are usually short-lived and most of the time pass as quickly as they appeared, resulting in only a few snarky comments shared between my husband and me. But every once in a while these moods build and fester, and then STAY OUT OF MY WAY!

Unfortunately, my kids did not move fast enough yesterday. They almost made it; they were dangling on the threshold of freedom just about to make their escape to the peaceful, solitude school would provide. But mom’s tongue was quicker, and before they knew what hit them they were smack dab in the center of a verbal lashing from a mom who was sick of being the nanny, maid, cook, chauffeur, tutor, project coordinator, crafting queen, shopping guru, errand runner, computer technician, coach, test administrator, study partner, confidant, laundry attendant, a mom, a wife, a friend, a playmate, veterinarian, nursemaid, etc. The only role I hadn’t taken over since I left my job in June was the elusive titles of “family grill master,” lawn technician and sanitation consultant (you’ve got to leave Dad something), and though for the first time in years I had been relishing my role as family caretaker, the sight of misplaced water bottles, stinky socks, football helmets and shoulder pads, mud-covered shorts and unpacked lunch totes and general garbage in my entryway, put me over the edge, and the dam that had been holding back this well of frustrations finally cracked.

YIKES! What a way to send your kids out the door — a giant pile of their inadequacies, “slob-ridden” ways, thoughtlessness and disrespect hurled at them and heaped on top of the texts and notebooks in their backpacks. Nothing like a little “mommy love” to weigh them down. Ugh. There will be no “Mother of the Year” honors awarded to me this year.

Not my best parenting moment, and to make matters worst,  I found out this morning the lecture continued on the five-minute ride to school as I had infused my stellar mood into my husband. Yet another stumble along the bumpy road of parenthood.

I haven’t talked about the meaning behind the naming of my blog “Renaissance Mom.” Maybe those of you reading this haven’t given it much thought. For those who have wondered about the name, perhaps you thought through this particular blog title I was trying to make some statement of superiority by somehow inferring that I was the new model of a mom, similar to the view of the “Renaissance Man,” defined in Webster’s as “a highly cultivated man who is skilled and well-versed in many fields of knowledge, work, etc.” If that has been your assumption, than you have been mistaken. As the above anecdote demonstrates “a highly cultivated, skilled” mother I am not. As for the well-versed part (it depends on the day). **smile*** No, the name “Renaissance Mom” has nothing to do with my skills as mother, it has more to do with my every-changing view of motherhood, one that has undergone a dramatic transformation over the years.

Before I had children I couldn’t wait to be a mom. As a school counselor and family psychotherapist I thought I had all the answers. I was never going to yell and I was going to be kind and considerate all the time. My kids would never hear phrases such as “What’s wrong with you?” “What were you thinking?” or “Well, that was pretty stupid!” No way, the effects that could have on their self-esteem and overall psyche were to scary to think of. But, alas, I have said all of the above and then some, destroying the image I had of myself as mother in my early 20s. I have been quoted  a number of times as saying, “I was a great mom, until I had kids of my own.”

I’ve had my moments. My kids were all sleeping through the night by four months of age. I breastfed twins for a while, a major feat in my book, as many of you mothers of multiples might agree, I felt like a mother dog feeding her litter of puppies at times. I loved the pre-preschool age, when the kids are walking and talking, and learning. We attended play groups and did art projects. We sang all the time and had child-themed parties for the holidays. And I’ve ALWAYS been a very strong advocate for my kids, and at times needed to do things that I felt were in their best interests, while others judged from the sidelines. Not an easy time, but in my view, a sign of a “good mom” But as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, there are a lot of aspects of child-rearing that I’ve bobbled. I’ve struggled for years with finding a discipline technique that both my husband and I feel comfortable with. I have both dreaded and craved the parenting advice of my mother, because though I needed it, it often didn’t mesh with my own vision of parenting. I have been too intense and competitive at times, a trait that used to leave my daughter in tears and frustrated in a variety of sports arenas, and at time my expectations for my children have been unreasonable. I am a control freak and would love to in a smaller, less-cluttered household. I am very goal-oriented, but have been slow at following through on those goals. And I am constantly trying to figure out what makes me tick.

But I am always seeking a better way. I am always re-evaluating my values, my beliefs and myself. For nearly three years I have been doing some major soul-searching and within the last year I have really begun to know myself —as a person and parent. In searching for a name for this post I began by focusing on my faults, all the negatives — words like lazy, deadbeat and unmotivated game to mind. But then I began to reframe. Instead of dwelling on the aspects of my parenting that I disliked, I began focusing on how things have changed, things that I like about myself. I have been reawakened, revived and completely remade, and I have reworked my definition of motherhood through the years. I have undergone my own renaissance, and it is only just beginning.

I don’t know where I am going, but I have a vision for my future and my family’s future, and it is always changing and evolving. This blog is a story of that renaissance, as it has happened and as it unfolds. And though I know those days will come when I would rather not discuss the parenting lows, see story above, I will. Because only by sharing the negative along with positive, am I being truly honest with my readers and myself.