Linda Eyre, who co-authored the New York Times bestseller Teaching Your Children Values, has nine children. She knows that although no mother plans to be a witch, there are times when every mother does a terrific job of playing the part.
In her reassuring and hilarious report on being a mother in today's hectic world, Linda honestly describes not only the vital importance and magnificent moments of motherhood, but also those days when mothers feel they are living in a Roadrunner cartoon that never ends. She shares her own experiences with managing unmanageable schedules, coping with mealtime chaos, trying to find time for herself, and the sometimes desperate measures and compromises that are necessary to get it all done (and even then, not always). Whether offering advice on streamlining your life, coping with the martyr syndrome, or ignoring the outrageous demands of toddlers and teens with serenity and grace (or not), Linda Eyre speaks with the voice of experience.
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About the Author
LINDA AND RICHARD EYRE'S Teaching Your Children Values if the first parenting book to reach the #1 spot on the New York Times Book Review bestseller list since Dr. Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care.
RICHARD, a Havard-trained management consultant, and LINDA, a musician and teacher, have advocated strong families and balanced life styles in major national media ranging from "Oprah" and "Donahue" to "The 700 Club" and from The Washington Post to USA Today, as well as through their international parent's cooperative organization, HOMEBASE, and as the hosts of the national cable TV show "Families Are Forever."
The Eyres, who were named by President Reagan during the 1980s to direct the White House Conference on Children and Parents, live with their nine children in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Washington, D.C.
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I Didn'T Plan To Be A WitchAnd Other Surprises Of A Joyful Mother
By Linda Eyre
FiresideCopyright © 1996 Linda Eyre
All right reserved.
I Didn't Plan to Be a Witch!
I always thought that I was going to be the perfect mom. After all, I had seen perfect moms on TV and in the movies all my life. Visions danced in my head of happy, giggling children . . . little girls with curly hair tied up with flamboyant bows that just matched their dresses, which I had made for them with my own hands, and clean, well-mannered little boys with knickers, suspenders, and bow ties and freckledfaced impish grins. Images of mothers who were in control and sympathetic, and had a warm smile and a sensible solution for every problem, made mothering seem fun and exciting. I could hardly wait to be the beaming mother in the audience, watching MY children perform.
Knowing that I wanted a large family, and armed with my two favorite quotes on the fridge-"No success can compensate for failure in the home,' from David 0. McKay, and, "The greatest work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home," from Harold B. Lee-I launched into my mothering career.
I remembered sensing the need for some adjustments in my thinking one day as I tried to cut out a dress pattern for our three-year-old as she busily dumped out the straight pins and cut up the other pattern pieces with the scissors. After a few years, I gave up sewing altogether, except in cases of absolute emergency.
Those little boys'impish grins actually turned out to be mischievous
ones. My visions of fun did not include a neighbor calling me and saying, "Drop the phone! Your little boys are out on the roof!" Keeping them clean, let alone bow-tied, was about as likely as Mother Teresa marrying Saddam Hussein.
Years went by, and I actually got used to the surprise that I was not the perfect mother I had envisioned. In fact, there were lots of moments when I resembled the Wicked Witch who dropped in and crashed the party at Sleeping Beauty's house. I'm not talking about the abuse kind of witchhood, but the kind of witchhood that arrives after a hard day full of pressures and worries and frustrations when some child or husband says something that is the one "last straw" that drives you over the edge. I keep thinking that I will get over these witch attacks, but even though I must admit that they are happening less often, I'm still susceptible. Look in with me at a day last week that led up to my most recent attack.
It was one of those days when I could have used a sweatshirt with a red-blinking, battery-operated "ON OVERLOAD" sign on the front. That would have helped everybody concerned. The past few days had been grueling. We had made ten TV shows in Dallas the day before. After finishing the last one, Richard headed for New York and I dashed to the airport to see if I could get home soon enough to hear the last half of our senior, Jonah's, final a capella concert at the high school. He hadn't thought to mention that it was happening until we were on our way out the door. Still, it was the last a capella performance in his high school career and I was determined that I, the mother who prided herself on being at every kid's performance, could get there before the final curtain fell.
After being preoccupied all day with whether or not I could make it, I was relieved when the plane left on time. I knew that I was going to make it, confident that I could still catch the last half hour, until we landed and then sat on the runway for some mysterious reason for half an hour while I despised the airline and wrung my hands. In a panic, I dashed past the baggage claim on a dead run, thinking I'd come back later for my bag. When I got to the high school, after having broken the speed limit and screeched around the final corner to the school, the last five kids in choir uniform were just leaving the auditorium. A combination of guilt, nostalgia, stress, and exhaustion enveloped me like a blanket and I cried like a baby all the way back to the airport to get my bag. And all the way home. By the time Jonah saw me, I was a basket case. My eyes were red and puffy, and my face felt like a balloon about to pop. "I'm so sorry," I blubbered. "I tried so hard!"
"Mom," Jonah quickly assured me, "don't worry. It's not that bad! The kids were there. Don't cry. It scares me. You never cry. Really, I know I'm still your first priority. Everything's okay!" Jonah's a great kid. I was supposed to make him feel better, and instead he had comforted me.
The next day was also full of demands. My anxiety level peaked that afternoon. By 5:00 P.M., I needed to shop for and prepare a birthday dinner for Jonah. By 6:00, I had to leave to give a speech. This was Jonah's momentous birthday: number eighteen. In retrospect, I don't know why this birthday seemed so important. He didn't plan to start drinking, and I wasn't worried about the draft, but eighteen just sounded so significant. It was probably more crucial to me than it was to him, in light of having just missed his concert the night before, worrying about his upcoming graduation and the inevitable leaving home for college in just a few months.
In addition, the following day was the Science Fair at the elementary school, and Eli had come home from school declaring that this was the moment he had to have chemicals to make "slime" for his project. Charity was also insisting that she needed feathers as part of her demonstration on the difficulty of cleaning up oil spills. To make matters worse, Charity's flute lesson was at 4:00 P.M.. As I dropped her off on my way to the store with Eli, she reminded me that she had practiced every day that week and that I needed to remember to get her the mint chocolate chip ice cream that was to be the reward I'd promised for consistent practice that week. She also reminded me for the twelfth time that, in addition to the feathers, she needed Jolly Ranchers candy to give as rewards for the children and parents who came to see her science exhibit the next day. I assured her that I would get everything.
I waved good-bye and whipped over to the grocery store, sent Eli to the specialty store for the slime chemicals and the feathers, and dashed around the supermarket like I was in a Laurel and Hardy movie in fast forward. Hoping that I wouldn't meet anybody I knew, I threw canned chicken, broccoli, mayo, and cream of chicken soup in the basket, to make some semblance of Jonah's favorite dinner-chicken divan. At the last second, I whizzed past the freezer case and luckily remembered the ice cream.
Eli had found the slime chemicals, but couldn't find any feathers. In desperation, I decided to slit open a feather pillow when I got home. By the time I threw the casserole in the oven and finished frosting the cake, I realized I was thirty minutes late to pick up Charity from her lesson. Richard was out of town and my other two possible drivers were unavailable. The party was in fifteen minutes and counting.
With visions of Charity crying on the curb, I broke the speed limit again and screeched into the driveway of the house where she takes flute lessons. I was relieved to see her looking happy. As she hopped in with excitement on her face, her first words were: "Did you get the Jolly Ranchers?" My relief turned to horror! Now what you have to understand here is that patience is not one of Charity's greatest gifts. She thinks that everything she wants is just as important as getting a mother in labor to the hospital before she has the baby in the car. When the look on my face told her that I didn't have them, she burst into tears and sputtered and wailed that she absolutely had to have those Jolly Ranchers I tried to out-yell her ravings, telling her that I could get them in the morning before she had to set up her science project, and that she couldn't possibly know all the things I had to do in the next fifteen minutes. She continued howling and refusing to admit anything except that she didn't have what she needed . . . right now.
Suddenly, something happened. I snapped. It was like putting the jumper cables on the wrong bolts while trying to jump-start a car. There was a hiss and a sizzle and a flash of fireworks, like the giant burst of a Fourth of July sparkler. I screamed with the sort of uninhibited abandon I hadn't experienced since I was last on a roller coaster in high school. Before I realized what was coming out of my mouth, my eyes widened with rage and I yelled: "YOU CAN'T HAVE ANY JOLLY RANCHERS! YOU CAN'T HAVE ANY JOLLY RANCHERS! YOU ABSOLUTELY CANNOT HAVE ANY JOLLY RANCHERS." It scared me. I had really lost it.
The unusual desperation in my voice pulled Charity up short. She stopped her commotion and looked at me with amazement and horror, suddenly realizing that I had gone over the edge. Truly, her mother was the Wicked Witch of the West! I took advantage of the silence and loudly began to sputter out my frustrations. "Your unrelenting impatience is driving me over the wall. I can't stand listening to your constant demands for what you want. Life doesn't work that way. You have simply got to learn you can't have everything you want exactly when you want it!" I screamed. She started crying again, a little softer. By the time we got home, I was feeling ashamed of losing my cool. Even though I knew that my righteous indignation was justified and that what I had said was right and needed to be said, it was totally the wrong way to say it.
Still sniffling in the back seat, Charity looked destroyed. I began explaining to her my problems: earnestly, I told her about missing Jonah's concert, being late for the birthday dinner, and trying to remember everything. She actually became interested in my tale of woe. Reasoning worked. I told her I was sorry, and she forgave me. She told me she was sorry too. The birthday dinner was the shortest in family history, but it was okay. Jonah was late, too. No, I didn't plan to be a witch. But there are just times when I do a magnificent job of playing the part.
To me, the fascinating thing about motherhood is that it is truly a refiner's fire. Years ago, I had the opportunity to go through a pottery factory. There we saw beautiful creations in lovely earthen shades of clay, with graceful and varied shapes and curves, just before they went into the firing process. In fact, they were so lovely as they were that I asked a craftsman nearby, whose hands were the same color as the pot he was working on, why they need to be fired at all.
"Oh gosh," he replied, trying not to show his disdain for my ignorance, "if we didn't fire them, they would lose their durability and strength and fall apart very quickly. The least bump, not to mention time itself, would simply crumble them away. The firing makes the pots strong and durable and gives them a special luster inside and out." His eyes gleamed as he held up a fine example.
How true this is of motherhood! We start our mothering careers as rather ordinary-looking clay pots with varied shapes and curves-and march directly into the refiner's fire. The fire, however, is not a onetime process but an ongoing one. Every experience that helps us to be a little more compassionate, a little more patient, a little more understanding, is a burst of fire that refines us and leaves us a little more purified. The more we filter, strain, and purge through the experiences of our lives, the more refined we become. Of course, a fire can either give luster, depth, and strength, or it can burn and destroy. How well we use the heat is the key.
One summer I had an opportunity to meet several close friends whom I hadn't seen since high school and college roommate days, before any of us had children. Several children later, having been through not just childbirth but the everyday refiner's fire, these friends had a special luster... something indescribable and intangible and yet very real. That fire can make us more patient and understanding, able to handle near-impossible situations sometimes with grace, sometimes with disgrace, but always with added insight and understanding.
Looking back at the crises just described, I know that years ago, I would have fallen apart when I discovered that Jonah had not given us any notice on the time or date of his concert, or taken a total guilt trip that we had procrastinated in preparing the science projects. After years of refining, I've learned to handle a ton of interruptions, disappointments, and frustrations before I fall apart. Yet crumble I still do. But through the fire of experience, I also have learned to forgive myself and say I'm sorry, and actually to be glad for the added wisdom and insight into the next witch attack.
Just as I continue to be surprised that those visions of motherhood described at the beginning of this chapter did not turn out as I had planned, the best part is that reality is actually better. B. H. Roberts, a wonderful philosopher, said it well: "There is no progression in passing from ease to ease." My children make me be a better person-sometimes against my will. And the struggle with witchhood is part of the deal. I can't say that I rejoice in my afflictions, but I wouldn't give them back for all the witch's brew in the world. Motherhood is the greatest joy of my life!
Copyright © 1988, 1996 by Linda Eyre
Excerpted from I Didn'T Plan To Be A Witch by Linda Eyre Copyright © 1996 by Linda Eyre. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I think the best thing about this book is that Ms. Eyre isn't afraid to share her failures and she has a great sense of humor. It is hard to admit, as mothers, that we have bad days where we yell or we use the t.v. as a babysitter or that we weren't kind. But knowing that we aren't alone makes it a little easier to admit mistakes and to try again. And being able to laugh at the trials of motherhood makes the process a lot more enjoyable. This is the part that I need to work on!! Mostly this book makes me feel encouraged to keep on doing my best and to make more effort to enjoy the journey.