There is a story that is told of an Apache grandfather who was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me; it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, and pride. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person too.” The grandchildren thought about the story for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The grandfather’s simple reply was, “The one you feed.”
When I consider this perspective, I wonder if anything in my daily life could be considered mundane. It seems that everything I choose to do will feed either one wolf or the other, giving great meaning to all of my daily decisions. I will encounter situations where more exertion is needed to see past feelings that inhibit my nurturing of others or my ability to maintain hope amidst challenges. But this “parable of the wolves” is a liberating and ennobling reminder that I get to consciously fill my days with meaning, love, gentleness, forgiveness, growth, strength, compassion and anything else that is good. I get to do this, not because there are no alternatives, after all, there are two wolves, not one. I am the one who chooses which one to feed, and those around me will know by my actions, at any given moment, what my choice has been. I may get caught up in certain situations, temporarily feeding the wrong wolf, but catching and correcting myself is a powerful, daily practice that leads to a more steady perspective and the constant development of a much stronger good wolf. ~ Seeing the Everyday
I read this on a Facebook post today. The other day, Ryan asked me, "Mom, was English your best subject? I have some homework that I need help with."
Ryan had to read a story and identify the different parts, plot, theme and conflict. He had to write whether the conflict was internal or external. The story was about a boy who was at his grandfather's house. He was helping him pack because he was moving. The house had become too much for him to take care of and needed a smaller place. The boy was very upset about this move. He didn't want his grandfather to leave the house. It was the only home that he knew his grandfather to live in. The boy even offered to move in with the grandfather so that he could stay in his house. At the end, the grandfather explained to the boy that change can be hard but sometimes it is necessary.
Ryan and I talked about the story. We talked about why it was an internal conflict. He identified the theme that "change can be hard but sometimes necessary" and we talked about this story, I thought about my own internal conflict that I have been grappling with. That question of: When is the right time for the stay-at-home mom to return to work?
I've been home since I had Ryan. Ryan's birthday is in January. Shannon was not quite four and Timmy was not quite two when I went on maternity leave with Ryan. I actually started my maternity leave earlier than expected because Chris had thrown his back out so bad that he could not get out of bed one morning. I was nine months pregnant and there he was, stuck in bed. I ended up calling an ambulance that morning and he had surgery the next day. It was December 11th. I remember this because it was the three month anniversary of 9/11 and there was a moment of silence on the radio as I followed Chris in the ambulance. I was going to continue to work until Christmas break, but there was no way I was going to be able to work with a husband in the hospital, two small children, a third one on the way any moment with no family around to help. It was a very good friend of mine that helped me through that time. She and I taught second grade together and she was the one that took care of all my sub plans. Even though I had everything set-up for my maternity leave, she helped the sub get through those weeks before break that were not planned for. She is the one that came over to my house, climbed up on the ladder in the garage and searched through the boxes to find the tree lights and the stockings. I told her I didn't need anything else, but if we could have at the very least, lights on our bare tree and stockings for Santa to fill, then we would be good. She then moved the ladder into the family room and proceeded to put the lights up on our tree.
So that is pretty much how I exited teaching full time. I did return back to the classroom to finish out the year. I worked full time for April, May, and June with three kids under the age of four and decided that I needed to be at home. I was and still am fortunate enough that I had a choice.
Change is hard but sometimes necessary.
So now fast forward 12 years...wow, how did that happen. I thought I would be back to working by now, well, let me get this right, I thought I would be working outside the home by now. I grapple with this. It is my internal conflict and then this morning I read about the two wolves. Lately I have been overwhelmed with this mom job I got going on right now, nothing unique, nothing different than any other mom, I am no different. But we are entering into new territory, my oldest has a driving permit, she is a sophomore and the work load at school has increased tremendously. I have two years left of all my children being under one roof...two. And the questions swirl above my head of how to guide and support my kids through this next stage of motherhood. They all say it's about balance, whoever "they" are, trying to find the balance between giving them more independence but still knowing where they are and who they are with, without being a helicopter mom. Finding a balance between helping and guiding them with homework and letting them figure things out on their own. Finding the balance between having them talk to their teachers on their own and knowing when to step in as a parent.
I'm finding these middle school and high school years to be harder than any of those infant/toddler years. Two am, rocking a hungry baby in your arms on the couch with some Nick at Nite show on the TV hoping that they go back to sleep or sitting at the kitchen counter at that 2 am hour helping a 15 year old with history homework and actually being asked to think at this hour about why the world ended up the way that it did and why some societies are the "haves" and others are the "have nots" and make it sound coherent...give me a hungry baby and some Nick at Nite please.
Lately, I've been feeding the wrong wolf, the wolf with fear and sorrow and resentment and guilt, oh, so much mom guilt. And I ask myself why? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we feel guilty all the time. If I go back to work, I'll feel guilty about not being there for the kids, but now staying at home, I feel guilty that I'm not contributing financially to our family and we have college quickly, quickly approaching. If I continue to stay at home, I need to start feeding the second wolf, the one with joy, peace, love, hope and the rest of those good things. Lately, I've been feeding the wrong wolf and missing the moment in front of me.
Then, this morning I found this. I follow young adult author John Green on Facebook. I've read two of his books and Fault in Our Stars is being made into a movie which will be coming out in June, 2014. He talks about his life 12 years ago ( ah, me too) and putting things into perspective (hmm, still working on that). In 12 years from now, what will future me think about the decisions present me is making now?Present me thinks that "12 year ago" me made the right decision to stay home. Now, to just figure out where I'm going from here.
I remember watching Harvey as a kid, probably on a lazy Sunday afternoon with my mom. I think I'll have to get myself a copy.
And the funny thing about the wolf story...last night I was at a parent meeting for our new middle school that my kids will go to next year. The principal announced that our mascot will be the Timberwolves. Maybe I'll share the wolf story with her. Don't we want our middle schoolers feeding the kind and compassionate wolf in themselves? I know she feeds her kind wolf, because she would climb up a ladder in a cold garage in December in search of Christmas stocking for two little ones so that they could hang them up for Santa.