Last night as we were driving to dinner in the searing Palm Desert heat, Miles sang out from the back seat. And then, he counted to ten. Without cajole or prompt. He simply said each number in the correct order.
And I, I was astonished. I recall very well teaching Cole to count to ten. I remember practicing the ABC song with Rachel over and over until she got it right. And with Miles, I have done nothing. Somehow he knows his ABC's. He knows how to count to ten. Not because of me. But in spite of me.
My heart broke into jagged pieces as it has so many times over the past several weeks. I feel so clearly how I am failing him. How my feeble attempts to mother four children have left him without the guidance and attention my older children enjoyed.
"You need to read to him" Tony reminds me. And I do. Almost daily. But it is usually rushed and simply marked off my list as yet another chore accomplished. It isn't the unfettered hour I used to spend with my older children, absorbed in one book after another. Truth be told, the large bin of board books, most suitable for this two year old boy, remains hidden on the dark shelves of our cold storage. I've yet to dust off the box, though I know the treasure which lies therein.
Last week, as I bathed my sweet new baby. Miles broke down and begged of me to "put him down!" Over and over he beseeched me to put the baby down. The baby, past due for a feeding, cried out his own pleas, and soon a symphony of tears filled the sun drenched nursery.
For the first time in weeks, I attended to Miles' needs first. Blake lay screaming in his crib. Miles wailed in my arms and soon, I too, was weeping hot and frustrated tears.
I wish I could say this was the exception rather than the rule. But the truth is, each day I am overwhelmed in my responsibility for these four precious souls. Each day, amid requests and tears, in the midst of the constant "mom can you iron my shirt, I need a library book, can you give me a ride, I want some apple juice, I hate this dinner, can you please tuck me in, do I have any clean socks, can you volunteer in my classroom, when are you going to the grocery store and will you please, please put the baby down", I feel a sense of failure. For try as I might, there is always one of them...or more, who isn't getting enough of me. Enough of my time, enough of my attention and patience. Enough of my love. I feel it in the tantrums of my two year old. I feel it in the wistful glances of my nine year old and I most certainly feel it in the hot temper of my teenager.
I've always wanted to be a mother. And frankly, it's always come quite easily to me. I have pretty good instincts about my children and I have never really struggled in my role as a parent. Perhaps I was too quick to pat myself on the back. Too quick to take credit for their obedience, for their easy personalities and good behavior.
My shortcomings have become all too clear since the arrival of baby Blake. As I strive for more patience, more understanding and more kindness for each of my sweet children. As I struggle to love them better in spite of my weariness and daily inadequacies, I hope I am teaching my children to offer me the same.