Story of My Life

I cried Monday morning in yoga.

Not bawling crying, not ugly crying — but a tear did roll down my cheek as I lay in shavasana.

Dang pigeon pose.

Pigeon pose is a hip opener pose. We stayed in it for an extremely long time Monday morning, and we went really deep. Hips are where we allegedly store our emotions and when you open up your hips it is not uncommon for emotion to come out.

And come out it did.  I cried. About German Chocolate Cake.

See Chad had requested a German Chocolate Cake for his birthday dinner and I took his request seriously. I wanted the real deal. No boxed mixes with store bought frosting. I wanted to make the cake and frosting from scratch. I wanted a fancy 3 tiered, layered, cake platter, kind of cake.  I wanted Chad to know I loved him, was willing to spend time on him, and I wanted to develop talents and learn something new.

So I called my amazing baking friend, and she gave me her recipe.  We talked 2 to 3 times over the course of the week as I had questions about the recipe. My friend warned me the cake was very time consuming and expensive, but I decided Chad was worth it.

Next I gathered the ingredients and supplies.  The recipe called specifically for cake flour and german chocolate.  I had to go to two different stores to find what I needed.  I borrowed 3 cake rounds from my sister and dug out my sifter from the back corners of my pantry.

Sunday morning came and I went to baking. This recipe was legit.  The kind of recipe where you beat well after each egg, sift the dry ingredients, and alternate the flour and buttermilk as you slowly mix them in.  I traced and cut parchment paper and carefully poured the batter into the cake rounds. To make the frosting, I separated egg yolks from their whites and chopped pecans.  I stirred diligently to make sure I didn’t turn the frosting into scrambled egss with pecans.

After the cakes were baked and cooled, I assembled them on one of my cake plates.  I frosted with much care and precision.  The gooey frosting oozed between the layers.  I was so excited for Chad to try his cake.

cake

I couldn’t wait for the first bite and reap the rewards of my efforts. I gathered my family around as if I were cutting a wedding cake, and I served the first piece to Chad.  Then I took a nibble.

What the #@?!?!>?&#?

Although the frosting was super yummy, the cake was drier than dry.  And I am not exaggerating or downplaying my awesomeness.  In fact, my kind, loving, sweet sister even called the cake “crazy dry” because she is so thoughtful like that.  No one in the room said much and they didn’t have to.  I knew the cake did not turn out like I had hoped.

When we got home my husband tried to make me feel better and tell me how much the cake meant to him.  He recognized all the time and effort that I had put into the cake for him. My desire to make this complicated recipe showed him that I loved him. But in the end, the cake was not good.

I was super disappointed.

So the next morning in yoga, I cried about German Chocolate Cake.

I cried about my German Chocolate Cake because the failed cake feels like the story of my life:

The story where my efforts do not equal the results.

Where you work your buns off, do more than you have to, for what?

Where you do your best for the right reasons but don’t get the outcome you hoped for.

Like when you …

Faithfully participate in a 90 day health challenge to only lose 5 pounds.

Go to yoga 5 days a week for 8 months to still not be able to do a chatarunga properly without going to your knees.

Put lots of time and creativity into a wedding reception just to have it rained out and blown away.

Spend extra time on making a meeting nice just to be judged for your work.

And right now the real kick in the gut is my children.  It feels like I have put so much time and energy into helping, teaching, mentoring, listening, and understanding.  But I have not had the outcomes I hoped for.

My favorite example is when I made Elle homemade, green shamrock waffles for St. Patrick’s Day when she was little.  I put in the effort and expected excitement and gratitude.  Instead she came down the stairs and screamed, “I want quesadillas!”  Here I thought I was being a good mom.

My more current example is my son’s manners.  I have spent hours teaching, training, modeling, encouraging, and nagging Crew about his table manners.  Heck, I even have 20 Table Manner lessons on my blog.  But guess what?  He still eats like a pig — both hands, no napkin, food hanging out of his mouth, crumbs everywhere. Many dinners I feel like screaming and sometimes I do.  It is not because he makes me look bad or because I am an uptight, neat freak.  (Trust me, to see him eat is to understand my frustration.) It is because I am trying to help him and I don’t know what else to do.  I have done all I can do but haven’t seen any improvement.

This disappointment expands from everything to chores, to morning routine, to fighting, to Christmas presents, to FHE lessons, to vacations, to you name it.  I put in the time and effort and don’t get the results I hope for.

I cried in yoga that morning because I have this crazy belief that effort should equal outcome and it doesn’t always.

And on a much deeper level, I realize that, despite my efforts, my children might not choose my religion, my values, my beliefs. They might not choose college, or families, or service. They might choose to live a very different lifestyle than the one I hope for them. They are their own people who get to make their own choices. They will turn out the way they want to turn out.  I am only a guide.

And it feels a little hopeless at time.  Pointless.  Like why do I do what I do when it really doesn’t matter much anyway.  I am seeing more and more that children come as they are and there is only so much we as parents can do. Sometimes I want to give up and not try as hard.  Sometimes I just want to stay in bed and let them eat sugar cereal, watch TV all day, and fail school.

But this morning as I lay in shavasana a tear rolled down my cheek again.  Yes, we had done major pigeon poses again, and this time I understood the failed German Chocolate Cake more clearly.

I remembered I put the time and effort into the fancy cake because I wanted Chad to know that I love him.  That was my goal, and despite the taste of the cake, that goal was met.  Chad knew I loved him.

So it is with my children — they might not turn out like I hope; they might chose another path; they might majorly screw up; they might not listen to a thing I say — but they will know, from my efforts, that I love them.

So I’ve decided that, in my case, effort doesn’t equal outcome; effort equals love.

I will continue to teach, train, hug, snuggle, discipline, and remind because I love them.  I will continue to come up with new routines, new lessons, new methods, new ideas, and new strategies in parenting because I love them. I will continue to try to provide healthy meals and help them with their education despite complaints because I love them.

I will keep trying with my children because I love them, not because anything I do actually works.

(I am going to try that German Chocolate Cake recipe again this weekend, by the way, because I also know how to get up when I fall.)

 

 

 

 

 

16 Comments
  1. This post must have been difficult to write, but thank you so much for taking a chance and sharing it! I think our society pushes the “more effort = more success” idea very strongly, and then judges people’s worth by that yardstick. I’m grateful for the voices speaking out against that assumption, because it reminds me a) to not judge others by their “success” and b) to be kinder to myself when I have the same experiences you’ve had.

    And also, as a former rebellious child and massive parental headache myself, I just want to say that though you may not see the fruits of your labors right now, they’ll come out eventually. ^_^

  2. And hey, atleast the cake looks delicious 🙂 I have a killer good and easy chocolate cake recipe if you want to use that cake recipe with your frosting. It would be amazing!

  3. Oh Tiffany! My heart aches for you. And let me assure you, when those children are adults (like mid twenties, as ‘us’ kids are to our parents now), you’ll be as proud as punch and you’ll see the effort of all the work you and Chad did. Now, you’re in the trenches, but over time, you’ll see you won the war. They might still frustrate the HECK out of you, but everywhere they go, they will be a testament to their upbringing.

    One day, Crew will have a GF and his manners will come – he’ll know what he’s meant to do, as his mother has faithfully given him everything he needs to know, even if he’s not implemented it (sort of like when kids miraculously can read after silence for so many attempts).

    And every once in a while, if they do eat sugar cereal, you stay in bed, and they watch TV, every one will be better for the break in routine. You will have lost one small battle, but the war will not be over. And after days of it, I know they’d wish for their friends, and school (if not a healthy diet, sometimes… that sugar is like a stranglehold!!)

    It is all worth it. Now, before and into the future.

  4. Wow, this is an awesome post. Thank you for sharing this. I have felt this feeling often but didn’t know how to put words to it. Now I know how to put words to it: EFFORT = LOVE!
    Thank you!

  5. I wasn’t doing yoga, and yet I cried as I read your “Story of My Life”….. not for the German Chocolate Cake…. I’ve got that one mastered if I do say so myself. I cried because I could relate to putting so much effort into raising your kids and then having to let them make their own choices (dang that Agency thing). As some of mine are making alternative choices…. I guess I was blaming myself…. thinking I could have done something different…. but you are so wise to realize even now when your kids are so little…. they get to pick their own path. Thanks for the post.

  6. Thanks for the insights Tiffany. My heart has felt some of the same concerns lately about my children and myself as a parent. Our children will ultimately choose their own path (just as we have) and learn lessons of life. Parenthood has sharply pointed out the irony of agency to me. I have intense, playful, bright, loud children who I have tried to mold (maybe force)to act in a way I am more comfortable with. I have never felt good about trying to “change” them, I too only want to guide. It is refreshing to hear your thoughts on efforts equating to love and not being tied to an outcome. We live in such a “satisfaction guaranteed” type society. If you are not fully satisfied then just call in for and exchange or full refund(obviously not applicable with parenthood:). Outcomes are so volatile, love is so steady (especially a mother’s love). Thanks for so poetically penning a bigger picture here! Your posts continue to strike a meaningful and uplifting chord in my life.

  7. Tiffany if you give up, then there is no hope for the rest of us.:) We need you to still use all your efforts because so many other children benefit from it too! Love the point of this post. You have inspired me to put more effort into my own mothering, so thank you! Keep up the fight!

    I was thinking too, how do you see the reverse effect of effort? Some people put in little effort and succeed. It drives me crazy. 🙂 Like Luke not caring about his pine wood derby car, barely getting it done and he gets 2nd! What did he learn from that?

  8. I just discovered your blog, and I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your post. I have five children of my own, and I can relate to being SO frustrated when things don’t turn out the way that you want them to after so much effort. But, I am learning that these things take time – so much time – and effort – and prayer – and hope (lots of hope) – that things will eventually turn out OK. Some days I have felt like I am getting nowhere – even going backwards. But, then, other times, I look at how far my kids have come, and what they are becoming as they grow and learn to apply those things that I have spent years trying to teach them, and I realize that they are going to be just fine. They may make mistakes.They may choose to disobey. They may do lots of things that I wish they wouldn’t do – but sometimes mistakes allow us to learn. And, when I take a step back from the daily trenches and look at the bigger picture, I am reminded that their transformation from caterpillar to butterfly happens on their own timetable, and sometimes I just need to be patient. I can tell that you are such a great mom, and have no doubt that your kids are going to turn out just fine. Keep up the great work! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Wow, Tiffany, You have written MY life story here as well! I have been hung up on the theme of “outcomes” for over a year now, marveling how, again and again in the lives of almost every parent I know, the outcomes of their efforts do not match their efforts! At all! In my more discouraged moments it almost seems like a rip-off–not “fair” at all. The rest of the time, I just marvel about how universal this experience is, even among striving (“deliberate”) parents. What I love about your post, though, is that you find some sense in it all… at least a reason to continue striving even when we have evidence to suggest that the outcomes will likely not be what we were hoping for. Your cake story teaches the lesson perfectly. And, fwiw, Crew always demonstrates perfect manners around me. (I haven’t eaten a meal with him though 😉

  10. Just happened on your site and read this. So needed this reminder and I’m super happy to know that others sometimes get caught in the effort = outcome. Here’s to getting back up after we fall and knowing that effort = love!