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I’m tired. Last night my oldest child “A” decided (at 9pm) that she needed a great costume for her school tableau today. Her teacher said jeans and a t-shirt would work. But apparently that wasn’t good enough for A. She gets hyper focused on a project and if and when it goes off the rails, so does she. She finally let me put her to bed at 10. Then she heard a noise downstairs around 11. Out of a dead sleep, I had to go down and check it out to reassure her so she could go back to sleep. Midnight. I’m woken up by her trying to sneak into my room, probably because she wanted to sleep with me.

Fast forward to 6am today. I wake up because she’s in the hallway outside of my room, again working on her costume. No point in trying to go back to sleep. I lay there and think about last night. Family Home Evening went surprisingly well. The girls liked the activity I planned and actually joined in without whining or leaving the room repeatedly, like they usually do. This was followed by a visit to the park where A tried to teach her younger sister “B,” aged 9, how to ride a bike. B is a developmentally delayed child who is afraid to have anyone let go of the bike. I often wonder if she’ll ever learn to ride.

As I lay there, I ponder how A was very sweet at times with B. She came up with little word games and encouraged her. She wasn’t going to give up until B learned to ride. Then when B wanted to give up, A screamed at her. I finally convinced A to back off and let B do her own thing. We went home and I tried, and failed, to loosen a nut on B’s bike so I could put training wheels on it. I’m just not handy, and don’t have the right tools. I made a mental note to text the home teacher (or minister, now, I guess) to see if he could help me with this.

I say my prayers, read my scriptures, and envision myself remaining calm during what is usually a storm as the girls get ready for school. A will most likely say something nasty to her sisters or me. One or both of the other girls would most likely not like the fruit I prepared and have a tantrum. B will dawdle getting dressed so she will have to rush through getting her backpack ready. A will refuse to read scriptures. I need to be mentally prepared to handle it appropriately. “I’m calm. I’m zen-like. I can do this,” is my mantra.

We get through breakfast without too much difficulty, mainly because A is upstairs having a fit away from the rest of us. She comes down and screams at me as she heads out the door to catch the bus. Her sisters have already left. I’m alone with my thoughts. I’m tired. I feel like a failure. I get dressed and go for my usual morning walk.

I walk and pray. “Why do I have this child? I think you sent her to the wrong mom. Why don’t I have a husband to partner with and to have my back when this happens?” My list goes on and on. I cry and plead and whine with Heavenly Father. He’s used to this. It’s my daily morning ritual. After the tears, I can think and walk. As usual, nature and the spirit give me some perspective. I find my sense of humor again. I walk. Slowly, because I’m tired.

I stop and text my home teacher (minister) and ask him for help with the bike. He texts back almost immediately, willing to help. Halleluiah! I mean, I could probably go and buy a tool that would work and figure it out myself, but I just get plain sick and tired of always having to do stuff like that myself. Isn’t mowing the lawn and shoveling snow enough? Sheesh. I take a deep breath and try to get a grip again. I keep walking.

I mentally go over my to-do check list. I have papers to grade. I need to decide if I want to go to that work conference. I worry about money. Laundry needs to be put away. I haven’t dusted in a while. A’s tableau is at school tonight. How much will she freak out about her costume again before we go? I remember that my sister is coming into town for a few days and I smile. She always knows how to make me laugh. She has difficult kids too. We can joke about them. I walk a bit faster now. I decide that a hot bath and a Target run are in order. And maybe some dark chocolate and diet Coke. The papers will still be there to grade when I get done.

I feel a bit better. I reflect on how I’ve heard prophets and apostles refer to their mothers as “angel mothers” and how I can’t relate. I feel more like a weird hybrid. Part angel, part devil, mostly flawed human. Every morning I pray for patience, and every night I pray for forgiveness. I make a lot of mistakes and wonder just how much I’m messing my kids up. Will they grow up traumatized or just damaged enough to need a good therapist? I’m doing my best, I tell myself. And I remember the many priesthood blessings I’ve received over the years. In every single one, Heavenly Father has told me how much He loved me and that he is happy with my efforts.

I am grateful for that knowledge. I am grateful for my home teachers (ministers) who give me blessings and bring over tools when I need them, and visiting teachers (ministerettes?) who are always offering to take the girls off my hands for a while or listen to me complain about how hard life is, for a relief society president that leaves candy and sweet notes on my doorstop because she “gets it.” I’m grateful for a bishopric that had a dinner just for single sisters, which demonstrated to me that they are aware of us, want to get to know us better, and care about us. I’m grateful for a sister that makes me laugh and is always just a text or phone call away. I’m grateful for a mom that takes the girls so I can get out of town occasionally. I’m grateful for that sister in the ward who texts from time to time and says “Can I come get your girls to play with mine for a few hours?”

This is my row to hoe. This is my circus and these are my monkeys. I didn’t grow up planning on being a single mom (especially not to a strong-willed child!), but this is my life. And when I open my eyes and look around (or just go on Facebook) I see that there are many other ladies struggling, working hard, sometimes feeling like they’re failing, but getting up again every day, and doing it all over again.

So I raise my diet Coke and my dark chocolate to you, my sister single mothers! You are doing the most difficult, most important job of your life, and you’re doing it on your own (with a little help from your friends)! I salute you, I pray for you, I love you, I understand you. May you remember how completely and totally awesome you are on this Mother’s Day!