Monday, February 23, 2015

Living proof

From Saturday's Briefing:

The sun has set. The wind chill is 43 degrees, but from atop the metal bleachers, I swear it feels like 33.
Katie and I are huddled together, struggling to wiggle our fingers and toes.
“You’re a good sister,” I tell Katie.
“I’ve never been this cold,” she says through chattering teeth.
When we arrived to watch Cooper’s first race, the sun was shining. No gloves or scarves or hats were required. Now, four hours later, I stare longingly at families — forecast-checking kinds of families — draped in sturdy quilts and down jackets.
At last, we hear the starter gun we’ve been waiting for. We watch a cluster of boys thin out into one lane. I keep my eye on the tallest boy, my boy, and each time he passes the stands — four times for this race — I holler, “Go, Cooper!”
He finishes in fifth place. Katie and I scramble down the bleachers and wait just outside the track fence — both to congratulate him and to hasten our departure.
We arrive home, and a different type of race begins. The kids need to unpack backpacks and lunch boxes, shower, eat, complete homework. I need to fold clean laundry, wash dishes, answer emails and read over lesson plans for the next day.
In the middle of that frenzy, I consider my current level of mom guilt — that emotional weight I carry as provider, nurturer and guardian of two humans.
I should have been more prepared for the weather, with more blankets and outerwear.
I should have insisted that Katie study spelling words while we sat for hours. I should have folded that basket of clothes last night. I should have taken care of the dishes before work this morning.
My mom list of “should haves” is long. I’ve built up years of missed opportunities. Of moments when I should have stepped in and others when I should have stepped back. Conversations when I could have been more patient, more hopeful, more trusting.
Yet worse than carrying around self-inflicted guilt is letting that guilt take control. So I try to shake it off (a phrase I can no longer say without hearing Taylor Swift in my head). I try to offer myself grace — and then try to accept it — but I’m not always convincing.
And then, in the midst of all that rushed school-night busy-ness, I rediscover an antidote to mom guilt: my own children.
Cooper was studying for a test on The Count of Monte Cristo when Katie walked through the kitchen for her nighttime cup of water.
“Good job tonight, Coop.”
A few minutes later — and an hour later than usual — she was climbing into bed. Cooper walked by her room.
“Love you, Katie!”
“Love you more!”
And just like that: poof! My mom guilt vanished — at least for the night.
My occasional lack of planning and my temporary oversights are insignificant compared to what matters most: a home that offers shelter from the cold. A home in which each person is valued. A home where each person is loved beyond measure.
I pray that my children continue to praise each other, that they’ll lavish each other with kind words and that they’ll forgive each other’s mistakes. Mine, too.
And I pray that when my “should haves” list gets too long, I’m able to remember that my “did it right” list is perhaps even longer.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at
Cooper, in between races, last Wednesday

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