Friday, November 23, 2007

Marrow and Grease

It took several rounds of shouts and grumbles and please-don’t-touch-anything-on-the-tables before the seven of us sat down to Thanksgiving dinner. Staging this feast required, of course, advance planning on my part. First the menu, then the shopping list, then the order of operations starting Wednesday afternoon.

Moments after the prayer, a certain someone knocked over a glass of ice water, which cascaded across the tablecloth toward me, soaking everything in its path. Mark told the big boys they could each have a drumstick, and they tucked in with...gusto. I was sitting by Levi and watched a field of meat crumbs spread beneath his chair.

After his second or third helping of turkey, Roscoe happily commented, “Ooh, this piece is even yummier. Was it soaking in grease on the plate?” Now you have to know that I am not a meat lover. We’ve never been vegetarian, but we rarely eat meat and I very seldom cook it, so it's a rare treat for the hungry boys, nauseating for me.

Logan affirmed, “Yeah. Grease is the best.”

Roscoe, wisely, “Well, you can’t eat just the grease. You have to have a little bit of meat in it.”

Then Levi, who had been given a wing to gnaw on, asked, “Is this bone all done?” I look over to see that he has been using his little fingers to pry the marrow out of the bone, which is now all but hollow.

Marrow on my right; to my left, the conversation on grease rages on. Mark is now chiming in. I know I am the mother of four boys, but I have limits and they have now been transgressed.

“That’s it!” I cry. “Manners, please! No more discussion of marrow or grease!”

Logan, always obedient, places one hand dramatically on his heart, stretches forth the other, and in a solemn Placido Domingo tenor, intones, “Marrow and greeeease, marrow and greeease!”

I am deeply, sincerely, unceasingly grateful for each of my five children. I am grateful for the children I have, who all are (except sweet little Haley) uncommonly rambunctious. I love peace, tranquility, and order, and they do not. They love excess and all that is quirky, unexpected, and uninhibited. They want a life of crazy and chaos. Elbows on the table, ice water pell-mell, brandishing huge turkey legs while discussing the anatomy of the carcass they’re eating.

So every day I draw and re-draw the line. Yes to tramping in and out the back door. No to putting one’s face on the plate in order to more efficiently slurp up the spaghetti. Yes to blaring a single Veggie Tales tune at full volume 32 times in a row. No to 32 dirty shirts on the bedroom floor. Yes to spreading the entire living room floor with Bionicle projects. No to leaving them there indefinitely. Yes to making cookies. No to flinging dough about with abandon.

And every day I feel sure the line is in the wrong place. I’m squelching their creativity and showering them with Nos. I should allow more expression and freedom. After all, kids outnumber moms in this place 5 to 1. This is their turf and I should dole out more support and affirmation and less restriction.

On the other hand, even crazy boys must have manners. Children need order and routine. By giving limits and systems now, I’m giving them the skills that will help them grow up to be successful adults who can manage college course loads, run households, have careers, and raise children of their own. Besides, the plan of salvation is all about the fruits and blessings of limits, consequences, and seasons of work. I’m modeling our home system on Heavenly Father’s so they can learn principles of work and accountability on the small scale.

*sigh* After our third helping of pumpkin pie (this one counted as supper), I took a long, long soak in the tub. Maybe I’m temperamentally unsuited to the family I’ve been blessed with. Maybe I would be a better mom if I played more, said yes more, ignored the meat field on the floor more often.

Maybe--maybe, maybe, maybe--it’ll all work out. Maybe I’ll draw the line between chaos and creativity, between consequences and free expression, again and again for years to come. I’ll pull the kids into a bit of order and predictability. They’ll build a counterculture of madness. But one day, maybe they’ll remember fondly the moments of craziness in their rambunctious childhoods as they sit at their executive desks gazing at a picture of their own happy, well-ordered family.


  1. You are such a talented writer, Ang.
    Remember - there must be balance in all things. I guess you are there to balance those boys out. Some day you can turn that job over to their wives.
    In the meantime, I think you're right that you just have to re-draw those lines on a regular basis.

  2. It's all about limits, Angela. You are so wise in balancing your yeses and nos. The limits give your kids the freedom to enjoy what's in the limits because they know there are boundaries. Just like the way God deals with us.

  3. I always feel so mean when I insist on saying no to my *one* child...I am so glad I'm not alone and there is a force of moms out there who also believe in boundaries and limits...

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