This is what my oldest daughter told me this week. It was after her busy day, when we only get home at eight o’clock after an hour and a half of ballet practice. She was lying in her bed and I was tucking her in. All of a sudden she whispers, “Mom, I feel bad about myself.”
Stop. If moments can be made of stone, this one surely was, because I felt its granite heart crushing me to a pulp.
“Why?” I whisper back, wanting to say so much more, but also not wanting to stop her words with a torrent of maternal denial and positive reinforcement, that would only make her feel as if she was not being understood.
“Because I I feel like I don’t do enough.” and here the tears started flowing. You know. The wracking sobs that hit like a tsunami when all of a sudden the world becomes too overwhelming. I knew exactly what was happening because I remember these moments vividly as a child. When all of a sudden everything is too much and it all comes out in one big torrential crying fit.
Again, a pause. I so didn’t want her to stop talking to me.
“What do you mean not doing enough? Do you mean at school?” I asked, holding her tight.
“Everything! At school, at ballet, at home!” she sobbed louder.
And here is where I started to feel guilty. The day before, I had taken the day off (see previous post) to clean the house. Yes, I have to actually interrupt my schedule to get things done around here. This is when I noticed that my two daughters’ room was just pretending to be clean. It was not actually clean. I decided just then that they were old enough to be doing a better job as well as a little more chores around the house. When they came home, I gave them a big speech about how they are old enough now to have an allowance and old enough to clean their room better. In fact, tomorrow is the training session I have with them (I decided to put on my professional hat and show them exactly how to do it- I should even write a checklist for them, now that I think about it…) But. And this is one, big, fleshy, bulbous BUT. What if I am asking too much of my kids? I mean not just cleaning their room (that, I still maintain, is a reasonable request). What if, in general, we are asking too much of them? I expect her to be responsible for her homework, which she has plenty. I expect her to keep her ballet stuff in order and go to piano lessons by herself and work things out with her little sister (who can be difficult at times). She has practically no free time, and the time she does have, she is too tired to do anything with except watch movies. Sound familiar? Sounds like the life of a middle aged working person? Yeah, I thought so….
I have to go to work now, but more on this later…