Parenting is hard. Wait—that’s not even true. There are times it feels impossible, times that I’m not sure why God thought it was a good idea to give me four little souls to raise. What do I know about boys, cars, wrestling—anything, really? There are times I can’t remember how to defrost my windshield?
(Hold up. This is not the point of the post, but does anyone else get confused when you turn on the defroster? Is it supposed to be warm air or cold air? I seriously sit in my truck sometimes and fight not to call my husband ask because we know I’d never, ever live that down. But he doesn’t read my blog, so ha!)
Back to the point of this post: parenting is the biggest challenge of our lives. You can’t just raise them until they’re eighteen and turn them loose. I mean, you can, I suppose, but not if you have a conscience. You’re supposed to hand them over to the world with morals and accountability and a desire to help their fellow man and, in reality, you can’t keep them from hiding batteries in their brothers’ socks. (Or is that just around here?)
It’s hard to tell that anything we do or say works. If you’re like me, you climb into bed at night with a prayer in your heart that something you did or said resonated that day. You climb out of it in the morning with a hopeful heart that you can teach them something that matters before nightfall. It’s a crapshoot, no doubt, but then comes the day when the universe gives you a sliver of hope that something your doing is right.
My mom was just told her cancer is back and not just in her liver, but it decided to take root in her lungs too. It’s been an emotional few days around here with the knowledge she’ll be on chemo, starting Monday, indefinitely. That word—indefinitely—has never really bothered me before. But when you put it in terms of your mother’s life, well, it takes on a whole new, disgusting, finite meaning that has nothing good attached to it at all.
Last night, I took the Littlest Locke and Little Locke #3 with me to Mom’s to drop off some medicine. We’re sitting around her living room, the boys watching television, and Mom and I talking about how three of my four boys have birthdays in February. She mentioned offhandedly that she probably wouldn’t be able to shop because she would be in chemo and not feeling like braving the elements. (She hasn’t gotten hooked on online shopping. Yet.) All of a sudden #3 sits up from his reclined position in the recliner. His eyes are wide, blurry, even, his jaw opening and closing. All he can say is, “Gram.”
All I can do is fight tears because I see them in his eyes. As a mother, you know when it’s tears from anger or sadness or tears from emotion. The latter is what these were from.
“What’s the matter?” Mom asks him.
“We love you because we know you love us,” he says, his brows pulled together. His little voice, one that’s usually sitting on the next joke he’s waiting to unleash, is dead sober. “You spend time with us, all of it if we’d let you. We always come first. We know you’re proud of us and would do anything we needed at any time. We are important to you and we might just be kids, but we all know this and talk about it. We appreciate you. Don’t worry about buying us stuff,” he says, his little voice breaking. “Just be Gram because having you as our Gram is the best thing ever.”
He gets up and launches himself at my mom across the room, pulling himself into the bend of her neck. His little eleven year-old arms wrapped around her neck, he whispers, “I love you.”
I watched his little impromptu speech in amazement. This child, my rowdiest kid with the best comedic timing I’ve ever seen, pouring his heart out like his life depended on it. Each word dotted with a gusto I didn’t see coming, his body angled towards his audience like a man in power getting his point across.
It’s moments like these that give us hope that something is sinking in. That despite how many times we have to tell ourselves to stay calm, to breathe and pour another glass of wine, that tomorrow will be better, that they do love each other even if they claim otherwise—something is working.
Sometimes I can’t hear myself over their chaos. (Most times, if we’re being honest.) There are moments I’m not sure if anyone hears me at all, let alone is listening to me. But as I witnessed yesterday, they are listening. They are absorbing. They are carrying around our words and teachings and actions somewhere inside their little bodies to be used at the right time.
Even if you have to drink the third glass of wine tonight or are forced to lock the door to the bathroom and turn the shower on just to get a minute of peace, don’t give up. Don’t stop putting in the work of parenting your children, teaching values, going the extra step (on most days) because, friends, I’m telling you—they’re listening. They’re watching. And, one day, you’ll get to listen and watch as they prove it. <3
And f*ck cancer.