Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Double Life

I have a double life. No, I'm not having an affair or lap dancing in my spare time. My double life has to do with the kind of parent I want to be, and the kind of parent I really am. It pains me to even write about this, but perhaps through acknowledging it, I can "recover".

I used to be a teacher and over those years I read a lot of children books. I quickly developed a passion for them! The shiny glow of the book jackets, the vibrant colors, the adorable, wholesome pictures, the cleaver rhymes, even the smell of the books - the whole package - I loved it!

When I became a parent, my plan was to read up a storm to my kids. And I did - to the first one. Then the second came along twenty-two months later, and I was swamped. Reading to them became something we only did at bedtime, much as I would have liked it to be every couple of hours.

Now, with another baby on board, it is gruelling to get them all smoothly through the bedtime routine and poor Emily (12 mos.) grabs and chews books after two pages and I lose patience quickly, partly because I can't wait to get them all in bed so I can exhale!

Getting to the double life part - I still see myself as a parent who is instilling a love of books in her children, hoping to create lifelong readers. But I can't ignore the truth any longer - while my children love their bedtime stories, they NEVER bring me a book to read in the middle of the day. They don't go pulling our enormous library of books off the shelves, wanting to devour the pictures and rhyme. They aren't book lovers. I'm homeschooling them and they are good at reading, for their ages, but I don't see a burning passion, which tugs at my heart so much.

I've taught kids who had it - I know what book fever looks and sounds like. My kids might have developed it if I had been better at living in the moment - blocking out the clutter of dishes, unfolded laundry, bills.

Additionally, how much time would I suddenly have for books if I stopped the insane, selfish habit of sneaking away to check my e-mail six times a day? I know why I do it - for connection to the outside world - but that isn't what my heart most desires right now. Overwhelmingly, I want to be a loving, present, fun, intellectually stimulating parent. But by 2 pm everyday, I'm ready to turn on Good-For-Nothing Sponge Bob, so I can have 20 minutes to myself. I can't tell you how much I abhor that show, yet I'm willing to turn it on rather than get on the floor and play with my kids.

When I've had my break, I go back to the chores, usually, unless we're behind in our homeschooling for the week. I don't get on the floor and enjoy my children. My oldest son said to me the other day, in all seriousness, "Do you know all you ever do is laundry?" How that stung! That isn't how I want to be remembered as a mom - someone who was always on her computer or doing laundry - never on the floor reveling in mommyhood.

I want to change and now that I've admitted all this, I'm going to take baby steps to become a better mom, one day at a time. One or two less hours of Sponge Bob a week. Checking e-mail three times a day instead of six. Playing on the floor twice a day for small chunks.

I'll check in next week for a report on my resolve, and on the kids' responsiveness to my efforts.


Betsy Shaw Mackenzie said...

Oh how I can relate to all of this. I do have a book lover who I often have to turn down when she requests I read to her, before school, during breakfast, before dinner, all the most inopportune times. Since Isla came along, every time seems to be the wrong time. So I find myself saying, "how about you listen to one of your books on tape?"
I don't think you should blame yourself for your kids lack of book love. A mother can only be and do so much. I am sure you make up for it in many ways. Great blog by the way.
Try breaking up your posts into more paragraphs. It's easier on the eyes and brain. Just a thought.

Terra said...

I can completely relate. Getting down on the floor to play is the last thing I want to do most days. I am much more apt to be doing dishes, checking email, or folding laundry if my kids decide to play well rather than to join in.
And as for the reading thing, I remember reading to my first while he laid on his changing table at every diaper change. Now with my second, I recite a book at naptime rather than sit down and read to her because she wants a different book than I've picked or she turns the pages faster than I can read, and I get frustrated. You are definitely not alone!

Googlemom said...

Oh, sister, I completely understand!! Right down to Spongebob!! :) I was just telling my husband tonight that I really feel bad about not playing with my boys (4 years old) enough. Truth is, I worry that I don't want to play with them at all! I love to cuddle and read with them and take them places and sit and explain things to them and chat, but boy, when they come toward me with an action figure or animal and say, "You be the..." my heart just drops. I immediately think of a million things I need to do around the house.

I also check my e-mail too much and I've often thought that my guys will grow up hating computers! :) They've even said, "Mom, no quick e-mail!" and shamed me. I think that if I didn't have a computer in our house I'd be a much better mom but deep inside I wonder if I'd just find something else to check out mentally with.

Part of me feels a little resentful that we can't be affectionate but somewhat distant at times like our parents. I don't remember Mom or Dad ever sitting on the floor and playing with us and our stuffed animals, for example. And we could be turned loose into the yard for hours at a time.

Now you have to find something to do while you sit outside to be near your kids. That doesn't leave much. And since you're out there anyway, the kids want you to play with them. You still don't get a mental health break! It's so much easier when they'll play inside, but the guilt creeps up again - they're not getting outside enough now!

I really sympathize with your having three children of different ages. I don't know how you find activities that you all can enjoy during the day! As a mom of twins, I feel sorry for myself sometimes that I never got to experience a fully one-on-one relationship with a baby. But I count myself lucky not to have had to juggle a newborn with a toddler. Wow. And you've done it twice.

So please know that you're not alone. I can't say if we're doing the right thing, but I can tell you I'm out here with the same issue! :) How the heck do you live in the moment more with your kids?

Evonne Lack said...

Great post. And I can completely relate. Completely.