Today, I was planning to be super mom. The kids had asked for a trip into the woods to have tea by the fire. They could have asked for a movie or for candy, but they asked for the very things I’ve tried to encourage in their lives, a love of fresh air, adventure, and water infused with nourishing herbs, so I said yes!
I packed up a bag of tricks– firewood, kindling, dry newspaper. I dug out matches which never seem to be in the same place in our house. I even made the hot tea and brought along four mugs. After dressing our toddler in layers of outerwear, tucking in 6 mittens and boots, and pulling on my winter-onesie (and then leaning over to tuck in my own boots while still breathing), we headed outdoors, only to be greeted by a mound of snow, blocking our usual way to the woods.
This hill has served as a great joy to the kids these past few days, but I cursed it as I tried to move around the pile with a small child on a sled, who, I might add, was wailing for fear of tipping over. As I stepped into the knee-deep snow, dog leash in one hand, sleigh rope in other, and sack of tricks over shoulder, I began to feel the anger rise in my belly.
I knew then, that if I proceeded with AWESOME MOM PLAN, I’d just be miserable, trying to create the picture in my head, trying to please everyone, but ultimately pleasing no one.
And then I felt guilty. Guilty for saying yes and then going back on my word. Guilty for not being determined enough. Guilty for needing help to accomplish this plan. Until I realized that all of these negative emotions were bubbling to the surface in the form of guilt so that I could avoid taking responsibility for their messages, so that I didn’t have to ask myself why I was being so hard on myself. It’s much easier to think I’m being selfless.
Here’s what I’ve learned…guilt holds us back by disguising our own sadness as sadness for someone else, sneakily avoiding our own unhealed pain. Then it allows us to stay hurt, to be complacent in our own healing. With this realization, I’ve started following up the flood of guilt with the question, ‘well what am I going to do about it?’.
That’s when I turned to the kids, and said, “Guys, I’m not going to lie. I really wanted to go to the woods today with you, but I think I’m just going to be grumpy. This is a trip that requires another grownup for help. Maybe we could try again another time. Could we go for a walk and have tea on the porch instead?” There was some small talk that followed. They offered to help, to carry more things, but then, they too, saw what I did…a long path, a lot of snow, and of course, there was the screaming toddler.
And so we walked. Quietly, pleasantly, guilt-free, down our clean laneway.
The tea was nice too.