I’ve felt rather sheepish having a post that complains about an unplanned vacation on my front page for so long. I have had days when I’ve stumbled upon a blog where a mom shares her sadness over her children’s absence. These are often days when I have abandoned my increasingly philistine ways and entered into the social media banter as means of escaping ennui or frustrating. Or just escaping period because I am on the verge of running away, and I figure running away to a virtual world is better than hopping in the minivan and driving to who-knows-where-anywhere-but-here.
So I find this blogging mama, and she says she misses the finger smudges, the noise, the messes, the pandemonium when her kids are at school or are older and just out of the house more. I know how she’s feeling because I’ve certainly been that mom before. I really do miss those things when I am miraculously able to escape from it all. But sometimes the blogging mama’s saccharine sweet sentiments irk me because at the moment I am reading them I would give anything for Five Minutes’ Peace. I’m not greedy. I don’t need a trip to paradise. I just want a solo trip to the bathroom. Interestingly, one of my besties texted me while I was hanging at the Raleigh airport and wrote something about trying to just enjoy using the potty all alone. That was nice.
When I do have a break, I am always amazed by how little time alone I need to refill. And I am fortunate to get more breaks than many since the grandparents aren’t too far and when I was on bed rest, I hired a reliable babysitter. ( Unfortunately, she is graduating in May.)
It is odd, but I’ll be gone for not even an hour or Thomas will be napping and the older kids will be having a special sleepover at the grandparents, and I really do miss the noise, the hugs, the peals of laughter, and even sometimes the tsunamis of emotion crashing through our home. I tell myself I will be a calmer mom when the loud kids return. I will embrace the laughter, the screeching, even the fighting, but I usually don’t. Just as it takes very little time for me to start missing my kids when they’re away and to grow all sentimental, it takes me equally as quick sometimes to feel a little overwhelmed by it all.
And I’ve got to get something off my chest: I don’t really ever miss the messes or the cleaning up of those messes. I know in theory I am one day supposed to miss the crushed Kix on the kitchen floor, the apple cores flushed down the toilet that leave it hopelessly clogged, and the stickers that end up clinging to the kitchen floor for their dear life. But, sorry, I just don’t see myself missing all that much. While I will miss the people behind those messes, the messes themselves can go their sweet, merry way, and I doubt they’ll be mourned over one iota.
The ice has returned to the South, so we’re all cozy in the home. I am not apart from the family this time. Nope, we’re all packed into Sardinesville. We’ve had sweet moments, making homemade Valentines, eating freshly baked banana bread from the oven, but right now one child is trying to knit beside me while another is thrusting an odoriferous foot in her face. Baths are overrated.
I remember feeling like the hotel room was too quiet and just wanting to be home. I hated not knowing when I’d return and worrying how everyone was holding up. I came home to discover everyone had survived (thrived!) in my absence, but they missed me, too. Yes, my homecoming after the snowpocalypse was very sweet. The girls were still up and very happy to see me. My 6-year-old had made me a “welcome home” sign with big, colorful crayon letters on a bright blue piece of construction paper. Thomas (2) was already asleep when I arrived home, but he woke up in the middle of the night and found me in
my husband and my his bed and was delighted to see me. It was good to be home.
But I woke up my first night back with a snotty nose that turned into a nasty cold. Congestion kept me up at night all week, and kids woke me up early. Sibling squabbles disrupted my thoughts. I tried to read or write or pray, but children quickly found me. I’ve noticed they don’t interrupt my husband as much when he’s playing the guitar, reading, or working on the computer, but they’re far less tolerant of Mom taking a break. They expect me to be available to them, and I haven’t been the greatest at setting boundaries.
Back when I was in the hotel, I texted dear Rachel and told her how I kept trying to pray (take advantage of these long stretches of silence, my wise inner voice advised), but it was useless. It was almost as if I needed a child tugging on my jeans or tattling on a dreadful offense a sibling committed to pray. “My life is a prayer, you know?” I texted.
“Yes, I do know!” she texted back.
When we’re in the thick of it, mothering is tough. When we are away from our families or we outgrow the hands-on, physically exhausting demands of motherhood, we feel wistful. I’ve written about this before, but motherhood is an extricable double helix of heartache and happiness, gain and loss, frustration and satisfaction.
But as my two daughters throw books at one another pining for my attention (look at me not that blasted laptop! look at me, Mommy! Negative attention at its finest), and my 4-year-old tugs on my hair and asks if she can take a picture of the hairdo she’s giving me, I feel more frustration than satisfaction.
So I take a deep breath and say a prayer for patience – a prayer I did not need when I was alone with my thoughts and a good book.
There was no school today even though this morning there was only the percussing of cold rain against the windowpane. Sleet came later. I had plans to get a lot accomplished before the winter storm advisory, so my to-dos are falling by the wayside. My agenda has changed. I am not a doer right now; I am at a beauty salon. I am available to a throng of antsy kids.
My 4-year-old just cocks her head to the side and examines my locks, “I did something else that looks a little more beautiful. Can I take a picture?” she asks.
“Look, Mommy,” she shows me the picture of the back of my hair, which is nothing short of a ragamuffin mess, but she looks at it approvingly.
My 9-year-old takes the banana bread out of the oven. “Looks good,” she comments.
The sweet smell fills the kitchen. My 4-year-old runs her fingers through strands of my hair, which feels good. I say a quick prayer of thanks.
Truthfully, there’s been a lot more praying since I’ve been home.
Motherhood, I thought, when I first held my baby was going to be about me raising children, guiding them, helping them, and maybe molding them just a bit. But motherhood isn’t about making babies or forming children; it’s about making mothers, forming women who are strong and wise enough to know they cannot possibly rely on their own strength to get through the day. It’s about taking a life and transforming it into a prayer. Sometimes it’s psalm of thanks. Sometimes it’s a plaintive cry for patience, help, grace, or just plain hope that we won’t screw these precious beings entrusted to us.
I’d never learn lessons like these in quiet hotel rooms or even in those blissful moments of motherhood when I’ve held a sleeping, cooing baby or when Todzilla has ceased his destruction and is still on my lap listening to a story while I breathe in the sweet smell of him. I learn it in the banality of motherhood, the noisiness, the hands-on, non-stop work of it all.
My life is a prayer. My life is an offering. I need my children as much as they need me.