I made a realization a few weeks ago about guilt and how I wield it like a sword to rip jagged, rough holes in people, mainly Z and my sweet, Cheeseburger-obsessed ‘Rado. I don’t do this consciously; it’s a cowardly defense mechanism functioning only against those I love and feel most comfortable around, lucky them. Being the non-confrontational, timid tidbit that I am, guilt allows me to exert some kind of power over a situation or a person without feeling like an outright jerk about it. Z, being the tough, resilient guy that he is, probably hasn’t noticed this or if he has hasn’t thought it was that bad (when I make Tell-Tale Heart-like confessions to him he never thinks it’s that bad, bless him). Connor, well, this may be something that he’ll have to discuss with his therapist one day.
I’m not going to let this issue go gentle into that good night, though, I’ve decided to just knock it off already. I berate myself no matter how hard I try to keep the guilt off my own shoulders. I mentally flagellate myself for being inconsistent with Connor, for not spending enough time with Ike, and for not cleaning the 3-week old mail off the kitchen table. Thing is, I don’t have to skewer my boys because I feel overwhelmed. It’s in these exact moments that I’m finding it best to give instead of take; to give myself a moment to pause – a split-second to think before I say something snarky or snap off a quick answer in an annoyed tone – when Connor calls my name for the eleventh time in a row, when Z asks me a question that I know I answered a minute ago, or when Connor calls my name for the eleventh time in a row. That pause has saved my life these past few weeks. Life with two boys is so void of pauses that the only way to get a quick moment to think instead of react is to give that moment, that breath, to myself. So here I am, practicing what I’m preaching, thinking before I’m speaking, and finding that I can diffuse the bomb before she snaps at the dog barking while she’s feeding Ike and telling Connor for the third time to stop climbing on her back. Giving myself these moments throughout the day has helped diffuse many bombs lit in the pit of my belly or smoldering in my mind.
Giving into a moment doesn’t mean giving up on it. There are battles that need to be fought every day (we will best you, potty training!). But there are also those that don’t. Maybe it’s the pacifist in me, but it seems like many of the battles fought throughout the day aren’t even worth the time and frustration. I take pride in small victories won – I can survived on small victories, glints of our hard work showing promise, and a coffee table kept uncluttered for more than 12 hours. I’ve let Connor watch more TV than I used to, and we may have increased our days of stopping on the fast-food strip downtown lately, but we still go outside to hunt for bugs, look for bunnies, and go for walks. Pride is called a sin, but it can be one hell of a motivator. I take pride in realizing what I need in the midst of everyone else’s needs. I just need a moment.