Tell the truth.

“Ezra, did you wash your hands for dinner yet?” I asked last night.

“MmmmHmmmm.”

“Ez, look me in the eye and tell me if you washed your hands… No, look me in the eyes, not the forehead, and tell me if you washed your hands.”

“Oh man.  I really wanted to get away with that one.”

Ezra loves to lie.  Or more precisely, he loves to see how much untruth he can get away with and what he has to do to sell the story. Which details are too much? How much should he laugh at his own jokes?  What kinds of facial expressions help or hurt his cause?  (I regularly catch him practicing those expressions in the mirror, trying on several different versions of surprise or sorrow.)

Given how similar Ezra and I are, and given my new blogging habit, I’ve been thinking a lot about telling the truth.

It’s hard to tell the truth about your life.  It’s especially hard to tell the truth about parenting.  You can be really witty and “honest” and talk about how hard it is.  But you’ve got to do it in a way that makes people think that you are actually a really great parent.  If not, people will cringe and judge you.   And by people, of course, I mean me.

But what if you’re not a really great parent?  Or what if you are a decent parent, but you’re not so crazy about parenting?  What if your kids really aren’t all that charming or interesting or kind?  What if you’re just an average, broken but hopeful parent with average, broken but lovable kids?  Is that worth writing about?

What if you really hate homeschooling, but you think you should do it anyway? Should  you say that aloud?

I can’t tell you the number of new mothers who have asked me over the years, “Why didn’t anyone tell me how awful this is?”

To which I always say, “I told you.”

“But I thought you were kidding.”

“Nope.  I wasn’t kidding.  I told you I wasn’t kidding.  But you like me and think I’m a decent person, so you didn’t believe me.”

Over the last week, some people have written to say, “Great blog.  But there must be some high moments too, right?”

Others, people who know me better, have written or called to say, “How come you come off sounding like such a good mom?  It sounds like you’re not so great at homeschooling, but are otherwise wonderful.  Too wonderful.”

Both critiques — that it’s too dour and that it’s too flattering — are right.  And they are both tough to get around.

The whole truth is tough to capture.  Because while it’s true that I had about 40 minutes (spread throughout the week) of nearly pure joy while teaching the boys, my overall feeling was one of dread.

I hadn’t felt that kind of dread since my first husband Scott died.  Real dread. The kind that had me in bed on Wednesday morning wondering if I could just take a little Lorazepam to help me get through the day.  Given that level of dread, should I write about the 4o minutes of joy?  Would that give a more or less accurate picture of the week?

And while it’s true that I keep an ever watchful eye on my image, never wanting to write anything that will put either me or my kids in too bad a light, it’s also true that I am actually wonderfully wonderful.

OK.  No I’m not.  But it’s a rule of essay writing that the reader has to like the writer.  So I make myself more likable here than I really am.  Just ask my husband.

I’ve made peace with that.  When you come here, you’ll get a glimpse of our life that’s both more and less wonderful, and more and less difficult, than our actual life. Which is the best version of telling the truth I can do.

And if you want to use this space to tell us about how awful it is for you to parent or be a parent or have your particular kids, have at it.  And if you want to make yourself look a little better than you really are, have at that too.

Go ahead.  Tell the truth.

  • Jeff Barneson

    So Tara just wrote, "I make myself more likable here than I really am. Just ask my husband" and I had to think about it for minute. I've gotta be careful here, she's in the bed right beside me… But for my money I'd say it slightly differently.

    While it IS true that I usually think about her in a sort of – "Gee! And I'm married to her!" way after I read something that Tara has written, I'm not concerned about her writing misrepresenting something. Rather, it seems to tap something in her – maybe this is true for all real writers – that is most deeply true. To hold back for the sake of some pre-deconstructionist view of the truth would be a big loss – for me especially. I'm a BIG fan of the likable Tara!

  • Andy

    I see an "Operating Instructions"- ish book in the making here. How the heck do you just spit this stuff out? And pop the pills if you need 'em. Better living through chemistry is my mantra. But you knew that already.

  • Lisa

    Ahhh, Lorazepam.

  • Marilyn

    "…But what if you’re not a really great parent? Or what if you are a decent parent, but you’re not so crazy about parenting? What if your kids really aren’t all that charming or interesting or kind? What if you’re just an average, broken but hopeful parent with average, broken but lovable kids? Is that worth writing about?…"

    Tara, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" It is Yes! because you are precious in His sight. It is Yes! because He has chosen you to raise His precious boys. It is Yes! because He desires to make your feet like hind's feet so that you can walk on your high places. (Take a look at Hab 3:19 in the Amplified — it is AWESOME!) It is Yes! because before He formed you in the womb He knew you, and before you were born He consecrated you. (Jer 1:5) It is Yes! because His eyes saw your unformed substance; and in His book were all written the days that were ordained for you, when as yet there was not one of them. (Ps 139:16) And most preciously, it is Yes! because He has loved you with an everlasting love and therefore He has drawn you with lovingkindness. (Jer 31:3)

    He will not abandon you. And while my current struggles are not the same as yours, I understand the cries. We all have struggles. And none of us is perfect. And we all choose our own way. And we all live broken lives of imperfection.

    But what God says is that we have eternal value and we matter to Him. He even saves all our tears in bottles. (although I have no idea why.) Our stories are all about His working in our lives. Taking our shame and transforming it into His glory.

    Your work is precious, though hard. He empowers you. He upholds you — HE holds YOU — His job, His part. You won't fail. Though the vision tarry, wait for it. (Hab 2:2-3)


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