My chest is tight, I can feel it.  My arms have wrapped themselves up in front of me to keep out of harm’s way.  I draw in a breath but the air fills my lungs only partway and gets stuck.  I am electric.

This is when I’m floating outside my body, you know?  Just staring down at my dead tree self, seeing this mother, crackling and stiff.  She can’t bend, this one, not now.  She’s tucked in her branches and if a strong enough wind comes, she’ll land on her face.  Those angry features will break off and leave her expressionless, roots in the air.

And I just feel for her.  I see her so mad and I know why.  She’s had it up to here.  But shame on her, too.  She needs to shut it up.  She needs to stop the words, those boring, expiration-date words she’s said so many times before.  You kids need to be responsible.  The tortoise is not gonna feed himself, is he?  You may not sass me get your shoes off the couch stop bugging your brother we don’t say those words your room is a disaster area I have had it with you. 

The thing is, when she starts this, this woman I’m floating above, I know it’s not going to end well.  She does too but then she’s on fire by now.  She’s buzzing with purple energy and it’s razzed me as well.  So I feel sorry because I know how hard it is to shut your mouth when you see the sass in your son’s mouth, flirting around the corners.  You want to slap him with the lightening that’s filling up your arms.  And that’s why you hug them so close to you, so they’ll be out of harm’s way.

And then I hear her say things that bore me and her, and then she’s deflated, and they are angry now, or tired, which is almost worse.  And she’s angry that she’s angry, that they’re angry (how dare they be angry?).  She walks out of the living room and into her bedroom.  But the lock on the door doesn’t work well so she slips into the bathroom and stares at her Judas face in the mirror.  I’m listening for the kids, of course, while she fumes and grieves.  They seem OK.  Their skin is thicker than hers, apparently.  They can hardly see the veins in their wrists but she can see her white blood cells whirling around, fighting and cleaning, fighting and cleaning, like she herself does from time to time.

I feel myself sinking down again.  It’s time to come home.  She whispers a prayer that sounds very like a plea.  Oh, Jesus…  Then she unlocks the bathroom door.  I take a breath and the air fills my lungs full now.  I breathe out and start over.

Grace (Again)

It might be the weather.  It may be our ages around here (puberty.  the end).  It could just be me (I can never rule this out).  But whatever the cause, we’re in a communication swamp at our house these days.  I find that I say the same things over and over to my kids, in the same, um, strident tone, and I get the same results–languid compliance with a dash of resentment.  I see it in my kids’ eyes.  They are tired of my reactions to their reactions.  I’m sure that they can see it in my eyes, too.  I’m tired of the push-back I receive when I ask them to do things they’ve always done.

The thing is, it feels like a full-on cycle at this point.  I say, Get such-and-such done.  Somebody whines and moves s-l-o-w-l-y to get the aforementioned thing done, all the while muttering about why the task is meaningless.  I take a deep breath, feeling my heart begin to race, muttering to my own self that this kind of flak is for the birds and I don’t deserve it.  Then I say, in a scarily-calm librarian voice, that I expect compliance because this is right, that it has always been this way in our home, that I will not put up with disrespect, that I don’t give them that much to do, that this is ridiculous, that I am going to tell their father about this, etc, etc.  When I pause, feeling my heartbeat (now in my eyeballs), I see the withdrawal, the retreat, in my kids’ faces.  I see their squinting, their down-turned mouths.  I am sad suddenly, sad and tired.  I feel tricked by my own emotions–again.

This communication quicksand has got to dry up.  We love each other, and we’ve got to find a way to move through this new phase of life/parenting/growing.  Right now we’re in a flare/remission cycle where every other conversation has the potential to cause an outbreak of hives.  There’s got to be a better way to go through middle school.  But I can’t think of exactly what to do at the moment.

What I do know is, as usual, we all need grace.  Every moment of every day.  And He gives it.