Friday, August 01, 2008

My new mantra

"You need to tell Paul's Mom to talk to him about making better choices." she said, emphatically with a quiver of stress hanging in her voice.
I was picking up my son and his friend from our second installment of VBS, one that while I'm glad the kids asked to attend, did not turn out to be the best week for them. As I looked around for Paul, I spied my son sitting over by himself with his dejected look on his face. Oh, brother. I thought to myself. Now what?

Once I spoke to my son, I learned that Paul had punched him twice that day, and my son wasn't sure why. After a sprint to catch up with his friend and keep him from getting flattened in the parking lot, and picking up his little sister, we finally made our way to the car. Paul seemed oblivious to my son's sad face and happily chattered away to me as we made our way home.

It's an awkward position to be in, to tell another parent that their child was making "bad choices" that day. When I'd asked the frazzled VBS volunteer for more information, she'd waved me off. I'm certain that's because I was not Paul's parent, but really what does his Mom have to go on from what she gave me?

It has me to thinking this week about those "better choices." I know it was the volunteer's tactful way of saying that Paul had been a royal turd that day at VBS.

But, life is really all about choices, isn't it? My son chooses to allow a friend to bully him without standing up for himself as much as he should. He later chooses to let that affect his attitude for most of the rest of that day. I am certain that Paul is the type of kid who punches and moves on, never thinking about it after the fact. And, on the flip side, Paul is probably able to bounce back from being punched a lot easier than my son, who chooses to be the victim most of the time over the aggressor.

As adults, we face choices each day too. How to handle our tempers when dealing with two siblings who are constantly squabbling, how to express our disappointments and move on without letting them consume us, and how to take care of our loved ones as well as ourselves in a healthy way.

In my own life, I've had to make some tough choices lately and it's completely consumed my brain. The irony of this is, while focusing on the most difficult choice I've been faced with as an adult, I managed to drop a lot of other good choices I'd been making most of this year about diet, exercise, and emotional well-being. The result: I have felt and looked pretty awful these past few weeks.

Today was the last day of VBS for the kids, a day that was capped off with moonwalks and water slides in the parking lot of a new church. After making our way through an enormous line for the celebratory free lunch promised to family and the kids, we discovered the offerings were not all that appealing. What smelled like great BBQ was instead steamed hot dogs and soggy buns with bagged chips. I made the choice to pass on that, even though I was starving. Once the kids scarfed down their dogs, they sprinted for the fun as I scrambled to get their stuff together and still be cordial to Paul's mom and Paul who were still eating. Once I made it over to the moonwalks, I realized it was 100 degree weather that felt like 110 on the hot pavement. I watched my kids take their turns getting wet, jumping and sliding for what felt like an eternity.

A good half hour and 3 buckets of sweat later, a woman came by with a tray of chocolate chip cookies. I made a poor choice and got one--not exactly diabetic fare especially when I had not eaten. A few minutes later after 3 attempts of rounding up the kids, I made a poor choice and lost my cool with them telling them to come on in a very stern voice. On the way home, I made another poor choice to criticize my son for not blowing off his friend's ugliness and not getting over it fast enough this past week.

And, then I got home and completely melted down from the stress of birthday party planning (more on that tomorrow!), not eating right, not working out enough for two weeks, and taking most every free moment this week that the kids were occupied to work on my consulting project.

As I sat under the full-on fan in my bedroom thinking over how I managed to, once again, let things get to me and then take out those frustrations on those around me, I could see that VBS teacher and hear her voice saying "make better choices" ringing in my ears.

Somehow, I think I could have done better with my own choices lately. And, maybe I've found my mantra for the rest of 2008. Make better choices, MomCat. Make better choices...



Blogger kristi said...

Hey, I have been there! I don't think there is a perfect parent anywhere. What makes us good parents is that we realize our shortcomings.

10:55 AM, August 06, 2008  
Blogger Nicole said...

Hang in there, MomCat. You are too hard on yourself! I hope you're feeling better now...

You're right about making choices...even the little ones add up and can have big effects. I say that as I sit here eating a cupcake ;-) Good luck with the party! We just finished the third and last of the summer...yay! It's a lot of work.

2:04 PM, August 06, 2008  

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