My Mother and Hers: Caregiving and Dementia

Grandmama and Granddaddy, 9-7-89

My grandmother was born January 24, 1905; it’s hard to say when the dementia began, but by the mid 80’s it was full blown. I always said that as the dementia advanced Grandmama got sweeter and sweeter to the point that she was just pure sugar by the time she passed away in 1994. For the last five years of her life, Grandmama lived with her youngest daughter, my mother. In this post from 2009, I recall some snippets from those last few years.

“I know someone who will take care of me,” my grandmother told us from the shelter of my mother’s arms. We’d been picking on her—trying to awaken the feisty grandmama we used to have before dementia kidnapped her. She had had about enough of our shenanigans when my mother walked through the room. Grandmama pushed herself up from her chair, walked straight to Mother, tucked her head into Mother’s shoulder, and looked back at us, triumphant.

She was right. My mother, her daughter, took care of her, loving her through the fog of memory loss. Mother loved Grandmama enough to keep her busy, despite the obvious limitations. She kept a jar of coins handy and would pour it out on the kitchen table for Grandmama. “Could you count these for me, Mother,” my mother would say to hers, “It would sure be a big help to me.” And Grandmama would set about sorting and stacking, making sure her towers of coinage were just so. Mother had Grandmama count those coins, water plants, or fold clothes because everyone needs to feel needed. Everyone needs something to do.

Mother loved Grandmama enough to bless her with beauty. On the screened-in porch where Grandmama loved to sit in her rocking chair, Mother kept flowering plants in Grandmama’s favorite colors. “Look Grandmama! Isn’t that beautiful?” we’d say, pointing to a plant she had already seen a dozen times. She would turn to look, her eyes brightening at the sight that was brand new to her. “Ewwweee! What a pretty flower! Look at those purple blooms. You know, I’ve always loved purple.” We knew.

Mother loved Grandmama enough to keep telling her story to her. “Mother, how many children did you and Daddy have?” Mother would prompt her. “Well, now, let me see. . .” Grandmama would begin, searching the faces in her memory. She loved thinking about her children, even though she didn’t really recognize their adult versions any more.

Watching Mother care for Grandmama back then, I wanted to put into words somehow my appreciation for the sacrifices she was making. (Grandmama and Granddaddy had moved in with my parents shortly before my Granddaddy died in 1989.) I wrote this poem in the early 90’s in honor of Mother, in memory of Grandmama.


In the darkness of her mind,
children blend with siblings;
reality slips into the forgotten past.
to mouth, tumble out in jumbled speech.

Alone, but not,
She searches her audience
for a sign
of understanding.

her foggy eyes
find your focus;
her life-worn frame
folds into your
familiar embrace;
the gray cloud of her mind releases showers of tears.

With firm assurance
call her in
from her private storm.

Knowing it is her greatest fear, you tell her,
(again):“You will never be alone. Never.”

And fleeting comfort shelters her.
And that is all you need.

Happy Birthday Grandmama!

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Vulnerability in the Body of Christ*

vulnerabilityWhat’s the deadline for New Year’s resolutions? I mean, are we supposed to be all resolute before the ball drops or do we have until, say, Feb. 1?

The reason I’ve not written my resolutions yet is that I really don’t know where to start. There are so very many things about me that need fixing. I need to eat more healthfully and exercise more diligently. I need to do a better job with time management. I want to read and write more. My house, my office, my car — each needs a thorough cleaning and a sustainable organization system. I need to be more committed to daily quiet time. And of course I’ll also resolve — as I do every year — to read the Bible through (I practically have Genesis memorized).

Holy moly — it’s a lot. And here’s the thing: when I look at this list, I get so overwhelmed that I want to clear off a place on my couch, curl up with an entire turtle cheesecake, and binge-watch The Golden Girls.

Of course, if I did make and manage to keep all those resolutions, I’d be perfect. Only problem? There’s no such thing as absolute perfection. I learned this in a machine shop, of all places. I was working at a community college at the time and was with a group of students who were interested in our machining major. As we toured the shop, the department chair explained to our group that students would learn to use equipment to manufacture parts that were identical to within a fraction of a millimeter. He went on to say, “Of course, no two things are exactly the same; there’s no such thing as perfection. We just get as close to that as possible.”

I was astounded! What I heard him say was: “Do your best. Don’t be careless or unprofessional. But when you’ve done your very best, be content with the result.”

Recently, I heard echoes of this ideology while reading Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly. A self-titled researcher storyteller with a Ph.D. in social work, Brown says: “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence. … [It] is not self-improvement … [or] the key to success. … Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because perfection doesn’t exist. It’s an unattainable goal.” (Maybe she is a machinist in addition to being a university professor and a world renown scholar. Just a thought.)

Brown takes issue with perfectionism because she considers it to be one of the barriers to true connection. She believes “connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” And connection, according to Brown, cannot happen if we hide behind a façade of perfection. She says that in order to form true community, to connect, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be imperfect.

That makes sense right? I mean, who wants to be around someone who (we think) is invulnerable and perfect? It’s irritating. Plus they make us nervous. Being around flawless folk causes our vulnerabilities to leak out all over the place.

So if Brown is right and we must embrace vulnerability to make real connection, what does that mean for the church? Surely we should be able to find authentic community, real connection, in the church, right?

Yes. Absolutely. I believe that God calls us into community from the Garden to the Revelation. We, the church, are the Body of Christ. How can we be the Body if we are not connected? We can’t.

The problem, though, is that too often we come to church wearing our costumes of perfection. We come with our beautiful families, our harmonious marriages, our successful careers. We know we’re wearing costumes; we sit in our cars picking the lint of shame off of them before we enter the sanctuary. What we don’t believe is that anyone else is wearing one. We believe they (whoever “they” are) have everything together. Their kids are always so well-behaved; their careers are upwardly mobile; they read through the Bible every single year. We look at them and our shame deepens and we become convinced that we have to work harder on our costumes, shine up our shields of perfection.

Let’s don’t, though, OK? Instead, let’s set aside our vain attempts at perfection. Let’s agree that each of us is broken in countless ways and let’s be OK with that. Let’s resolve to be vulnerable. Let’s be the Body of Christ.

*This piece was first published on January 11, 2015, by Baptist News Global (formerly Associated Baptist Press). I’m delighted to be associated with this great organization and am honored to be among the gifted writers and thinkers featured there. Watch for my BNG column, appearing on the second Monday of each month at

Common App Essay: Favorite Place

Please welcome guest blogger, my niece, Emma Weiss in her premier appearance here at Aileen Goes On. Emma wrote this in response to the following common app essay prompt. 

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.  What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

It took my breath away. Enjoy.

I think it’s the most refreshing in the winter. The door resists our pull, resulting in a whoosh of icy air as it finally gives and welcomes us into the warmth of the shop. We hear the familiar tinkle of the bell overhead and see familiar, easy faces smiling behind the counter. If we had to choose, I’d say my mother’s favorite barista is probably the bubbly Sophie, but I think my favorite is Max. He’s a little quieter, a little harder to read, but once you get to know him he’s an easy friend.


If it’s early enough in the day, I’ll order a mocha, maybe iced. (Black coffee scares me.) Most of the time, especially in the colder seasons, it’s the hot chocolate that I look forward to. Generally my mother will ask to run a tab so she can order more than once – sometimes it’s just a two-iced-tea kind of day. We might order a pastry, but she always reminds me under her breath that their scones aren’t as good as that one time I made the lemon cream scones for her birthday. I still think that their Nutella scone soaked for approximately five seconds in my hot chocolate is pretty hard to beat, though.

This is Spro, my favorite local coffee shop. I can count on one hand the times I’ve come here in the past three years without my mother. I’ve taken friends here, and sometimes I’ve come by myself, but it’s never the same without her bent over working across from me. We come here after the worst days, after the best days; after weeklong absences, after we were here yesterday; amidst tears of desperation and fatigue, amidst sighs of relief.

Common App Essay Power!

Emma and her mother, my sister, conquering the world, one cup of coffee at the time.

She grades, chatters about her newest teaching technique, enlists my help in planning lessons. I study, write college essays, dream about my future. She laughs aloud at the sarcastic Latin comics her students came up with; I look up from my biology textbook to tell her excitedly that the cells in our brain can message the cells in our toes. She reads books I’ve recommended to her; I read the literary magazine I finally was able to purchase from a shop down the block. She works her way through Sunday school lessons; I work my way through the queue of portraits I need to edit.

We get coffee (and hot chocolate) before my piano lesson every other Tuesday, a tradition evolving from the early days of picking up after elementary school and going straight for snacks before my brother and I had our lessons. We discuss things of huge consequence, interspersed with things that don’t really matter. We sit at our table, across from each other, together even if we don’t say anything at all.

It’s our coffee shop. It’s not that nearest Starbucks, full of busy baristas whipping out frappuccinos and getting you out of there as fast as you came in. It’s Spro, where you can watch the coffee slowly dripping through the “cold brew drip towers” in the back as you sip your English breakfast tea and listen to the warm chatter of the people sharing your experience. Time slows down, allowing for moments to settle like a blanket around you instead of their usual crashing presence. And even though we have come in from the winter chill, the first sip of milky foam at the top of my hot chocolate is a breath of fresh air.

Some people find it odd that I asked for a trip to New York with just my mother for my birthday. Some people don’t understand that I would rather spend time at my coffee shop than go to that party. But for me, our time at Spro is sacred. It is the core of our bond, the strength of our tie, an anchor that I will not for one second take for granted.

emma beating me at bananagramsEmma Weiss is a senior at Towson High School planning to attend Tufts, Brown, Haverford, or the University of Maryland in the fall. Emma loves biology, photography, and her two cats Oscar and Minerva. She has a beloved aunt whom she regularly slaughters in Bananagrams.

Visit her website or her facebook page to see her extraordinary photography.

emma beating me at bananagrams again







Another excellent response to the same prompt:

 Grace at Disney

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Meditation: Oh Come All Ye Faithful

(Since my earliest memory of Christmas music, Oh Come All Ye Faithful has been my favorite carol. I wrote this meditation on the lyrics for our 2014 Christmas Eve service. Christmas blessings to you all today and throughout the year!)O-Come-All-Ye-Faithful

Oh Come All Ye Faithful

Come with your shattered dreams, heavy hearts, and dwindling bank accounts.

Come confused, lonely, and anxious; distracted, rushed, weary.

Come you who try as you might, still fall short of your own expectations.

Come imperfect, unfinished, overwhelmed.

Come, with your diagnoses. Addiction, Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, or Asperger’s. Migraines headaches, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia. Come with ADD, OCD, PTSD.

Come! Come, Faithful, come and be . . .

Joyful and Triumphant

Joyful! Hear the good news: In Christ you are forgiven!

In Christ, you are free from the bonds of your imperfections, free to be broken, free to be beautiful.

Triumphant! Breathe; you don’t have to push yourself so hard anymore.

The race has been won! In Christ, the victory is secure.


Oh Come, ye, oh come ye

Ye who have relinquished control,

Ye who are open to the profound, transformative love of God.

Ye who accept the gift, the son of the Most High: Jesus Christ.

To Bethlehem

Bethlehem: tiny, dusty, impoverished, insignificant.

Bethlehem: where the star shines the brightest.

Bethlehem: where the story begins.

Your Bethlehem: where your story begins.

Come! And behold Him

Behold Jesus! And believe that which you behold.

Jesus! Emmanuel: God with us!

Born the king of Angels

Of all God could have given us, God gave us Jesus—the Holy Son of God—better in diapers than angels in their glory!

Oh! Come let us adore him

Together! Let’s all bring our brokenness, lay it here by the manger, at the foot of the cross.

And let’s lift our unbound hands and our open hearts. Come!

OH come let us adore him!

Images of the Kingdom of God *

“I’m going to move over here by Ruby so she can hear me,” Edna said as she stood, stepping WMU symbol from 70's Kingdom of Godover so her voice would project directly into her friend’s ear.

“How’s this?” she asked. “Can you hear me OK, Ruby?”

Ms. Ruby noticed us watching her and piped up, “Beg your pardon?”

I was attending the monthly meeting of a Woman’s Missionary Union roundtable at my church, and Ms. Edna was sharing the prayer calendar which included a brief devotion. These particular women have been meeting together for longer than anyone can remember. They share prayer concerns, pray for missionaries, take on mission projects, enjoy snacks provided by the hostess of the month, and just spend time together. I’d guess their average age is upwards of 80.

five-points-missionary-baptist-church kingdom of God

Just before boarding the church bus for GA camp, circa 1975.

As I basked in their traditions, I was taken back to my days in Girls in Action (the children’s version of WMU). The ladies spoke of Lottie Moon, and immediately I pictured the diminutive missionary who changed the face of Baptist international missions. I recalled also the women who taught me about Lottie Moon and other missionaries. I saw their smiling faces as they welcomed me into a community of belonging.

They were some of the same ones who greeted me at GAs on Wednesdays, taught my Sunday school class, led crafts at Vacation Bible School, or bandaged my scrapes at church camp. They, and others who came after them, taught me that church is a place where children are loved and friendships are made. They taught me other stuff too, of course. I learned about Adam, Noah and Abraham; Paul, John and Peter. I learned about the widow who offered Elisha a home and the one who offered Jesus her all.

Those lessons grew with me, as I read and re-read familiar stories, gaining deeper understanding over time. I’m grateful — so grateful — for the hours those volunteers put in with me and my peers. People like Elaine Hill, Marilyn Thompson, Eva Spear, and Vi Keeter gave me a picture of godliness that I readily recognize in others today.

It’s that kind of godliness I saw around that table of women last week. Like the saints in my own history, these women will be quick to tell you they’re just “sinners saved by grace.” Indeed, they — we — are human beings who trespass against others even as we fail to forgive those who trespass against us. So yes, they are imperfect; but these women take church seriously. In addition to being at church every time the doors are open, “Lord willing,” they show up around that table, month after month, year after year, decade after decade. For a couple of hours each month they share snacks and stories, recipes and remedies, hopes and hurts. They pray together — for each other and for people they’ve never met — and over time they’ve developed a community of faith that looks a little bit like the Kingdom of God.

What about you? What pictures of the Kingdom have you seen lately?

*This piece was first published on December 14, 2014, by Baptist News Global (formerly Associated Baptist Press). I’m delighted to be associated with this great organization and am honored to be among the gifted writers and thinkers featured there. Watch for my BNG column, appearing on the second Monday of each month at


An Advent Devotion: Joy Comes Home

An Advent message from the prophet Zephaniah
“Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! . . .At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.”  
                                                                                                  Zep 3:14, 20 NRSV

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On Our Way to Christmas

(an Advent Devotion I wrote originally for Asheville’s First Presbyterian Church’s Advent Devotional booklet in 1999)

1972 Chrysler Town and Country Interio

I always got the back seat. The very back seat. The one in our 1972 Chrysler Station Wagon that faced oncoming traffic. My older sister and younger brother sat in the middle seat, behind Mama on the passenger side and Daddy in the driver’s seat. The windows, fogged from the cold, made fresh drawing slates for us to sketch Christmas trees decorated with thumb prints and lined with fingernail garlands. Eight-track tapes sang Feliz Navidad, Drummer Boy, and Silent Night. Finally! We were on our way to Christmas.

It was a tradition, that trip. Almost every year, the five of us traveled great distances to be with my Mother’s family for Christmas. I got my big Raggedy Ann doll in Atlanta, my dollhouse in Tulsa, and Redhead, my very favorite doll, at home in Wilson, North Carolina. The trip was just part of Christmas.

I liked the trip. I liked my hideaway in the wayback. With Redhead and a paper sack full of books I could ride for hours reading and napping and reading some more. I liked the car games we played as a family. (I can still spot an X or a Z on a billboard a mile away!) I liked having Daddy (a Baptist pastor by trade) to ourselves with no one to minister to but us. I liked that Mother was free from her at-home responsibilities. In that station wagon we found hours of forced respite, hours of what would now be called quality time.

1972 Chrysler Town and Country Wagon

We would arrive at our destination, spill out of our car, and race to the bathroom or the fridge, whichever need was greatest. Tins of homemade goodies beckoned us to just taste one. Packages, their bows crushed from the journey, fought for a place under the tree. Hugs and laughter, “You’re it!” “Come See!” Refreshed from hours of unhurried family and private time, we were ready to celebrate!

And so it is with advent, our journey to Christmas. My prayer is that this year, I will take time to prepare my heart for the celebration of Christ. I want to curl up with the Good Book, read, rest, and read some more. This year, I want to spend the Advent season resting in Christ so that, when the time comes, I can fully celebrate Jesus’ birth.

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 
Romans 15:5-7

War on Christmas Greetings

xmasaleBack before holiday greetings came under scrutiny, it was easy. Sometimes I would say, “Merry Christmas!” More often, though, I would say, “Happy Holidays!” because it applies to the whole season: Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s. Today, if I say “Happy Holidays,” I might be accused of secularizing the sacred; but if I say “Merry Christmas,” does it sound like I’m trying to proselytize?

It all started several years ago when a few prominent retailers purportedly required employees to wish shoppers “Happy Holidays,” rather than “Merry Christmas.” These over-anxious merchants then painted over their “Merry Christmas” signs to read “Happy Holidays,” putting the kibosh on spreading Christmas cheer. Why, you ask? I don’t really know, but I can guess: money. It’s always about money. I’d bet you an elf on a shelf that this greeting adjustment was meant to increase profits by attracting shoppers of other faiths and appealing to customers who don’t identify with any religion at all.War on Christmas?

Now, I don’t know much about the retail business, but I think this decision was profoundly stupid. It’s pretty clear to me that the last person a shopkeeper wants to offend in December is someone celebrating Christmas. I mean, a high percentage—somewhere between 20 and 60 percent[1]—of all annual retail sales are attributed to Christmas buying.  Alienating these shoppers could lead to a serious financial shortfall. 

Anyway, once word of this ixnay on istmasChray got out, media moguls began enlisting Christian soldiers to fight in the War on Christmas. Pretty soon, folks from throughout Christendom—Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, you name it—were moving merry-christas-bumper-stickerbeyond theological differences to join in this holy war. Bumper stickers appeared on sedans, pickups, and hot rods saying “Keep Christ in Christmas,” or “I still Celebrate Christmas” or “It’s okay to say Merry Christmas to me.” Soon you could buy clothing, accessories, and more emblazoned with these loaded messages.

Here’s what I think.  Political correctness started as a good thing. The idea was basically, “Think about your words before you say them aloud.”  I ask you, “Who among us couldn’t benefit from that basic restraint now and then?” Like many good things though, political correctness sometimes goes too far. Take your roadside “Holiday Tree” vendor. Now, this
Christmas Tree Saleperson is in truth selling Christmas trees. I know this because I have Jewish friends; I have Muslim friends; none of them have trees up in their houses. Paying obscene prices for trees that once grew in our mountains but now stand, freshly axed from their roots, bunched together under multi-colored lights—well that behavior is singularly Christian. Wait, I take that back. I have friends who are atheists. They buy Christmas trees too. But I don’t know anyone who buys a Hanukkah pine, or a Ramadan bush. Same thing goes for wreaths. I mean really. Do we decorate for any other holiday with a wreath? No! It’s a Christmas wreath. It’s not an Arbor Day wreath. It’s not a Kwanzaa wreath. Whatcha got yourself there is a Christmas wreath, plain and simple. So if you’re a seasonal foliage pusher, call them Christmas decorations—because that’s what they are. Or call it all “Holiday Greenery” if you want—it’s your business.

That is what it is too: business. And since when was it retailers job to keep Christ in Christmas? What matters to corporations is money. So, if they are putting the name of Jesus Christ on something to make it sell, then I believe they are using God’s name in vain. Plus, I don’t know anyone who has come to a saving knowledge of Jesus because they looked up in Toys-R-Us™ and saw a “Christmas Discounts” sign; do you? (One more thing, I don’t think we can begin to guess what Jesus the Nazarene would do with this mess of affluenza and consumerism we’ve got going on in this country; but I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t want his name on it. Just sayin’.)

Once several years ago, my daughter and I were watching a Christmas movie when a Wal-Mart™ commercial aired. After advertising the prices that had just gotten lower on Christmas must-haves, they signed-off promising, “Christmas costs less at Wal-Mart™.” I winced like I do when someone uses the name of God as a swear word. My daughter looked at me and with 14 year old wisdom and said “Christmas doesn’t cost anything.”

She was right; it doesn’t—at least not in the way that commercial meant. Yet there are incalculable costs: the preparations for Christmas meals; the sacrifices we make to be with family; the practice time musicians invest in preparing annual concerts. These things can’t go in sale papers. They can’t be discounted. They can’t be put on glitzy signs in high-dollar department stores.

In order to Keep Christ in Christmas, we don’t need merchants to put the name of the holiday on their signs. Instead, we need to turn our own eyes away from the modern accoutrements of the season, and focus instead on the gift God gave us in God’s son Jesus.

Christmas Latina Angels
“Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth (which clearly includes Facebook™) Peace to All People!” Luke 2:14 (paraphrased)
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.


I published much of this content here on my blog a few years ago, but when I reviewed it recently, I found it lacking. (The original post is no longer available.) This version has been updated, edited, and completely revised.

Overcorrection = Customer Service Fail

Recently, my sister reminded me of a family story that I hadn’t thought about in years. It happened back when we were in college, working in restaurants over holidays and summer breaks. At the time, she was waiting tables in our hometown in South Carolina.

iced tea and stirring spoonNow, for those of you unfamiliar with the South, you need to know this tidbit. In South Carolina, when you order tea, it is assumed that you want your drink served over ice and—unless otherwise stated—sweet enough to pass as a dessert. It’s the rare Southerner who would choose hot tea to go with a meal. Even then, it would be requested with a touch of embarrassment or a word of explanation. “I’m coming down with a cold, you see, or I’d have the regular.” At which point, the waiter would say something like, “Oh! Bless your heart! I’ll getcha some iced tea for after you finish that stuff. No charge. You can take it to go.” In the South, iced tea is serious business, and it’s just not something you want to go messing around with . . . .

As my sister recalls, it all started because one night during the supper rush, a fella complained to the management because he had to request a spoon for his glass of sweet tea. According to him, the tea wasn’t quite sweet enough and he wanted to add more sugar. Not having a spoon readily available (and apparently unable to make do with either his knife, fork, or straw), he made quite a stinker of himself, frustrated that he was made to wait even momentarily for the required utensil. His nastiness threw the staff off kilter and made for a rotten night for everyone.

By the time the servers arrived the next day, the restaurant owner had devised a solution to this customer service conundrum. Incidentally, this was the first time in memory someone had requested more sugar for the sweet tea. Never mind that though; on to the solution.

“From now on,” the owner told the wait staff, “We will put teaspoons in each glass of tea. That will solve the problem.”

The staff just looked at her, apparently waiting for her to see the obvious flaw in the plan. She didn’t; someone spoke up.

“Well . . . umm . . . we put the spoons in the glasses of unsweetened tea so we can identify them. How will we tell them apart if we put spoons in all the glasses?”

The owner thought for a minute, came up with the answer, and said, “Okay, in the sweet tea, put one spoon. In the unsweetened tea, put two.”

“Two spoons?”

“Yes! Two spoons.”

Well, you can imagine how this played out. The first really busy night, they ran out of teaspoons early on and the plan was scrapped. Which was fine really, because the problem wasn’t the system in the first place; the problem was a grumpy man who had probably just had one inconvenience too many that day.

We always get a big laugh out of this story, but in reality, I’ve overcorrected plenty of times in my own life. Have you? Tell me about it in the comments below. I’ll be having a glass of sweet iced tea while I wait to hear from you!

A Parenting Payday

I decided a long time ago that I could either have company when my house is messy, or not have company. So one Wednesday when my youngest (leader in her high school marching band’s saxophone section) announced that she wanted to have the section come over on Friday night before the football game, I was far more concerned with what they would eat than with how my house looked.

Marching Band Saxophone QuintetStill, I wasn’t totally indifferent about the house’s condition. There are a dozen or so saxophones and many of them had never been to my house. I figured some of them had parents who are far better at the details of life than I am. I straightened up, cleaned the bathroom, swept the floors: that kind of thing. But there was still a lot that could have been done. A lot.

They arrived, I welcomed them with soft drinks, snacks, and pizza, chatted briefly with them, and then disappeared for most of their visit. The first chance I got to speak to Margaret about it was on Saturday morning.

“Hey Margaret, sorry I didn’t get to vacuum downstairs or anything before your friends arrived.

“Oh it was fine. When we were coming in, I said, ‘Sorry about the house,’ but then I opened the door and said, ‘hey wait, this isn’t too bad . . . for us. It’s usually a lot worse.’”

“Great. Lovely. Thanks for that Margaret. I’m sure they all went home telling their parents, ‘Poor Margaret has to live in squalor. Thank you mom, dad, for keeping our house so nice and tidy.’”

“Pfft,” Margaret blew off my comment. “Actually they all loved you. They were talking about how great you are. One of them said, ‘Margaret, your mom is just the coolest!’”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call a payday. As parents, we do a whole lot for which we will never receive any credit at all. Plus we are all flawed and we mess up regularly. But every now and then—during school programs, at concerts, or as we observe our kids with their friends and with other adults—we get a payday. We have a moment when we know without a doubt, despite our countless failures, somewhere along the line we have done something right. And those moments? They are absolutely priceless.

Me and my daughtersI’d love to hear about your favorite parenting payday! Comment below and tell me all about it!