I used to be a really nice person, back before we had children.
That’s what I kept thinking while we fostered, while Nathan and I wrestled the shadows that come out when you suddenly discover you are a parental unit living a consecrated lifestyle whether you like or not.
I woke this morning at 3:30am and could not go back to sleep, so got up and wrote court reports and finished an interview that will be released in the next few weeks, and worked on the computer until about 6:30 in the morning. The children were still asleep, so I crawled back into bed with Nathan to rest until they came pawing at us.
“They” meaning the baby, who is now a toddler, or rather a Threenager at the age of 17 whole months. She thinks she is the boss of the world, and the boss of me. She is intensely jealous of I talk to anyone else or pet on any of the other children, and she doesn’t understand why I cannot hold her every single second of every single day… while she simultaneously complains to get “dow-dow-dow” (down) because she is so fiercely independent.
It stops me in my tracks, and I wonder, how did my mother ever parent me?
That, of course, leads to pondering as we drove to Bartlesville today. We went up to work on the old house, clearing out the last of the stuff (except some random things in the garage still), and getting the final rooms (and carpets) ready for cleaning. We have almost everything out now except the pictures, which we are leaving for last for a family home evening activity I have planned. We worked hard while the older children worked on their homeschool workbooks, and then had a picnic together as we continue the careful process of saying goodbye to the home where we all became a family.
I love this picture: Kyrie has learned how to say “cheese”, and Alex is doubting the his freedom for fun after we finished because he didn’t focus to finish his schoolwork, and Kirk is excited to be the “good kid” for the day, and Mary’s hair is crazy as we wait for the last minute to get it braided before school starts.
They left to pick up the little ones at preschool, and so I drove home by myself. I listened to a book about Queen Margaret, the sister of Henry VIII of England, who was sent at the age of 12 to be Queen of Scotland. It’s a fascinating story, and this very is overlapping the layers of her famous temper with that of the wild Scots, winding them together in a perfectly matched queen and country who deserved each other.
That may be, I thought, what happened to me with fostering.
My own temper was never much of one, excepting that I had plenty of “legitimate” reasons to be angry at my mother. Doesn’t every daughter? No, I was the worst, and it was such a nightmare. I am glad we ended well, with much gratitude to Nathan for helping accelerate that process of peace before my mother was killed.
Then, when my mother was killed, I was angry.
I mean, we did very early on release an open letter to the driver of the jeep that killed her, so as to formally offer forgiveness. This, I think, saved us spiritually, and helped me not lose my own faith. But I had to be careful, because offering forgiveness was not the same as burying anger.
When I wrote about anger last week, in response to the chaplaincy training class and journaling promptings required in that group therapy session, I said this:
So often anger comes from fear, and the real feeling is hopelessness or helplessness.
I still think that is true, but also had a friend comment that she thinks anger usually comes from unmet needs.
That sort of stopped me in my tracks, pulling back a whole new layer in this pondering exercise, and it was an ugly layer I didn’t want to look at very much.
Because acknowledging unmet needs would imply, by default, that I actually had needs.
And I cannot have needs, not if I was brought up to be as fiercely independent as Kyrie is, and not if I converted to a faith that emphasizes self-reliance.
Margaret, Queen of Scotland, lost her mother following the birth of her baby sister (who also died) just a year before she was sent to Scotland. The things she wrote in her journal and the descriptions included in the book as I drove today so very much reminded me of that overlapping marital bliss I experienced as I found Nathan – who was good beyond any of my dreams or expectations – in contrast with the depths of grief as I lost both my parents.
And that maybe a jeep killing your mother is something okay to be angry about.
Not in a drowning kind of way, not in a losing yourself over to anger kind of way, but in an unmet need kind of way.
Maybe I am having to admit I needed my mother.
Well, maybe it’s obvious that I need some mothering, and maybe that’s why so many try so hard!
So when I pray about this, and ask about this, and plead to temper myself and ask for help meeting my needs so that I can be calmer or kinder or nicer (but still authentic, not fake gross nice), then do you know what happens?
The doorbell rings.
And it’s my very first ever relief society president.
And she’s bringing me flowers and uniforms for my children.
And so I cry.
Because that’s mercy, in a tender sort of way.
And that’s what I want, to be a giver of mercy.
And so I keep trying, even when Nathan pulls up in the van with the final load from our other house and a pack of children who are hungry RIGHT NOW.
We got this, I think, we got this.
Because he has not forgotten us, and because what I need is His help, and He has already given it.