Tuesday, June 23, 2015

on mothering


The house is quiet. J is at the other end, down past the kitchen, which is where I expect the house to end, but stretching beyond is more house: the fourth bedroom, or in our case family room, a bathroom, and the utility/mud room. Ainsleigh is asleep. B is curled up next to me. Awake, but quiet. He asked to start out in our bed. I said no, but after thirty-five minutes of listening to him playing in the hall I told him he could come in so he doesn't wake Ainsleigh up (for the second time this evening).

It's been a long, hot day. June is typically a cool, rainy month here, but this year it's hot, more like August than June. The kids get up so early we often hit 1-2:00 in the afternoon and don't know what to do. This afternoon I took the kids to the park, which was miserable for me, but B really wanted to go and I'm trying to make his requests matter.

I read something once about how a day is not just mine, how it's the kids too. That idea lodged itself in my mind. I haven't been able to shake it loose. When I get frustrated, when I yell at the kids, when I stare at the toys strewn on every surface and feel like I just want my house back I tell myself, "it's their day too. It's their house too. It's their life too."

Yesterday B wanted to paint. He wandered into the bathroom I was cleaning with paint all over his hands. I said, "Buddy! Really all over your hands?!" And then I stopped. I listened to what he was saying: "Look Mama, look at the color I made in my hands! With paint! I mixed it in my hands! Now come, come with me, I'm going to add another color ..." And instead of getting frustrated with him for painting his hands I let myself be excited with him. I put down my cleaning supplies and followed him to the dining room so he could show me what he was working on.

It's really hard for me to do that.

Do you ever feel like being a mother isn't your best you? Or like it brings out the worst in you? Like all of your selfishness, and how easily you get frustrated, and how you like your world a certain way and when it gets disrupted you get a little shouty rises to the top, and so a lot of days you're short, or exhausted, or snappy with the kids ....

I spend a lot of my time thinking I should be better. More. Kinder. Calmer.

I worry that my kids won't remember the park days. Or the paint on their hands. Or playing store in their play house. I worry that they'll remember me getting frustrated with them for pulling the hall runner into the living room to hide under.

I feel like I should be better at mothering than I am because I buried my first child. Shouldn't losing an experience so important - the tenderness of raising a first born without an overhanging shadow of grief and loss - and the fact that I had a chance of missing out on mothering a live child automatically make me a better mother?

I honestly thought it worked that way. I thought the overwhelming gratitude would make me different, would alter the way I parent my living children somehow. Like the valves of frustration and selfishness in my heart would permanently shut down when B and Ains were born, and be replaced by a gushing well of gratitude.

I am grateful. But I'm also human. And some days I'm more human than others.

I want to love my kids well. I want them to have happy days. I want them to know they are loved just as much when they put their dishes in the sink without being asked to as when they spill paint all over the floor I just scrubbed.

I've been trying to say yes more. Like tonight. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to read a book and be by myself for a while, but B wanted to be with me. So I said yes, and within moments he was asleep next to me. It's hard to be so needed all the time, especially since I don't feel like I'm meeting everyone's needs very well, but saying yes now will lead to benefits when B and Ains are 10, 12, 15, 18 ...

No one told me parenting would be this difficult, and emotionally taxing. They said I would lose sleep. They said it would go quickly. They said it would be fun. They said it would make me cry. But no one told me how overwhelming it is to be one of a pair responsible for building a child up and creating a home of love, encouragement, and reliant faith.

That's why we have Jesus though, right? To help ease the burden, to show us how to love, to be an example of parenthood that we can use to help shape how we interact with our children. Even when I fail in loving my kids well there is opportunity for growth and enrichment because they get to hear me say sorry, and ask for their forgiveness.

I'm not a perfect mother, but I am the perfect mother for them. B and Ains were always meant to be mine. I hope I treat that concept with as much reverence as it deserves. I hope to do better this summer. I want to engage more, say yes more, and be kinder. In September B will be 4, and in October Ains will be 2! These fast moving years are sweet; I don't want to waste them, or miss out on fun because I'm too busy ordering my world. Their days matter as much as mine does. Their time is important. They are helping me become a better mother as they love me with full, forgiving hearts. They are teaching me how they need to be loved. 

Losing the opportunity to raise Charlotte did not make me a perfect mother to my living children, but it did teach me how to find joy in the chaos. Even when my hall rug is in the living room, and every dish from the lower drawers are strewn across the kitchen floor, and the bathroom faucet is running even though no one is in the bathroom, and there are sticky, red, strawberry scented hand prints on doorways and windows there is no where I would rather be. I hope my kids know that. I hope they know they are my joy, and that I'll always love them. 

3 comments:

  1. My oldest will be 18 soon, made my faire share of mistakes with especially being a VERY young mom with no help. I spent so many nights beating my self up for not being a perfect mommy but you know what he does not choose to remember all the times I was stressed out he remember the good times and the good things I did. Why I asked myself? I don't know for sure but tI think maybe it's because I am still here, still loving him still making mistakes and still able to say I'm sorry please forgive me...Trust me that's hard to say to a seventeen year old:) Our kids do not perfect parents they just need us to keep loving them to keep helping them to keep being humble when we mess up. Beautiful Post, your a good mommy!

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  2. I loved this. I've followed you for a long while, ever since you posted on my blog after we lost our son Job. I recently found a program that has really spoken to me in this season of mothering, and as I read your post tonight, I thought you might at least love the blog. The program it's self is amazing, as is the peace circle group you can join. These ladies are doing the hard work to really treasure life, and you are right there too... just thought of you.... http://www.abundantmama.com/abundant-mama-project/

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thank you!

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