The Stewart Family
By Suzanne Mazer Stewart
This time of year there are all the awards shows going on - Golden Globes, Oscars, Miss America, American Idol - that tell us just what and who are the "best" of last year or will reign supreme in the new one.
I've often wondered just what it takes to win some of those accolades, because the only one that I qualify for, the prestigious "Mother of the Year", is so far out of my reach we'll just call it my "Impossible Dream."
Now, I don't consider myself a bad parent by any means. I do, however, know my limitations. There's only so much whining and bickering one person can stand. Add to that the stress and strains of trying to juggle dinner, laundry, errands, overdue library books, dentist appointments and occasionally finding time to reacquaint myself with my husband, and let's just say it's a miracle I'm still as sane as I am.
For some reason, though, I have this group of lady friends who seem to think I always "have it all together." All I can say is that I hope, for their sakes, they either read this with an open mind, or that they don't read this at all. The shock might be too much for them to handle.
In the "cool under fire" category, I'm sorry to say that I sadly fall short there. For instance, there's the time our youngest became hysterical over his sandwich. He picked it up to take a bite, only to have the "insides" all slide out from between the bread and land - kerplop - on his plate. This was more than he could stand, apparently, because before it was all over and done with, I had him breathing in a paper bag to keep from fainting. I think I may have taken a few puffs of that sack myself, too. In the midst of all this, the phone rang and I had to tell my mother, "Sorry Mom. I can't talk right now. The boy's sandwich is causing a crisis" and hung up on her. So much for effective communication, huh? Not exactly cool under pressure that time, was I?
As to the "gourmet cook" qualities all Moms of the Year are to possess, all I can say is: the "rice incident." I was attempting to fix rice pilaf, keep an eye on the chicken in the oven, whip up a coffee cake for breakfast the next day, oversee 6 children tackling their chores and remain sane long enough to eat dinner. Everything was going fine until the boys came tearing into the kitchen hollering about the dog's paw bleeding.
Well, after being assured that his foot was most likely hanging by a mere thread of skin, I rushed outside to check on the poor injured animal. No, I didn't turn off the stove, no I didn't think about the rice, the chicken or the cake. I was completely focused on the mutt.
Needless to say, upon returning to the kitchen, I was greeted with a pan of blackened little bits of matter that could only be identified as rice by their shape. We had biscuits with our chicken that night, and my poor husband was told that his favorite rice dish had "Gone to the dogs." A little better on the communication skills there, but still not what one would expect from a writer, huh? (Oh, and in case you were worried about Sam the Dog, he had cut a pad on a tin can he'd gone and drug out of the garbage can. Serves him right, I say, for getting into the trash in the first place.)
About those communication skills, the experts tell us we should always speak with love and compassion when addressing our children. Seems I've failed to meet the ideal there, too. I've been known to tell children whining over skinned knees to "buck up - it's a long way from your heart and you've got another one besides." I've also been known to say things like "I brought you into this world. I can take you out of it." Oh, and my personal favorite "Enough already!" at quite a loud volume. This last one works on everything from rough housing boys in the living room to the little one begging for candy at the grocery store.
One particularly bad day not too long ago found me telling the small child clinging to my leg to "go love on somebody else for a while." Problem was, I was the only one there.
We're also supposed to discipline with love, fairness and a certain amount of humor. I don't suppose threatening to ground your middle son for life if he didn't, for the ninety-ninth time that day, get his muddy feet off your once-again freshly cleaned floor counts as any of the above. Nor, I reckon, would telling them to get their butts in the house while they still had butts to get there. In my own defense, they were playing in the rain, for crying out loud. But, I could just see my awards acceptance speech slipping away before my eyes with the rain.
Lastly, my failures in the "domestic goddess" category - Over the holidays, I took to telling the kids "You can write in the dust on the furniture, just don't date it." There's a shirt of Brian's that needs to be mended that has sat on the corner of my work table for at least three weeks now. I figure he doesn't need it that badly as he has three more just like it. Besides, he can't even remember what's wrong with it, just that it needs "fixing." Mount Laundry isn't as high as it has been, but then again maybe I've just become adjusted to the altitude. Oh, and with all the rain-snow-slush of winter, all the kids and all the mud, I'm on the verge of giving up mopping.
What's the use? They're just going to track it in, again, and I'll just get the same old, "I forget" when asked why they didn't take their shoes off at the door Hey, Lent's right around the corner and we're all supposed to give up something, right? Mopping and my mothering award sound like the ideal sacrifices to me.