Mama, my ears aren’t working!
This is what tiny brown fingers sign to me as we are leaving Nathan’s friends’ home.
Mary pulls off the external component of her cochlear implant, the part where the magnet is, and where the computer is, and where the battery is, and shows me the wrong color of light blinking.
Your battery is dead, I explain, and show her how the green light does not come on when I twist the battery off and twist it back on.
She panics, even though I know she will sleep in the car.
For a split second, I am aware no one would think of what I know I must do, and no one would judge me for not doing it.
Except I know what is the right thing, and what I must do, and I do it quickly.
My quick response isn’t out of obedience or sweetness to my daughter so much as not wanting that gap of awareness to grow, the one between what I know I should do and what I think I can get away with.
I take my own processor off my own ear, twist off my battery, give it to her, and put her dead battery on mine.
She smiles happily, and scampers off, the same way hearing kids do when they steal food off mom’s plate or drink all her water out of her glass. This one has stolen my battery juice, and it just is. Somehow, it’s what makes me a mom, but only almost because I still resent it a little, and that steals any self-sacrificing points I would have gotten otherwise.
That’s what we talked about tonight, with other parents our age, the only other parents we know who are both our age and have kids our age, the soul friends from so long ago. We thought we would be nurturing parents, and more kind, and ever so gentle. We thought we were patient people, even nice people, and we thought we would make really good parents. We worked hard to find and support and love our spouses, and worked really hard to have children. Now here we are, and we are terrible parents.
Not really, but maybe.
Nothing is so hard as parenting, and so many so little with so much baggage is also hard.
“In my opinion, the teaching, rearing, and training of children requires more intelligence, intuitive understanding, humility, strength, wisdom, spirituality, perseverance, and hard work than any other challenge we might have in life.”
But mostly it’s hard because we are new at it, and weak, and mortal.
So very mortal.
The good thing about being mortal, though, is that there is still time to keep trying.
The other day I told a friend that the misbehaving of my children, and having so many of them screaming at me, made them smell a lot like spoiled quail scattered across the wilderness (Numbers 11).
We prayed so, so hard for them, pleading and even begging, and now they are here and we are drowning.
We are drowning in sticky fingers and slimy kisses and muddy hugs. We are drowning in giggles that shriek and laughter that squeals. We are drowning in mismatched socks, buckets of oatmeal, and a dishwasher filled with toy kitchen dishes. We are drowning in boys who want gel in the hair, girls who need grease in their hair, and a baby who spreads banana in her hair.
It is our season of parenting, the one where all our own shadows are brought out for us to confront and from which we must repent. It is our season of increasing our capacity beyond what we knew we could endure, and our season of exponentially creating worlds of safety and love that invite others to progress without compelling them. It is our season of recognizing what our bad behavior must sting like for Heavenly Father, while also glimpsing into the depths of His love for us as a father. It is our season of gaining a testimony of families, of needing each other as husband and wife, of marriage and parenthood being a necessary part of the plan of happiness.
“How long has it been since you took your children, whatever their size, in your arms and told them that you love them and are glad that they can be yours forever?”
And really, even though I pretend to be so tough, I wouldn’t give her my “ears” if I didn’t love her so much, and if she didn’t blink those big brown eyes at me, and if I weren’t already softened toward her.
Just don’t tell anybody that.
Definitely don’t tell my kids.
Besides, if I sacrifice my batteries for my daughter, then I don’t have to listen to them on the way home, right?