Virtual Voices

Finish the race

Family

Some people are great starters and some are great finishers. A garage filled with half-done projects, a bedside table stacked with half-read books, and a school shelf stuffed with half-completed curriculums bears witness to which of these I am. I won't even mention the new running gear sitting idle in my closet.

I say that because, for finish-challenged folk like me, any long-term task is a struggle. Which stinks because, as a mom, I happen to hold one of the most long-term jobs currently available. Someone should have told me. If I were a marathoner, aka a finisher, it might be easier, but I'm not. I'm a sprinter. If I set out to teach my kids Latin and they can't conjugate three verbs and decline four nouns by day end, chances are, I quit. Thus, the stuffed garage and the pile of books.

Spring break is a tease for people like me who bolt out of the gate in August but are spent by Christmastime. It's a trailer to the upcoming feature called Summer, which is still an agonizing two school-filled months from debuting. Testing, Eagle Scout projects, final theater productions, research papers-are still ahead. I'm limping along at mile 24.5 of the 2010-11 school marathon facing a huge hill and plumb out of Jelly Belly Sports Beans.

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Maybe that's why I read last month's Atlantic magazine with only muted interest. The headline that initially caught my eye-"The Great Mom vs. Mom Debate"-lived up to its promise, the debate being added to this time by Sandra Tsing Loh and Caitlin Flanagan, who chime in with their thoughts on controversial Tiger Mother Amy Chua. Loh takes the "I give up" path: "We mothers teach what we know, and this is the same sloppy, low-impact way I do drafts as a writer. (I follow the old writer's chestnut: 'When you face writer's block, just lower your standards and keep going.')" Meanwhile, Flanagan says the real reason moms are rattled by Chua is that the "good mothers" (as opposed to Tiger Mothers) know they can't be "nice" and get their kids to perform at Ivy League standards.

To which I say, Amy Chua, I am so, so over both you and the mommy wars you represent.

The moms I know, including myself, thrown into the race with nary a hamstring stretch to prepare us, are running the race of motherhood the best we can. Once in a great while we book along at a 6-minute mile (a pace Chua can apparently keep ad infinitum), other times we're sucking wind. Most days we're clocking about an 11-minute mile, occasionally tripping and falling into the brambles, brushing ourselves off, pulling the stickers out of our knees, and determinedly cheering ourselves on toward that great "finish" line (you define it-end of the school year? . . . graduation? . . . bedtime?).

Aesop said, "Slow and steady wins the race."

It goes against my sprinting mentality, but I hope he's right. Winning the race means a lot of things, but for me, right now, it means simply crossing the finish line, hopefully without puking on the side of the road.

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.

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