Even when mom is sick and feels like she is not possibly going to survive the day?
Even when everyone has been on their worst behavior ever…all at the same time?
Even when all you want is to go to the bathroom alone for once in your life?
Even when for the hundredth time you have asked someone to put their shoes away?
Yes, even then.
Because there is always going to be something in the way. There is always something else that could capture your attention. Something that competes for a mama’s embrace. Something that steals your time and leaves you with not quite enough _______ (energy, patience, compassion) as a result. Apparently in my home, the something else’s are winning. This was the conversation that transpired today in the van:
Kyler: “I not like it when you give fwats (swats) mama. It makes me so sad.”
Caleb: “I like hugs better.”
Mama: “I like hugs too, do you like hugs Rylee?”
(pause) Rylee: “You don’t hug us very much mama. You could hug us a lot more.”
Mama (silent then quietly): “Yes, I will work on that.”
How sobering to have the unabashed insight of my 6 year old. How humbling to be reminded that I need to not forget the needs for plain old lovin’ in the midst of daily life that can so easily sweep me away with it.
When they are grown and gone I want them to remember what a soft, sweet mama hug that lasts longer than you expected feels like. I don’t really care if they remember to put their shoes inside the shoe bench. I want them to know my love for them is unwavering as they conquer the path that is before them.
As I type this-close to midnight-a sleepy and sad almost 40 pound three year old sits in my lap with his arms draped around my neck. Just when I’d like 10 minutes to myself, he decided he needs a little more lovin’ tonight. Of course I could take this chance to teach him boundaries and bedtime rules and such. Or I could just enjoy the warmth of his breath on my neck and know that soon he won’t want to sit on my lap anymore.
I’ll go with the warm breath tonight in a heartbeat.
Every now and then in the trenches of mothering young children (many of them) there are sweet moments that make you step back and realize how ‘worth it’ it all is.
If I did better at recognizing the moments, I’m actually quite sure they happen more often than “every now and then”.
It’s just that the poop on the wall, the toothbrushes all lined up IN the cat litter box and the 100th request of the day for something, all these things hinder my ability to see the sweetness.
Like today, after a couple days of working out in the morning (which gave me more energy than my half pot of daily coffee intake), surviving my coffee-fast (in an effort to calm my poor stomach), by 3 PM I hit a wall (today was NO workout+NO coffee=disaster). I had been reading out loud to the older two kids for over an hour, I couldn’t believe they still wanted more and I didn’t want to say no. But I finally said, “Hang on while I make some coffee and we’ll read more!”.
I went to make coffee. But I dropped the entire canister of beans onto the kitchen floor. It was loud, the kids called out “Are you okay? What happened mom?” from their post with the book waiting for me.
“I spilled coffee beans all over and made a huge mess!” I answered.
No sooner had the words come out of my mouth then the kids both popped into the kitchen. Didn’t say a word. Both just bent down, starting scooping up beans and putting them in the sink. We worked and cleaned together. I started to thank them and wound up in tears. There is something so sweet, so precious about watching your kids respond instantly in the right way.
It’s easy to chalk up the times they get it wrong and buckle under the temptation of ‘mommy guilt’. It’s equally easy to forget to commend them when they do get it right. This coffee-bean-moment was one where we all got it right and it made my day. Despite the fact my head is pounding and I haven’t washed my hair in three? days and I’m still in my pajamas.
As I hugged them and their little chests puffed with pride, Rylee said to me “See mama, we all worked together and it got done so fast didn’t it?”.
Yes it did. And I was thankful, again, that they are here with me. Just like I was earlier today when Rylee was holding cards up and teaching Kyler his letter sounds at the table. And when I found Rylee getting Audrey all set on a chair with picture books, her favorite monkey and her lovey, “So she can have quiet reading time like me mama” she informed me.
I adore what happens every day around our table for six.
Sally Clarkson is one of my favorite mom-ish writers. In moments of desperation I have bought many kinds of parenting books. I probably have 15 or 20 at this point. Most of them have been started but not finished. It is a rare day for me to finish a book. My friend Kim gave me a one to read several years back called The Mission of Motherhood. I read it, skimmed it, didn’t really get all of it. I knew there was a great deal of rich truth in it, I just was so new to the journey and was quite possibly fairly overwhelmed with a firstborn who had significant health problems and a new baby who was extremely challenging in other ways.
About two years ago I read another one of Sally’s books, The Ministry of Motherhood. I finished it in two weeks. It resonated so much with the heart that God was beginning to develop in me for this new task of parenting. About that time someone very close to me, whose opinion mattered greatly to me, told me something I’ve not been able to forget. We were talking about a family member and another woman in our lives. She said the same thing about them both.
“They have poured themselves so much into raising their children. They have given everything they have. They haven’t made time for themselves to do other things. I wonder if they even know who they are anymore. ” But it was said with such a disapproving tone. One that communicated volumes to me. It told me that the investment they made was somehow not enough. That they needed to be also working at a ‘real job’, volunteering at church, taking up hobbies for fun, signing up for graduate school, something more. It left me feeling like I didn’t measure up to her standard and that somehow I should be able to have both worlds. Hobbies, work, volunteering, school and mothering too.
I was seriously thinking about quitting working my part time job at the time. I didn’t do it for a long time. I wanted to be able to ‘maintain my own self and life’ to ‘earn money and contribue to our finances’ and to ‘get another degree behind my name’. My marriage suffered. My kids suffered. My heart was split down the middle. Working with a needy population as a social worker. Taking care of 3 kids 4 and under. A husband in a challenging ministry position that meant our life was observed by a lot of people all the time.
I finally did quit working. When I did I felt like I let so many people down. I could not do it all. I could not have this great job and raise these sweet kids and serve at church and support my husband the way he needed me. I simply couldn’t do it. In those overwhelmed, trying-so-hard-to-live-up-to-it-all months I heard God whisper to my heart over and over…they need your whole heart, you have to let it go, trust me to provide for you, let go. This job was something I adored. It was fulfilling, I saw people’s lives changed, I could provide tangible help for them. I was proud of the 7 years I spent doing it. It broke my heart to move on.
This may seem like a big tangent from the book, but all this to say that Sally’s perspective on mothering is unique and bold in that she is not afraid to speak to the issue of mom’s being at home and raising their children. I am quite sure it has cost her, it isn’t a popular opinion. But it’s what God has spoken to her heart and it is powerful. The Mom Walk was refreshing and just the reminder my heart needed for where I am at.
If there is one area almost all mothers I have ever talked to complain about, it is how inadequate they feel to fulfill their roles as good mothers…There are so many standards they feel they must live up to….Our teeth should be white, our bodies tight and sleek, our clothes ever hip. Our house must be straight, organized and decorated as perfectly as a Pottery Barn catalog home. Nutritious homemade meals should be an every night affair. Reading to our intellectual children should be a daily habit after we’ve hosted stimulating devotionals….this is a recipe for discouragement and depression.
When I am accepting the limitations of my life and learning to dance through each day because of the joy I have from being accepted by God, my attitude helps fill their cups and make them feel that they are a part of a happy home…it sets a tone of love and joy in my home that feeds their own hearts with life and love.
Goodness, this has gotten too long. All this to say, it’s taken four children but I am learning to let go and to walk confidently in the role God’s given me for this season. I didn’t apply for grad school, I didn’t keep working at the job I loved, I didn’t keep giving of my time at church, I didn’t limit God’s plan for our family to include two children like I thought I wanted to, I didn’t pursue new hobbies or even keep up with old ones, I didn’t keep slaving away in efforts at top notch cleanliness, I didn’t do a lot of things I felt great pressure to do.
But I am doing the things I’m supposed to be doing right now. I am spending my days with four energetic little loves that amaze me and bless me and exhaust me. I am loving my husband the best I know how. I am trying to simply love and bring life to whatever people cross my path every day.
The books I’ve read of Sally’s are the most written in, loved ones on my shelf. They speak deeply to my heart. They have encouraged and equipped me to do what I am doing right now…trying to get wild crazy boys to sleep without biting their heads off in the process. Choosing relationships with my children over rigid rules is a overriding theme in her books and it’s one that is continually shaping the way I interact with my kids.
Sally’s blog is always a blessing too, it can be found here.