I am horrified and dismayed to report that my sweet little Plum woke this morning in a rather foul mood. Actually he woke me up and then things turned foul. It was too early, not by much but I have been too tired lately for our extra early rises, I needed that 15 minutes more. I said go back to bed, he said I was a rude pants. I said go back to bed, he went downstairs and turned on the tv. Now I was facing a choice, a really terrible choice where I lost no matter what. I could stay in my very warm bed and try to go back to sleep for a few minutes and know that I had given in to a 6 year old. Or, I could get up and send him right back up to his bedroom thereby getting the beasts roused and my blood pressure roused and him further roused. If you are guessing I stayed in bed to avoid being more than a rude pants gran, well, you know my heart’s desire. But I got up. Thus you should know I am the rudest pants of them all. The very angry child went back to his room and the beasts and I made coffee.
See we have a rule in our home, the best boy ever cannot get up until 6 am. He has a digital clock in his room to let him know if it is time yet to wake the grandparents. Because he is such an early riser, this has saved us from 4:30 starts to our day on many occasions. This has allowed him to exercise some control over his morning, to understand the boundaries and not be in a position to ask without all the information at his disposal. So waking me too early was an out of bounds request and had to be addressed. An attempt to push the clock rule just a bit. With summer coming, I knew I had to tighten up. With it being Sunday and his return to Mama, I knew I had to be sure he was well rested and anyway I could nap later. All this made my choice of getting up to be the enforcer easier, to be crowned the rudest pants of all somewhat palatable.
Later, as we discussed the need for rules, like was it okay for his 3 year old cousin to race across the street yesterday even though I was shouting her name and telling her to stop (the other children watched in horror having already internalized that rule) or like if cars don’t choose to stop at red lights or drive on their side, he understood people have made those regulations to keep us safe. We talked about bigger statues like no killing and being kind, who’s rules are those? Those are God’s he knew. But still, guidelines that keep him in bed when he wants to get up, hard to take. I get it. Accountability is for the other people. All the other people who are not me. We addressed that idea as well. Dear Lord, this is a large mug of coffee day, a bit more sugar added, if we have to hit on all this before 6:30 am.
As a parent with some truly complicated relationships with her children, I analyze and inspect every choice I make with Plum. I look at how I raised my two and am determined to not make any of the same mistakes and to keep doing what I think I did right with them. One child graduated from college, taught in a foreign country, seemed to be such an independent thinking young woman. The other has chosen a different path, took a detour through years of drug use and the ensuing addiction facilities before a stint in jails and prisons slowed him down. He now is out, has completed secondary education and is gainfully employed. He is, I believe, helping to support the new family he is creating although he has not yet caught up to supporting the child he left behind. Still they both began their lives wrapped in love and books and songs and full knowledge that I meant what I said and followed through. I did the hard stuff, but not enough hard stuff. I tried to save them from too much. I intervened too often. I didn’t let them learn to be accountable. Until it was too late and I wondered why they didn’t just know. Why did they feel so entitled? They aren’t alone, regardless of their unique situations. An entire generation has lost it’s footing, feels completely justified in breaking away when they don’t like what they hear, don’t like the rules, don’t like being told to go back to bed or to work or to the table to talk. More than rude pants, those of us who try to enforce some rules or boundaries are labeled toxic. I like rude pants better.
As I have scoured the internet for information regarding estrangement, I am flabbergasted at the plethora of memes and Pinterest quote pages devoted to each person’s right to cut off those who just don’t make us feel good. There are days I spend so lost in all that I did wrong that I can’t imagine any other result than to be cut out of my daughter’s life. I replay the conversations and the conflicts that arose when she became involved with her now husband, issues we never had before. It is easy to say it is all his fault but maybe she always felt that way and just didn’t have an escape route. Then I wake up to a new day and remember all that I did right, I replay how deeply we laughed and how long we talked and know she escaped to another continent and we were still good. But still, it isn’t his fault. It is ultimately her choice, she is accountable and that breaks me further. What I am sure of is this, I didn’t teach either of them to discard me. I didn’t teach them to find no value in me, I didn’t teach them that people have no worth and that we throw them away if they don’t make us feel good all the time. This I am sure of. Sometimes people hold us accountable, we have rules to follow. It rarely feels good to be the enforcer, if you are a mercy kind of person or one who just wants to stay in your warm bed. It likewise doesn’t feel good to be reminded of the rules, regardless of our age. Reminded of family norms and customs and fitting a new spouse into those, making room for different ways, that is a place rife for conflict and misunderstanding. It may require much time at the table talking. Accountability for all. A review of the rules, an adjustment of some, relaxing of others. Family meetings, we used to have those, where we hashed out issues and practiced conflict resolution. I know we modeled that. I think she has forgotten.
Most of my research shows adult children who describe choosing estrangement from “toxic” parents who were abusive, who suffered serious psychological disorders, who held them back from their dreams and stunted their growth. I am either so blind or lack any insight at all but I just can’t find myself in these descriptors. I search for nuggets of truths, because she hasn’t told me. I look for our story because I only know my half. I can only be accountable for what I know and it is missing the pertinent pieces. I beg God daily for a chance to hear my wrongs and atone. How can I ever do better, how can I possibly not mess up with Plum if I just don’t know? He is angry with me, I am quite honestly not all that pleased with him when he wakes me too early and starts our day with a battle. But I hold him accountable and I require that he discuss the problem with me. I allow him to be mad at me but not disrespectful. I am the rudest of all the rude pants but I am trying to be a better parent. We sing, we read books, we laugh deeply and we have long talks. Please please God let this story end differently. Show me how to live it out so that my heart is not thrown away just when it all gets so good, when all the hard stuff is done.
Just in case, I teach Plum about mercy and forgiveness also. I am sure I taught Stella and Arrow about this as well, but I work extra hard on these lessons. We practice second chances and fresh starts, we give out apologies and we learn to accept them. We allow anger and frustration and real feelings to roam throughout our home and then we figure out how to bring joy back in to the mix. Some days I miss Stella so much that I don’t even want to get out of bed, I resent the fact that anyone else does. Why are we even starting another day? Maybe that is why I didn’t want to rise this morning, maybe that is why I am a rude pants today. Still, I rise, in the great horrible words of Maya Angelou. Because maybe today will be the day. If not, I am accountable to another child and a merciful God who gave me a fresh start. I am accountable for this air that fills my lungs, that I not waste it moaning in agony but singing praises in church. I am accountable for these eyes, that I not fill them only with tears of agony but with utter gladness that the lilacs are beginning to bloom. Today I have a second chance, I rise up, drink my coffee and know this is the day. The day the rudest pants of all will rejoice and be glad in it anyway.