Guilt

I’m tired of traveling! No more guilt trips.

First week of school over. Both boys are happy. Have diverted several potential disasters with head on, logical intervention. Who is this family?

Don’t get me wrong, life is beyond hectic. Having kids in different schools is like trying to manage a herd of wild goats. They both have different early dismissal dates, which means you can kiss your life goodbye. They have different parent handbooks filled with different rules and regs. Totally different curricula. Yet, and I’m really not sure how this always seems to happen, they both have the same “Meet the teacher” and “Back to school” nights. Clearly I missed the parenting workshop on developing super-human talents like being in two places simultaneously.

That’s really what is escalating my current stress level. I cannot be everywhere. To drive my eldest, Levi, to school, I have to forgo walking my youngest, Eli, to the bus stop. If I pick up Levi at his regular dismissal time, I can’t stand happily across from the mailboxes sporting my best welcome home smile as Eli steps off the bus and runs into my arms. And although no one would ever believe this, I like being there to send each off into the world every morning and then enfolding them into the maternal cocoon every afternoon. I feel guilty whichever kid I’m with, because while I try to see it as a healthy way of spending quality one-on-one time with each boy, all I can focus on is what I’m missing by not being with the other.

Does every mom of two or more feel this constant stream of unmitigated guilt? I often wish I was Catholic so I could confess my shame and then somehow be cleansed of it. We don’t have anything like confessional in Judaism. Instead, we’re more like the guilt proprietors; and we do everything in house. We create the guilt, manufacture it, dispense it. We even have entire family structures devoted to marketing and promoting guilt. I for one am high up in the guilt echelon. I’m kind of like a guilt mob boss. I control all the guilt within my family, my neighborhood, and my extended territory. It’s a tough job. But I guess somebody has to do it.

Or do they? Wonder what my life would look like if I shed the weighty guilt cloak for even a day, an afternoon, what about an hour? Would the world collapse? Would havoc reign throughout the universe? Would the entire family lose their way? Rationally I know that life would go on if I ceased being a slave to the guilt monster. It’s that irrational side of me that seems stuck in this unhealthy tangle.

I’ve always given lip service to the old adage that “guilt is a useless emotion.” I guess I don’t really believe that though. The truth is that guilt fills me up in some way that I’m unwilling to let go of. Guilt must make me feel important, like I matter so much that I’m capable of enhancing, degrading or destroying other people’s lives. That’s really beyond absurd. I can no more be responsible for someone else’s life than I can for a Tsunami half way around the world. But then again there is that butterfly effect. No. I am not going there. I am not responsible for the rest of the world’s happiness, unhappiness or anyone’s personal decisions about how he chooses to live his life.

Ah, freedom. KInd of weird. Feel like I’m naked.

I swear! It’s true

This is beyond horrifying. But, alas, I am going to make a brutally honest confession. I swear. Yes, it’s true. I have allowed various curse words to fly from my lips while in the presence of my children. I used to beat myself up over this distasteful habit. But after a while, we all kind of got used to it and I began to, dare I say, accept myself for my occasional colorful slip up.

I try, hard, to control my verbiage. But, in the heat of an emotional toe-stub or traffic snafu, I seem to always revert to my youthful tendency to voice less than appropriate expressions. I acknowledge that I am surely the only parent who continuously breaks the unwritten rule to use only Websteresque appropriate language in the presence of children. But have you checked the dictionary lately? Not that this makes it right, but the “F” word is in there, right between “fucoid” (relating to or resembling the rockweeds) and “fuchsite” (a greenish variety of muscovite, high in chromium).

Given that so many curse words have eased into our current vernacular, I had almost convinced myself that my linguistic felony could be relegated to a mere verbal misdemeanor. Until today.

My 11 year old son, Levi, came home from an extracurricular activity in a silent and sullen mood. I tried to inquire about his emotional state. But he was as closed lipped as a tightly sealed bivalve. Once his father got home, he finally shared his frustration with us over dinner.

“Dad,” he said hesitantly, “All the boys are using disgusting language whenever the teacher isn’t around. It really bugs me and makes me feel uncomfortable. I try to ignore it. But today, was the worst. I mean, if it weren’t for mom, I would’ve learned three new words.”

My husband raised an eyebrow and glared at me from across the table. I felt my face flush red and my mind went totally blank. I think I may have tried to stammer something lame in defense of my sad self. But the stare I was met with sealed my lips shut instantaneously.

“Well,” my husband responded calmly without a hint of sarcasm, “Aren’t we lucky that mommy is such an accomplished linguist. She’s exposed you to so much in your young life. That’s why your vocabulary is so rich and extensive.”

I sat there motionless, waiting for the other shoe to drop. But instead, my husband got up cheerfully, cleared his dishes and went into the kitchen. The rest of us followed suit. We put the kitchen back in order without saying a word. Then we snuggled into the sofa to watch a few “Dick Van Dyke” reruns. Not another word on the issue was uttered.

I find I’m trying harder now to curb my propensity towards vulgarity. I’ve even assigned a large glass jar as cash collector every time I swerve off course. Isn’t it funny how silence can sometimes teach us lessons that 10,000 words couldn’t even come close to?