1. I Can’t Complain But Sometimes I Still Do

Spoiler alert: I’m about to complain about first-world problems, and I doubt I’m going to tie this one up in a happiness-laden commentary on how wonderful life is, so just scroll, tap or click to a new page if you’re wanting something uplifting.

Today Mom is having a bad case of the Why-Do-I-Bother’s (WDIBs, or “Dubya DIBs”, for short). 

It all started with a grass problem. You’d think that in a weed-friendly state like Colorado, all things grassy would just grow uninhibited, the way moss grows in Oregon and family trees grow in Utah. But it seems to be more complicated than that. 

When we first moved in, the grass grew green and thick. Mowing it weekly became my job as the grass was so potent that my husband’s allergies refused to let him do the mowing.  As far as I know, we’ve done all the “right things” (fertilize, water, power rake, aerate, pull weeds) to make the grass grow and not resemble a Chinese crested dog: ugly, spotted, spoiled, prone to sunburn, and (mostly) useless, with occasional crests of long fluff that need clipping back.

from https://www.pinterest.com/angel117730/chinese-crested/

I can only assume that my children’s form of “playing” in the backyard (carting dirt, sand, rocks, wood chips, and yard clippings all over the lawn) is the reason the grass won’t grow. I frequently remove the clutter, and last spring I was even known to attempt vacuuming (with a little ShopVac) all of the pebbles loosely scattered around the edges of the lawn. Yes, I’m crazy. But I’m a recovering (relapsing?) perfectionist, so what can you expect?

The Dubya DIBs spread from there. First to the garden, where newly emerging carrots only remind me of the last batch that ended at about week six into their development when my son plowed through them with his preschooler shovel hands. 

And then there are the darling baby bunnies nibbling on my occasional crests of grass. I have in the past month sprayed two different eco-friendly, nature-based deterrents on the lawn to dissuade these pests from eating, burning and pretending to fertilize my lawn. Why did I even bother? Now they’re multiplying (sometimes quite graphically) right before my eyes.

From there, I scanned what’s left of the bottom step of our beautiful deck. 

The stones once acting as a retaining wall began to crumble only weeks after we moved in, and at the first sign of weakness, my children declared  the stones their own, resulting in a complete collapse of the earthen step. Now only a few supports and broken stones remain. It has been this way for over two years. 

And now to add a new twist to the pleasures of walking barefoot through crumbled stones and rock-hard grass, my son informed me today that he had just sneaked three toothpicks into the back yard and only found two again. He brightly pointed out that there is “only one” still out there. 

So the days of bare feet in a sort-of treacherous backyard are now over. How many times did I tell my son to always ask first for them and then always throw away toothpicks? And how many times did I explain what a toothpick in a foot could do? “Snap in half, remain in the foot and require surgery to get it out…” He just had to test me on that one. [I am intentionally ignoring the bright spot where he did simple math pre-kindergarten as I am not looking for bright spots; that is not a symptom of the Dubya DIBs).

Next, I scan the piles of school papers and creative artwork produced in the past two weeks. I’ve been beating back the inevitable demise of my organization system for nine months, but my kitchen is falling into the hands of pint-sized tyrants, and I don’t know why I bothered all this time to pretend I was going to save the special stuff, recycle the useless stuff, and reuse the backs of all the colorful papers announcing spirit days, lunch menus, yoga for kids and how to know if my kids were getting too little TV and too many vegetables, or some other guilt-inducing program like that.

Moving on to the front of the house, the room where children are “not allowed to play” (ha!), I see the most pathetic houseplant ever known to man, woman or child. I can’t give up on it, but the kids keep stealing leaves to feed to their “pets” when they build castles out of the furniture in the room where they are “not allowed to play.”

Look at that spindly, miserable plant. Who would keep that reminder of their failure ever in their midst? Why can’t I just throw it into the compost heap where it can do the world some good? Why do I bother watering it every week and giving back the dirt the kids dump out? If you know the movie What’s Up Doc?, then you’ll hear a nervous wreck-of-a-judge answer, “Compassion. I just have too much compassion.” But that is not a silver lining on my cloudy day. That’s just a loose association from happier times.

And speaking of houseplants, I long ago promised my daughter a pet turtle if she could keep her houseplant alive for a year. Well, “Panda” the bamboo plant is alive and well with the one year mark only one week away, but I don’t want a pet turtle. It will probably be let loose in the backyard, eat what’s left of my grass and get crushed by a giant stone when someone steps on a toothpick while rearranging the back yard some more. I should have given my daughter the spindly plant. Dah! Why do I bother offering the kids a reward when I don’t even want to follow through? 

I know this little complaining session is wearing thin everyone’s patience, but I live most of my life surrounded by insanity. It’s amazing that I’m sane after all I’ve been through.

For example, I encourage the children to explore geography by putting a vinyl map on the washing machine and handing them dry-erase markers; and instead they explore home decorating. 

Since the laundry closet doors broke (not the kids’ fault this time), I saved money by visiting a home builder’s salvage yard and finding two doors that with some paint and hardware still cost less than half of what new doors at Home Depot would cost. I was thrifty, environmentally aware, and industrious. But did I have to be so much a tree hugger that I accidentally tossed a Christmas tree into one of the doors, giving it a hole, while it waited in the garage all winter (and spring) for me to paint it? I feel like I accomplish very little, and what I do accomplish gets undone way more quickly than I can possibly compete with.

And then there is the “broken toys, books and used-to-be-a-decoration” pile. I finally put this week’s worth of playtime casualties into a box and hid it behind the fridge, along with all the other broken stuff from the past three years.

I probably scoffed or thought some judgmental little remark when I read others’ social media that smacked of “spoiled rotten lady whining about how hard life is,” but I hope I also dug deep and gave some thoughtful advice or knowing encouragement to that mama in the trenches. I feel like Jean Valjean when he turns to Fauchelevant–whom he once saved from the crushing weight of a runaway cart–and says, “Now I am the one under the cart.” 

Being a spoiled rotten mother of three amazing kids who gets to be home with them every day all day for the whole summer in a comfortable home and safe neighborhood has me feeling about as beaten down as our once luscious grass.

So what’s the secret? How do I get the spring back in my step? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure I’m already doing all the “right things.” 

One thought on “1. I Can’t Complain But Sometimes I Still Do

  1. Update: It is now less dangerous to walk barefoot in our backyard. In an answer to prayer, my oldest found the last rogue toothpick without it finding her, if you know what I mean. I asked her how in the world she found that thing, and her answer assured me that the Lord heard my pitiful prayer that it could be located (I can’t possibly put shoes on my kids for every backyard visit all summer long) without actually injuring anyone: “I looked down and it was between my baby toe and my next-to-baby toe.”


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