it’s like a mantra, i’m not good enough

This morning I told myself no matter what, I was going to hang out with my kids. Forget housework, “getting things done”, errands, my own me-time. I’m just going to focus on the wee ones. Nels and I are up early and at first I’m there, cuddling him, thinking, what do you want to do today, boy?, then pretty soon I’m doing yoga and he’s alternatively climbing on me and running downstairs and outside to get fresh strawberries.

The problem is, we don’t often like doing the same things. The kids want to run around, wrestle and make bathroom jokes, produce prolific art projects, and scrabble in the dirt and garden outside (they can spend hours in our yard, doing what I have no idea). I’d rather help organize and clean-up after than actually sit down and draw with them. I can pick up a toy to play make-believe and within seconds my mind is elsewhere; counting fabric yardage in my sewing room, an inventory of the groceries I need to get for dinner. My kids know this about me – or at least Sophie does, who with more acuity and asperity these days identifies me as a mom who doesn’t play. Nels this morning said he wanted to have a lunch date with with Daddy, not me; Daddy was so much fun. I’m thinking of last week as I sat and finished a dress for Sophie in the kitchen (something awesome in the oven) and Ralph was out with the children, all of them barefoot and he showing them the absolute limits the plastic bow and arrow could shoot (as it turns out, much farther than I’d imagined). Well hey, I do give myself credit for breeding with someone playful and awesome in this way!

Because it’s true, I’m not that fun. I am affectionate, intelligent, compassionate, and loving, but it’s rare that I play on the same level my children do. I am more likely to work around the house, making beds and cleaning rooms, cooking up food and bandaging knees, helping the kids with their projects. They can pull me into cuddling or carrying them or cleaning them up proper or tending to their (many!) scrapes during the day. I enjoy these things and do well at them. Yet in the back of my mind there’s always this thought that I should do more of this or that, as if my personal sense of play and relaxation needed to be honed to perfection or risk stunting theirs (which seems innate and is daily lived out).

My father was home more than my mom. I don’t remember him “doing stuff” with us either; he was doing his own thing, and I was free, welcome even, to come and go, participate or do my own thing. It feels disconcerting, but it makes sense, that I would parent similarly. Sometimes I compare myself to the mother who spends the day doing creative, perfectly-designed art projects with the kids then hunkers down on all fours building forts (in my mind she’s in a cocktail dress and heels, having somehow also put the roast in the oven to be finished just in time for her husband’s arrival). Then I tell myself, this is bullshit, mothers and daddies and everyone else raises children, and they raise them as best they can, and we are all lacking in some ways.

Sophie wakes just after 10 AM and comes up the stairs. Twining her arms around me her eyes are like predatory stripes, and she says, “I smelled something yummy when I woke up!” The scones I’d baked to towering perfection, steaming on top of the oven now.

Well, that’s a good enough series of memories there, I’d hope.

Off to put on sunscreen and retrieve peas from the greenhouse.

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