The Stump.

It was a tough day.  I left work completely spent, an emotional second to last day on the job.

But it was only 3pm and I still had about 5 hours of time with my son before I’d have any time to decompress.  Our first argument was before we even got through our block and a half walk home from school.  I dragged his backpack, he said.  He was walking too slowly, I said.

He needed pants for his upcoming first T-ball practice.  Heading to the local discount retailer was the last thing I wanted to do, but it was necessary.  When they didn’t even have the pants we needed, I could have cried.

I thought grabbing a quick dinner would ease the burden of the evening, but it didn’t.  My six year old acted like a three year old.  He talked nonstop, he spilled my coffee by knocking into the table and then cried about it.  He barely ate. We got the check and left, but not before taking his free cookie that came with his meal which he lamented wasn’t as good as if he’d gotten a muffin.  I tried not to call him ungrateful out loud but I failed.

Store number two on the quest for pants was successful, but only if success is measured by the acquisition of pants.

Bedtime brought more tears.  His tears stemmed from my asking him to clean up his things.  He decided I was yelling at him.  I honestly wasn’t, but I’m sure my tone by the third request to get up the stairs wasn’t exactly perky.

My tears were from reading The Giving Tree.  Somehow the book only gets requested when I’m at my limit.  The tree keeps on giving until she is just a stump and then she gives her stump, too. Tonight, I’m already down to my trunk.

Every evening, after all six of Nathan’s night lights are turned on and he’s still afraid of the dark, I stand by him and hold his hand as he drifts off.  Tonight he pulled my hand in close to his chest, clutching it like a stuffed animal. His arm was wrapped around my wrist and tucked under his chin.  I waited and watched his eyes flutter.  I felt his warm breath on me, slowing down, in and out.  His body relaxed and he was asleep.  I kissed his cheek, then reclaimed my arm as my own.

He will rest.  It will be quiet and I will rest, too.  My spirit will rest.  Tomorrow, my sweet boy will wake.  He will hug and kiss me.  Then he will whine and complain and be six.  He will wear me out.  And at the end of the day I will hold his hand as he sinks into another restful slumber, feeling his breath on my arm.  I will kiss him softly before sneaking out of the room.

I’ll keep giving.  If it’s what he needs, I’ll be the stump.

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49 Responses to “The Stump.”

  1. This just brought me to tears… Sometimes I think parenting is the hardest job and just when we think we can’t go one more step, they show us we can (even if we didn’t want to)

    • It’s amazing how far we can push. But if he didn’t go to sleep and give me a chance to recharge, I’m pretty sure I’d go even more insane than I already am!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!!

  2. Kristin says:

    I’m so torn about The Giving Tree. I HATE that she is so taken-advantage-of, and yet – I know I would do, am doing, have done the same for my children. I haven’t been as loving about it all the time, however.

    Lovely. Enjoy the rest of your one day off, Lovely!

    • I’m not always loving about it either. Many a night I silently curse that he can’t fall asleep alone, that all I want to do is go sit down, that I am just done. But the nights when I don’t put him to bed, I do miss it and that time to connect with him.

      It’s amazing the parts of parenting I wasn’t ready for and didn’t even know it.

      And now I’m off to go do day off stuff! :)

    • Erin O says:

      You just described every night with my daughter, and my mixed emotions about it. Of course you said it better than I could :)

  3. Stacie says:

    I think all of us parents feel like the stump at times. I know I do! Well done, as always. The ending is perfect.

  4. Dana says:

    He must know, intuitively, when you need to read that book. He may not know it intellectually, but he feels it. I envy you the chance to be the stump for someone, no matter how difficult it is. It’s a beautiful thing.

  5. christie says:

    Michelle, how do they know? I’m serious, how do they know? I have another book about mommies and hugs and they pick it out the second I am at the end of my rope. Or they want me to sing Amazing Grace, which gets caught in my throat. Or they want the diarrhea song when I need some cheering up. IN any case, you write about this so perfectly– the frustration, the love, the hurry, and anguish, the exquisiteness of stumphood. It really is something else.

  6. Jenny Leigh says:

    I have experienced so many of these days, most recently yesterday with my oldest who is 11. I guess all parents do. I always end up feeling sad and guilty at the end of the day when they go to sleep, because no matter how trying the day has been, they look so peaceful sleeping that it’s hard to remember what made our day difficult.

  7. Joe says:

    Don’t go stumpy just yet. They grow up to be teenagers and then they tug at the roots.

  8. Marcy says:

    Lovely piece. I have two teenagers. When they don’t need you anymore can be hard in a different way.

  9. i feel like this at least once a week. you put it into words beautifully. and i hate the giving tree. maybe i too identify too much with the stump but i hope my kids are never that selfish and ungrateful.

    • I think being selfish and ungrateful is such a big part of being a kid. They just don’t know any better. Having said that… when I was a kid, no one took me out to dinner and I sure as hell didn’t get a free cookie with my meal. And if I dared complain about what I got, well, we won’t talk about that!

  10. Robbie K says:

    One of my favorite books and I’ve had many many nights where i am barely a stump myself. Hope the next day was much better.

  11. Love this and love that book. It’s such a bittersweet read, isn’t it? I think most moms have to be the stump…again and again and again and again. While I’m all for doing things for ourselves and celebrating and taking “breaks,” no matter what help or rest we get, there is so much of a need for us to give more. And more. And more. It’s painful, but like that breath on your arm, so sweet.

    • I think it’s such a big part of motherhood. And I think the kids do need us to give of ourselves unconditionally. We can’t hold grudges, we can’t stay mad. We have to keep loving them even if they are pains in the asses every single day. I do believe it’s worth it, too.

  12. Ericamos says:

    Such a sweet story. You’re a great mom. I don’t have any kids of my own yet, but as a teacher, I can imagine how trying it can be. I loved how you related it to The Giving Tree.

    • I certainly have tons of respect for teachers. You have to be nice to the kids and they aren’t even yours AND you have a whole bunch of them potentially acting out at the same time. I couldn’t do it, I barely have the patience for one.

  13. This is brilliant and insightful and true. Trying so hard not to use those words like “ungrateful” but sometimes slipping out, not being able to block out the whining and the loud talking that’s not quite yelling, and then loving them as they drift off to sleep. This is such an honest slice of parenthood, and stunning writing.

    • Thanks Ilene. I think that what gets me is that I really don’t have all the patience I need sometimes for things that aren’t really bad behavior, just irritating. After a long day, when I need a break from life, never mind my kid, and he pushes, it just gets to be too much sometimes. But yes, we love them anyway and maybe even a little because of it.

  14. I am SO ENVIOUS that you have a kid just starting t-ball! Oh Michelle, t-ball is so full of joy and humor and cuteness and things you’ll never see at the higher levels of baseball, like kids running the basepaths in the wrong direction or taking off their shoes in the outfield. I hope you get a kick out of it, and that you’ll write about it some!

    • Louise, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m loving watching T-ball! We aren’t really a sports family, but Nathan is getting really into it. It’s funny to catch him practicing his swing in the field and punching his glove to get ready for the next batter. All of the kids are really cute actually!

  15. I want to hire you someone to spend the night so you can go to a hotel and get a solid night’s sleep!

  16. christina says:

    oh Michelle!! that damn book is too much. :)

  17. From one stump to another, I loved this post. :-)

  18. Man I’m there along with you but with a 2 year old. You get exasperated but wouldnt trade it for the world. Stumps and all.

    • I was exasperated when he was 2, but for entirely different reasons. It’s funny that as he grows, the things that make me crazy change, but yet and still I’m still crazy.

  19. Kianwi says:

    Oh, that book is such a heart twister! As was your post :) I felt all of your feelings as a I read it. Now I want to kiss that boy on the top of his head :)

  20. IASoupMama says:

    Oh, love… I am a stump by the end of the night, too. And overnight as the twins are still waking at least once a night and they’ll be two in two weeks.

    For me, it’s the book “Mars Needs Moms” because the main character is a blond boy names Milo who admits that he loves his mom. And I have a blond boy names Milo who requests this book when he knows he’s pushed me past stump-dom. I cry every time…

    • I don’t know what I’d do if the kid was named Nathan! You have a whole bunch of kiddos to wear you down too. I give you a lot of credit!! Nathan still wakes up frequently. The night I wrote this, he had one night terror and was up 3 more times, and sadly this isn’t unusual. But I deal, because really, what else can I do?

  21. This post is so lovely. You are such a great mom. I hope that your day off and first days on the job were absolutely great. I’ve been thinking about you!

  22. cynk says:

    I’ve never read “The Giving Tree.” Your post has inspired me to (grab a box of hankies and) check out the book from the library this weekend.

  23. Meg says:

    My husband gave me a copy of The Giving Tree the Mothers Day before our first child was born. I love tha place in a mothers heart you write this from.

  24. Linda Roy says:

    Simply wonderful. I have a just turned seven year old and you so perfectly expressed how it is to mother a six year old from those endearing, loving, quiet moments to the way it can change on a dime and turn to frustration when they act like six year olds. I love your analogy of the tree and the line “right now I’m down to my trunk”.

    • It’s funny about 6 year old. He is so much more mature in many moments, but then all of a sudden he’s worse than a 2 year old! I don’t get it, it’s like he’s possessed or something! I look forward to the days when rational thought happens more often than crazy. I don’t know when THAT will be though!

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