Through Their Eyes

This particular day, I had been asked 2347983345ddfa234879 questions.

(yes, there are letters in the middle of that number.  It’s a whole new high number that was just discovered the day that many questions were asked of me).

Every single one of these questions was begun with either “Mrs. Sluiter?” or “mom?”

And all of them ranged from slightly tinted with whine, to being drenched to the point of dripping with it.

I had calmly answered all of them.

(Calm being subjective.  On the outside, I never snapped.  There may have been twitching, but no snapping.  My insides, however churned fervently.)

For those wrapped up in getting their questions answered and their “needs” met (needs also being subjective here and really would be better defined as “wants”), nothing was different.

I was just a means to an end.

A grade question.

A make up test.

A missed assignment.

Absent work.

A sounding board for complaints.

Chocolate milk.

Mickey Mouse via Tivo.

That rattle over there that can’t be reached {yet}.

Doing all the things that aren’t allowed.

They didn’t notice the weakening in the wall…the cracks running up from the base all the way to the top, slowly splitting the foundation of the calm exterior.

That which was whole and safe was moments from crumbling.

But no one noticed.

I sometimes wonder if these fault lines would be detected if I was around friends or family or my husband more than I am during the week.

If Cort wasn’t gone three nights a week he might see me weakening.

If I reached out to my mom, maybe she would recognize the tell-tale signs of a wobbly foundation.

If I was around more friends during the week would they notice the chips and cracks?

But adding “people” to my already jam-packed week is more stressful than relieving.

And so the foundation quivers.

And the cracks deepen.

At first I speak uncalmly.

Then I speak unkindly.

And then I do not act out of love, but out of frustration and anger.

My boys cry.

Out of sadness?

Out of fear?

Out of hurt?

Probably all of them.

I don’t hurt my children ever.

Not with my hands.  It never comes to that.

I would rather die.

But I know my sharp words and harsh tone and surprising volume pains them.

They bear the brunt of it because their wants and needs happen last in the day.

All day my bucket is emptied into others’ buckets and there is precious little left for what is most precious in my life.

The ones who deserve the most of my bucket get the least.

As soon as a chunk of my wall falls, I immediately work to patch it up.

Fill the hole with plaster.  Sand it down.  Paint over it.

All is fine.

Fix it.

It didn’t happen.

I’m sorry. Mommy is sorry.

And every time they forgive.

There is love and hugs and…understanding?

But after everyone is put to bed and the house is quiet and all I hear are humidifiers humming and the heaving breathing of all the boys slumbering…

when I lie there and try to quiet my brain–and heart–I wonder.

What do they see?

What does mommy look like to them in a fit of rage and weakness?

And what does mommy look like as she immediately humbles herself and makes herself vulnerable before them?

What effect will this leave on their impressionable hearts and minds?

How will this mold their view of me, of women, of family?

And I am left to pray for a fresh start, a new heart, and a stronger wall tomorrow.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. Oh friend. I won’t pretend and tell you know how you feel, and how hard this is. I just hope that your loved ones know and they’re there for you. xo

  2. I often wonder as well what my kids really see and how it may be shaping their future. But we have to keep in mind that they aren’t just seeing when we break. They are also seeing our strength and love. It can be easy to focus on the time we show our “bad side” and forget howuch of our goodness they experience. Hugs.

  3. I love what Denise wrote–that they’re not just seeing us when we break but also our strength and love. Please carry those words in your heart. They are seeing us as people–who are strong and loving but also weak and vulnerable. They’re learning the lesson of apologizing, and so much more. Please don’t be too hard on yourself. You are only human. Think about what you would say to your best friend if she were writing this post. Big hugs, Kate.

  4. Do you know how many times I’ve thought these exact thoughts? Probably as many times as that really big new number up there.

    My biggest worry of motherhood isn’t how much love I have to give. I know that my love is “boundless as the sea,” and deep, and that “the more I give to [them] the more I have” but I wonder if it’s enough.

    So, basically, I offer commiseration and Shakespeare and no answers but also the promise that I’m always here if you need me to putty some cracks in your foundation.

  5. This really spoke to me. Obviously, we’ve all been there as moms, but I really worry about how I will “fix” it when my kids get older. Right now, they are still so little (4,2, and 3 months) and the forgiveness is instant. They run right back to me. But how will I make it better when they are older and those little cracks burrow into their foundation? Will I be able to patch it up then?

  6. Great piece. My kids are older. Since I’ve been off the meds my moods are more intense, meaning I get mad sometimes and frustrated and it shows. It also means I laugh and dance more. My oldest sister gave me one bit of advice that makes sense. She said, every once and a while you just have to lose your mind in front of your kids. (Of course she didn’t mean hurting them or anything like that.) She meant showing the cracks in the foundation and the bruises when we’re hurt. When my frustration comes out I feel badly sometimes, since usually I’m so good at hiding my emotions, I also think that it’s good for children to know that mothers have feelings, too. Women are (gasp) people. It seems as though before children we’re supposed to be as two dimensional as super models in a magazine — look perfect and be forever perky. After children we are supposed to be perfectly serene and content to be blessed with our children, and take extreme joy at all times with all the chores and obligations that come with motherhood.

    Whatever. It’s not always like that. We are neither poster girls or poster moms. And guess what? Our children aren’t poster children either and they will be adults with mood swings. How will a child know how to sense discomfort, know how to deal with someone who is sad or angry or frustrated, or that fatigue and words take their toll — if they never see it?

    Anyway, your piece spoke to me. And I feel a little bit better about the fact that I got mad because my daughter got mad because I made her wait (gasp) before taking her to the store while I talked on the phone with my sister (whose calls I’ve avoided for three weeks).

    But before I even had a chance to patch up the cracks in my foundation another child said, “I think that Mommy needs a hug.” (This is a teenager)

    The thing about revealing the cracks in your foundation is that it is a reminder that regular maintenance can’t be ignored. If the foundation isn’t attended to, the whole structure falls. Okay enough of torturing your wonderful analogy!!

  7. One day my son said “Mommy, why do you have angry face?” and I was gobsmacked. They certainly forgive us faster than we forgive ourselves, but even getting to that point sucks. Reach out. Take 5 minutes for you to breathe. Call your mom and vent for a minute and then move on. Use twitter – we’ve all been here – you’re not alone.

    I think when you really need to worry is when you stop repairing those cracks. We’re all human, and as much as it sucks, I truly think our kids need to know that we screw up, too. (Luckily, my kids are fully aware! hehe)

  8. I feel you. I could have written those words (not as well but you get the point). Thank you for the perspective and making me realize I need to fix some things. Hugs my friend.

  9. This if my first time reading your blog and I can tell you that this post really hit a nerve with me. I feel this way almost every day. My daughter is growing up so fast and sometimes I feel like be the time I get it all together she will be gone and I will have missed so many opportunities to enjoy her. Thank you so much for sharing this and it is exactly what I needed to hear today!

  10. I’d be scared of any mom who didn’t feel the same way at some point. I know I’ve definitely been there — less so as my kids have gotten older. And every time I turn into “Screechy Mom”, I berate myself and take myself off the list for Mother of the Year.

    While I don’t think regularly being raw/emotional with one’s kids would be a good thing, I agree with other posters who say that kids need to see that their parents are human. And being human means showing frustrations, emotions, etc. It’s huge when you apologize to kids for your behavior. Because that’s the lesson they will learn. We all lose it every once in a while. But we also need to be a big enough person to know when we’ve stepped over that line. You’re a working mom, with two little boys, carrying a bit more of the parenting load right now. You need to take care of yourself, and sometimes that can just be cutting yourself some slack. You’re an amazing mom and teacher. An occasional screechy moment doesn’t change that fact.

  11. Do you know what those moments show your children, that you are human. Not perfect, not wonder woman but human. Life is all about making mistakes and learning from them…. some lessons needing to be learned over and over again. You are teaching them this. You are teaching them that yes, something people get angry or act badly. That is what of life and our nature but you are then showing them how to handle that. You are teaching them about forgiveness, how to give it and accept it. They forgive you, now you need to forgive yourself.

  12. Katie, you took this from my head. I was just thinking last night how I hate the frustration I display. I often question myself and how I’m affecting Allie. I never yelled, never spoke harshly in front of Ava. She never had tantrums, she didn’t yell. Allie? She does. And I fear she’s learning it from me. I’ve wondered how to get myself to remember to step back and breathe, and it’s hard. And I’ll learn. But for now, all I can do is apologize and try harder.

  13. I worry about this constantly. I don’t have an answer. Just that I keep trying to start every day new. Some days are great, some days I fail. I hope they see the humanness behind my failure and know that I still love them unconditionally. It always weighs heavy on my heart.

  14. Oh friend! Of course it’s difficult to think of our ugly moments, but here’s the thing…

    Children need to learn that life isn’t alway smiles and acceptance, happiness and laughter. Life is pain and love and joy and messy emotions that break through facades and crack walls. I believe what we show our children when we let frustration get the best out of us is that sometimes we get mad. And that’s okay because we still love. And sometimes we get frustrated and that’s okay because we still love.

    It also teaches them not to push and to think of what’s happening around them, to have empathy. And as adults, it will teach our sons to listen to their spouses with kindness and our daughters to realize perfection does not exist, nor do they need to try and acheive it.

    I had a therapist tell me depression was repressed anger. She said that over time, society has been taught to repress negative emotions and not identifying or expressing those emotions builds up inside of us causing stress and depression.

    I couldn’t help but agree with her and wonder if that’s part of the reason so many struggle. (Maybe that’s oversimplifying.) You’re not alone and you’re not damaging your children. Not even close. You’re teaching them to be human.

    And if it’s any consolation, the most messed up adults I know came from “perfect” families where the parents never argued, no one ever yelled, and life was just hunky dory.

  15. I have had moments of breaking, and I feel terrible, too.

    This isn’t something I would necessarily share on my blog, because my mom reads there. But she NEVER got mad at us. I don’t know how she did it. I mean, she must have, somewhere, but she was so very good about always seeming calm and collected and even-keeled and rational.

    I love her so much for doing that, but I also don’t think it did us any favors. I never understood how to express frustration or anger in a productive way. Even now, if I’m really angry, I cry and internalize a lot of the time instead of confronting and working through the emotion.

    Now I’m not saying, “Hey, yell away!” but I think you’re showing them that even adults they adore have a full gauntlet of emotions, and we need help dealing with those emotions sometimes too.

    xo

  16. Oh how this speaks to me…especially today 🙁 I fill the buckets of teenagers and other teachers all day long and come home to a 3.5 year old boy who wants his bucket filled too. I am a single mom and high school teacher and some days I think maybe my bucket is just too empty and cracked and I can’t fill it back up, but we don don’t we? Thank you for putting this into words and making me feel a little less alone in my struggle.

  17. Oh my friend. My heart aches for you but I want you to know, deep in your core you are not alone!! I have moments where I am pushed and pulled in ways that make me see white light and use a voice so loud I scare myself. I can ONLY imagine what that voice, that anger does to Lucas. But every minute is another chance to take a deep breath, ask for help, put yourself in a time out and do things, say things and be different.

    Sending much love and understanding.

    xoxoxo