Lessons from the Pawpaw!

Gonna get a little gritty with you guys, because confession washes the soul.

I had a phenomenal weekend, slinging soap at my most-favorite-ever music festival in the world.  It was a record breaking year, as far as soap sales go.  My kids had a blast, running like feral banshees all weekend, with all their friends, young and old, all at the same time.  I’d see them just often enough to know they were still breathing.  And Smiles, being the rock star that he is, spent most of his weekend serving his family from the home front, and did all the framing for our porch railing (a.k.a. the goat deflector).

(How a pessimist would translate this: I didn’t leave my booth for 3 days straight, except once, at 4 pm on Saturday, to go pee and eat breakfast- yes, at 4 p.m., and once for 5 minutes on Sunday, when another vendor bailed me out so that I could pick out what I was trading her for.)

It was ultimately very, very fulfilling.  I didn’t get a lot of sleep… because my only time for uninterrupted conversation, Pawpaw-infused beer (a once-a-year-commodity) and dancing, happens late at night, after the shop closes.  And besides, who wants to waste Pawpaw sleeping.  The 3-4 hours of sleep I did get a night, were all spent in a Suburban.  A very comfortable sleeping apparatus for a couple of old road-kids, but a vehicle nonetheless.  And for some reason, on Saturday night, my bladder opted to compensate for how much I had been denying it all day, by waking me up every hour or less.

When it was time to tear down, my family all rallied to come tear down with me (partially because my kids knew that if they spent the final hours of Pawpaw running with friends, instead of helping their exhausted mother, then it would indeed be their final hours).  But here’s the thing.  Here’s where the confession comes in.  Every year, as we’re tearing down my booth, throwing tubs of remaining soap, and tables, and shelving and bottles of skin-remedying concoctions, into vehicles, I get grumpy, and start being bossy and unkind to my kids.

On the heels of such a fulfilling, enjoyable time, and I’m demeaning my kids.  And why?  Because although they are helping me, they’d much rather be spending their final moments with friends.  So, they help.  But with a very faint hint of grumbling, and an ever present desire to sit down (because they haven’t slept much either).

Smiles saw my exasperation mounting and intervened, offering to finish the task without me.  I looked at Carrie and Annabelle (her super adorable one-year old daughter), and said “Wanna jump in the lake?”   The layer of grime I’d acquired over the weekend was palatable, and the heat was compounding my grump.  The three of us bee-lined for the shores.

As I was rushing to the refreshing waters, I was also sorting my thoughts (Thank you, Carrie, for giving me that head-space and your listening ears).  I realized that I only get grumpy because I’m ascribing motives.

If I were to look at what my kids were doing, I’d be grateful.  When they are sitting down on the job, they are simply awaiting my direction.  When they gripe a little about having to work, they are speaking from exhaustion, because honestly, they probably went to bed later than I did.  After Pawpaw, they are usually asleep within an hour of arriving home, with the debris of a fulfilling weekend, strewn all over the floor of the living room, because who has the energy to bring it upstairs?

But instead, every sigh, every lacking smile, every slight-gripe about how they’re working harder than their brother, every time they put something in the place they think it should go rather than the place I told them to, my mind goes to: “These boys don’t know how hard I worked (both at selling soap and at not peeing my pants), while they were out gallivanting around with their homies!  They obviously don’t appreciate my labor.  In fact, they probably don’t love me at all (okay, that one might be an exaggeration).

Now, before you go telling me that I’m an excellent mother, and telling me how marvelous my kids are, please know that I don’t want to hear it.  I’m not telling you this to get pity, or encouragement.  I know my kids are awesome.  I’m telling you this to share a valuable life lesson, that came from my own failures as a mother, which have become successful, only because I learned from them and confessed.

Here’s the thing about motherhood… you just aren’t going to get it right sometimes.  This is the same thing about humanity.  You can be your best human, as often as possible, but you just won’t be perfect.  That’s why the cross is so liberating and necessary.

And this has to be okay with you, because if you hold yourself to an unattainable standard, they you won’t apologize when you need to and those around you will be left with that toxic feeling that happens when someone wrongs you and won’t admit it.  So, you gotta get free of that condemnation that lurks behind every corner of your mind.  Again, that’s why the cross.

But that lesson, the one about freedom to admit when I’ve failed, and to not hate myself for it, but to embrace it as a chance to show my kids (or whoever) my own vulnerability and need for their forgiveness, and to forgive myself easily and freely, that’s a lesson I learned a long time ago.

But this is the lesson I, personally, needed to learn yesterday (although I already knew it, I just always seem to forget when it counts the most) was the lesson of not ascribing motives.

We can get so offended by someone else’s wrongdoing, when we take it personally, when we assume that there was some malicious intent.  We are so slow to give one another the benefit of the doubt.  To engage with our emotions, rather than to take a long step back and disinherit all the parts of the story that make it so personal.

We can get raging mad at a cashier at the grocery store, because they were so curt and snappy with us, rather than treating us (the customer) like we deserve a crown.  But the truth is, they may have been fighting tears all morning, because it’s the anniversary of their mother’s death and work is the last place they feel like being.

We can assume that every time a car cuts us off, or drives discourteously, it was an intentional act of selfishness and disdain for us, personally.  When perhaps, they simply didn’t realize they were being less than thoughtful.

We can judge our kids lip-snarls and assume that they hate us, because they aren’t (after a weekend of exhaustion) jumping up to serve their “O most lovely Mother dearest”, and I am so guilty (yet so free).

If only I, if only we, always gave compassion when we are tempted to give anger.  If only we really would try on one another’s shoes.  If only we would stop assuming motives, when all we really know is behavior.  Perhaps all of humanity would be a little lighter for it, and our hearts might experience more peace.  That’s all.

Space  9/18/17

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