i sing it for you

I roared at them tonight.

And when I say roared, I mean bellowed from the very core of my being – the tired, angry, frustrated, exasperated, unheard and unnoticed depths of my body and soul, from which I was completely and utterly and maddeningly sick of having asked, cajoled, coaxed, pleaded, begged, demanded, and commanded them to listen to me tonight. To obey me.

And when they did not, I roared.

I had already taken away dessert when fit upon fit was flung over dinner. I had banished bath once they started fighting with each other and throwing trucks over the banister. I had threatened even to storm out of the bedroom without a single book read, a single song sung, a single prayer whispered.

None of it mattered. None of it made one whit of difference.

So standing there simmering, alone and exhausted at the end of a lonely and exhausting week, I roared at them. I don’t even know what I roared, something stupid about how I was going to yell even louder than they had EVER HEARD ME YELL IN THEIR LIVES if they didn’t just LAY DOWN AND GO TO SLEEP RIGHT NOW DEAR GOD HELP ME I AM LOSING MY MIND.

And as all terrible tyrants eventually learn, tirades tear down even the stubbornest among us.

I stood there in the dim dark (lit only by nightlight, oh it was pathetic) and listened to my angry racing heart throb in my ears and caught the solemn wide-eyed stares of a hundred stuffed animals watching me with pity.

Then one small boy started to whimper into his pillow.

The other reached out to me with thin striped pajama arms, desperate for a hug.

I caved. Of course I caved, a thousand times I caved, oh Christ of my heart, my stupid, stubborn, selfish heart, I caved.

I crawled into bed with one and kissed the warm fuzz of his forehead and whispered for forgiveness and promised to do better tomorrow. I sang him a soft penance of a lullaby. One extra verse, just to be certain.

Then I turned and tip-toed into bed with the other, wrapped my arms around his scrawny neck and pressed my lips to his tiny ear. I told him I loved him for always, even when I was mad I loved him always, even when I was tired and frustrated I loved him always. Did he know that? Yes, he loud-whispered back, yes he knew that.

Then I asked him what I could sing, what sweet song he could hear that could possibly right a night of wrongs, what ancient hymn I could borrow that would help heal the broken words between us.

Lullaby, he replied. I want Lullaby.

So I sang. Lullaby, and good night.

The final verse ended, trailing off with guardian angel promises into the settling dark around us, I turned to kiss his forehead one last time to go.

But as I bent towards his small round face, moonlit from between the curtains, he stopped me.

Mama, do you know what’s funny? Whenever I hear you sing that song to the baby when you’re putting him down for nap? I think you’re singing it to me, too!

Hot tears pricked the corners of my eyes; I caught my breath and held it fast. How can they be real, these children of mine, maddening and mystifying all at once? How can he understand exactly this, without understanding what it means at all?

Oh sweet one, I finally told him, once I let that last held breath slip heavy into the silent space between us. I am singing it for you, too. 

I am always singing it for you. For all of you.

He smiled softly. This I saw clearly, even in the grainy dark of their room.

From the other bed I heard one more rustle of sheets and the flip-flop-turn of a not-yet-asleep brother: Mama, I think that, too. I think you are singing that song to me, too.

We are all echoes of each other, of someone else’s love.

If there is any song I hope to sing, with this small beating gift of a life I still wake each new morning astonished to find offered to me once again, it is exactly this:

I sing it for them. They sing it for me. I sing it for you.

15 thoughts on “i sing it for you

  1. Tears as I read what your little one said about the lullaby. It’s so hard at times…thank goodness tomorrow is a new start and with new perspective. What a moving post.

  2. Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful. You made this old woman cry….brought me back in time to when your prayer was mine….so many times. And now those same little arms and hearts that so often brought me to despair keep me from it. Thank God for your song. Thank God that you sing. I hear you too and it truly sounds like you are singing to me too.

    1. Thank you, Dianne – your words made me teary, too. All we can do is sing to each other, I think. I’m grateful you shared your wisdom here.

    1. Oh, Claire, isn’t that true? They astonish me with their forgiveness. They are so good, even when they act so badly. They teach me daily what unconditional means.

  3. We’ve all been there! Perfectly put, kids are “maddening and mystifying all at once”. And just when you think you can’t do it again, they rope you in with the sweetest words! Hope today is a better day for you!

    1. Thank you, Mo – today was definitely better! 🙂 And you are so right: just when we think we can’t go on, they help us go on. What grace.

  4. Laura, thanks for sharing your human mothering moment. I remember the aftermath of my mommy meltdown moment about 25 years ago. Days later my four year-old daughter informed her aunt, “My mother loves me even when she’s angry.” At first I was mortified, remembering my fears of losing it and the tender conversation and apologies that followed. But my sister-in-law said it was nothing like I feared, my daughter was accepting of my anger as being natural, not devastating, and her confidence and pride in being so well loved was evident. I came to believe that in these moments of passion, done respectfully, we are also modeling for our children how we forgive and reconnect with compassion for others and ourselves. Thanks for addressing how to be a perfectly imperfect human mother.

    1. Jeanne, I just love this story. Thank you for sharing exactly what I needed to hear. Our oldest son has a crazy memory, almost photographic at times, and sometimes I cringe when he’ll mention something about “that time you lost your temper on January 18th” (I’m totally serious, it’s awful and amazing all at once). But I try to tell myself this – that hopefully he will remember the forgiveness and the love as much as the lost tempers. All we can do is our imperfect best.

  5. Absolutely gorgeous. I have been in this place so many times. Earlier this week, in fact, I marveled on how my boys keep giving me chances to start fresh – again and again – despite all the times I’ve bellowed and ranted against them.

    1. Thank you, Julie! Yes, it is incredible how willing children are to give second, and third, and fourth chances. I need to learn this lesson from them, too. They are sometimes my best teachers.

  6. This brought tears to my eyes. I’m not a mama, but nonetheless the picture you paint of losing yourself to anger and then running back to Love with a penitent heart…I get that. And such love, love and forgiveness from your little ones, love beyond what any of us can comprehend. Thank you for this!

  7. In one of your recent posts you mentioned being “wary of sharing too much.” Your stories are personal and honest, AND THAT’S WHY I READ THEM. This post, about roaring, is a perfect example. As another Mom (we share the ND connection as well as loss and fertility struggles), your perspectives about parenting and faith help me see the often mundane work of parenting through a faith-filled perspective. Parenting is not (often) pretty or joyous and you capture the moments beautifully in your writing. As I’ve travelled my own miscarriage losses and struggled with faith, your writing has helped to view parenting as an act of faithful service…your writing is a gift that truly does enlighten others!

  8. I am starting my morning with a good laugh and sweet tears streaming down my face after reading this. Tears of consolement that we mothers are not alone in our roars. More so, tears that are cleansing and give energy to soak up these little ones today with a grateful and joyous heart. Thank you for sharing Laura! Your posts always help center me.

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