I’ve been frustrated, fed up, and generally f$%#ing irritated with parenting and my kids lately. These years are hard. Harder than anything I’ve been through so far. (I’ll take diaper blow-outs, 2 a.m. feedings, and 3-year-old temper tantrums over this sh#$ any day.)

I haven’t been “just writing” because I just don’t really want to talk about it. Expose my flaws? Admit I might be a sucky mother? No…nobody does that today. We all present our carefully crafted images. We share only the highlight reel, right?

I’ve not had a lot of highlights to share lately because I live with two hormonal preteen/teens. And, mostly it sucks. (Just keepin’ it real.)

I spend all day at work waiting to go home and then I get there and I want to go back to work.

They’re mean. They backtalk. They whine. They demand. They make faces. They flip out about every freaking thing. They bicker constantly. They use mental warfare. They push everyone’s buttons. They twist words and arguments. They lie to my face (deny, deny, deny). They stuff their food wrappers into my couch cushions (Seriously, WTF is with that????)

Me? I’m a nag because, you know, I ask them to SHOWER and BRUSH their teeth and pick up their stuff and put their dishes in the sink.  Also, I do nothing for them. Nothing. (Food, shelter, clothing, unconditional love, frequent vacations, clean laundry, packed lunches, money for book fair, clean toilets, a dog, two cats, three fish, medical care,  etc.,….apparently don’t count).

I know they are testing their boundaries. They are gaining independence. They are finding their voices. They are raging with hormones. They are more confused by their emotions than I am.

But it’s exhausting.

And above all else it is soul and confidence crushing. I doubt myself and my parenting skills every single day. I feel like I’m flailing…and failing. I have no idea what I’m doing anymore or what works or why I fight with them or if anything I say even gets through.

Then, just when I’m at wits end, the universe throw me a bone.

I had to run up to the mall yesterday to exchange some shoes. I forced Lauren to go with me because I thought we could use some mom-and-me time (and it means she can’t fight with her sister while I’m gone). Lauren, in particular, has been (oh, what’s the nice word?) a “challenge” lately.

“So, how was school today?” I ask.

“Good. Though I’m kinda mad at Denise* because she keeps asking Brittany* to sit with her at lunch.”

“Oh, well, don’t you & Brittany always sit together? I always thought Denise was nice. Can’t you sit with them, too?”

“Yeah, I mean, I like her. She’s nice and she saved a seat for me and Brittany, but I didn’t want to leave Emily alone.”

“Who is Emily?”

“She’s the new girl who moved into Jodie’s* house.”

“Oh, so you invited her to sit with you & Brittany? That’s nice of you.”

“Yeah, she’s nice and she doesn’t hardly know anybody, and I just can’t leave her to sit alone. And the lunch ladies won’t let us pull another chair up to the tables, so…”

“So you sat alone with Emily?”

“Yeah. I mean, I remember back in third grade before Brittany and I were friends and when I’d get out of the lunch line and look around and everyone would say they were saving seats for someone and I didn’t have anybody to sit with. I don’t ever want anyone to feel that way.”

I look over at this kid who, on a 50 degree day, is wearing basketball shorts, black velvet ankle boots, and a stained owl shirt that doesn’t match. Her hair is unwashed and unkempt. She probably hasn’t brushed her teeth all day.

But, holy crap, the important stuff is getting through.

Empathy. Compassion. Kindness.

Those threads I can hang on.

* names changed

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About Just Write “What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking.”