I've followed Karen Edmisten's blog for several years. I find her funny, upbeat, and real.
Quite a while back Karen posted "Forty Reasons to Have Kids," a light-hearted response to a book articulating forty reasons not to have kids. Karen's reasons ranged from the delights of baby toes to the thrill of childbirth. I found the pointed and on-going stream of comments to her piece illuminating. Many people, of course, concurred with her assessment of motherhood; while without a doubt challenging, motherhood is chock full of delights both expected and surprising. Karen's detractors did not surprise me in their vehemence, but did surprise me in that many (though certainly not all) rallied around a single criticism: Motherhood is inherently selfish.
Interesting thought, that.
I fully intended to pen a post full of poignant memories and pithy quotes relating all the joys of motherhood. At this precise moment, however, I've got nothing.
It's been a trying week for a number of reasons.
While I love, love, love summer vacation, it takes a week of adjustment to establish two essential principles that make for a peaceful summer. First, summer does not mean 104 days of electronics from dawn until dusk. Second, your brother is a member of the human race and will be treated as such.
We're also adjusting to the heat. It's been unseasonably hot. Yes, I live in Georgia. A typical high in early June is 88 degrees; We've been hovering around 95.
We've encountered an unrelated series of unfortunate events that are simply part and parcel of life with kids. Dave fixed the oft broken screened door. As he was screwing it back in place, Dave asked Kolbe to hold the frame steady. Kolbe missed the frame by an inch or so and - you guessed it - put his hand right through the new screen.
After a fun day at the pool, we were about to sit down to a late dinner. Kolbe and Tim were scrounging for silverware and napkins. I turned to answer the phone. John, who instinctively knows when he is unsupervised, dumped milk into everyone's spaghetti. Not one to be wasteful, what he couldn't fit into the bowls, he sent cascading onto the floor. I would relate my response to this event, but it would require excessive use of the shift key and the special characters on the top row. I'm just not that nimble a typist.
Sunday was The Perfect Storm. Dave had to go into work unexpectedly. John resisted his nap with such vehemence that I finally said uncle. I dabbled with a new and tricky software package that cooperated little better John. In the middle of this, the phone rang. A neighbor was calling to ask Tim to return a Boy Scout merit badge handbook he had borrowed. Not a problem, I assured our neighbor. I had seen Tim reading it earlier in the day. Tim threw on his shoes and was going to grab the handbook. It was nowhere to be found.
We looked in the usual places and then moved to the unexpected places. No luck. We moved furniture, rifled through bookshelves, sifted through the recycling, and searched the van. No book.
I found my frustration and blood pressure mounting with each cushion we overturned and each drawer we searched. In the blink of an eye, this was no longer about a missing handbook. The whole event came to symbolize a life out of control. We searched for an hour to no avail. The book's absence somehow screamed: You are one disorganized, unreliable mess.
I found myself bawling.
This was not a first edition of Gone With the Wind, overdue tax forms, or a missing term paper. It was a $3.95 pamphlet that could be replaced by the following morning. Logic and reason had no place in my fit.
Eventually baseball practice was upon us, so we abandoned the fruitless search and off we went. I stopped by Sonic to load up on malts and slushies as a peace offering to my poor kids who had to witness their mother dissemble into a raging maniac.
Later, as I was putting something in John's closet, I looked down and there was the elusive handbook.
I would love to insert a meaningful conclusion at this point, a kernel of wisdom that puts these trials in perspective. At the moment, that's beyond me.
All of the above might just reinforce the strongly held beliefs of those who choose to be child-free. That may be a good thing because indeed this vocation is not for the faint of heart.
I wanted this life. I wanted these kids. I prayed and fasted for them. I took fertility drugs! In the face of all that, motherhood remains the hardest thing I've ever done. By far.
Now, I don't have eight or ten kids, I have never had multiples, and, by God's grace, we have not faced physical disabilities. I wake up every morning to the run-of-the-mill start the laundry, sling some hash, load up the van, off to the pool, umpire the shouting match, change the diaper, kiss the boo-boo, read the story, et cetera, et cetera. It is typically exhausting, sometimes mind-numbingly boring, always constant. Inherently selfish? Not from my vantage point.
Let me say unequivocally that motherhood is also all those things that Karen articulated so beautifully. Just as daily life around here is full of messes and irritations, it is also teeming with moments of grace.
Cuddling a nursing baby. Placing my hand on Ainsley's cheek and feeling her tiny hand rest on mine.
Hearing my two-year-old come up to me and say, "I have a secret," and then lean into my ear and lisp, "I wove you!"
Opening my eight-year-old's writing journal and finding he has written "I love my Mom and Dad" on the inside cover.
Watching my twelve-year-old play with his baby brother and sister and then tell me he hopes we have another one.
My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day ended. John came into our bed in the middle of the night. I rubbed his soft cheek and felt the warmth of a brewing fever. He cried and then said in his sweet toddler voice, "Dwy ma tears, Mama."
Yes, it can be exhausting, boring, and constant. In its own imperfect way, it is also joyful, enriching, and blessed.
With coffee in hand and Tylenol at the ready, I move forward to embrace another day of it.