For all of my grand plans of well thought out posts filled with useful information and thought provoking discussion, sometimes the words just come pouring out every which way. Apparently Wednesdays are becoming like this. It’s raining today. We have nowhere in particular to be. My daughter and I have already done circle time and the baby has taken one short nap. I chose Beach Boys radio on Pandora which seems to encourage the kids in their high energy pursuits. There have been bubbles, playing in the rain, and much indoor screaming. My daughter sits on one side of our coffee table, my son on the other. He quickly pushes the books off the shelves when he realizes they also make good windows. She screams. He laughs. I cringe. I want to tell them to stop. But instead I stop. She screams again, and he laughs harder as this strange and raucous game of peek-a-boo through the wooden coffee table windows continues. Brian Wilson sings Good Vibrations and I realize remember a great quote from Preschoolers and Peace the other day. “Say yes, more than you say no.” The screaming didn’t last long, just a few minutes, soon replaced by galloping. No one was injured. Happy playing and loving sibling relations occurred. Some clean laundry was spilled on the floor, but that happens most days anyway. I could sit here and wish for quiet, wish for moments alone to recharge, worry that I might have to go back to work soon, or just enjoy the moment, however brief, of watching my children play together. Tomorrow (and the day after and the one after that) will provide plenty of time for everything else. This day will only happen once.
What your mama did that made her yours.
Ok, so I realize I just called my mother a nag. (And since she will probably read this I feel the need to briefly defend myself). Nag is perhaps too strong a word. But she was the kind of Mom who would remind you and then even rescue you every now and then. She spent most of my childhood reminding me to wear my seat belt, bike helmet and sunscreen. She got us to our various events and activities on time and helped us study for more exams than I can probably count. Generally she got after us to do what we needed to do and what we had promised to do. As a kid it drove me nuts, even more so as a teen when I thought I did a pretty good job of managing myself. As an adult she still sometimes reminds me to do things like file my tax return, spend extra time reading to my daughter and make sure the baby doesn’t get hurt in his exploration of the world. At first it seemed like she continued to offer her reminders because she thought I was a bad mom, but I realized that it’s because she is a good mom. She can’t stop being a mom even though I’m going to be 30 years old next month. She can’t stop being a mom even though she is now a grandmother three times over. She can’t stop being nagging, reminding and generally giving her advice because for her it is as easy as breathing. I wouldn’t say she nagged us growing up, I’d say that she loved us enough to nag us sometimes and the rest of the time she just loved us. I’ve read more articles than I can count about how nagging doesn’t work. But you know what? I always wear my seat belt and my bike helmet. I rarely forget sunscreen on myself or the kids. The taxes always get done on time. Something sunk in and well I remind my daughter for the umpteenth time to brush her teeth and not to step on her brother I know I am in good company.
My daughter and I just finished circle time while my son takes a long morning nap. Naps (especially long ones) are relatively new for him and I’m grateful for every one. A hot shower is calling my name, but my daughter wants me to read. We finally settle on Little House in the Big Woods and one of her alphabet books. We try some basic phonics and laugh about the color yellow (which begins with y, but my daughter says yellow like it begins with L).
Yesterday I cried when I read about a woman who delivered her son, still born at 31 weeks. I cried because for the first time in a while I grieved for the baby I lost almost two years ago. Last year I delivered a healthy baby boy right around the same time. So it’s all muddled together in my head. I can see and hold two of my children, but there is another one (boy or girl, I don’t know) who I won’t meet until heaven. I cried and totally freaked out my daughter who let me hug her tight and tell her I love her. I nursed my son and kissed his cheeks over and over again. I kept staring at the willow tree figurine my husband bought me on our lost baby’s due date. I miss him. I wonder if he would have looked like his siblings, if he would have had much hair at birth, how his laugh would have sounded. Would he have been a good sleeper, an early walker?
I miss him.
Today my day took on a life of its own. My son wakes at 3 AM and then at 6:30 AM. I nurse him in bed and we both pass out again until my husband’s first 7 AM alarm. I say first because he hits the snooze a minimum of two or three times before he actually gets up. I roll over and pat the baby back to sleep next to me, the two of us wedged between pillows. The next thing I remember is my husband coming in to kiss us both goodbye and then my daughter joining us in bed a few minutes later. We snuggle and laugh until I decided I need to get this day started. The process of getting myself and both kids up and dressed takes way longer than it should and by the time breakfast is finished my son is ready for his nap. I nurse him, rock him and then put him down in his crib awake. I lay on my side on the floor next to his crib with a book I’m supposed to be reviewing but I can’t seem to get into. He fusses and whines and finally I give in and let him hold my hand intermittently until he falls asleep, but overall the process takes less time than usual. My daughter and I cuddle on the couch to begin our home school time. She is only three and a half but we have begun read alouds and simple circle time most days. Today she doesn’t want to read Little House in the Big Woods, but prefers the picture book of the week, The Mitten. We sing the Doxology and practice the Lord’s Prayer. I try to start working on her new Bible memory verse and the poem of the month, but she will have none of it. Finally I give up and send her off to play while I work on a verbal intro for the Lenten dance I’m performing this Sunday.
The baby wakes up from his nap so I bring him downstairs. I select the kids praise music station on Pandora as I try to write my blog posts, keeping one eye on the baby as he meanders through the living room, littered with toys. My daughter alternates playing with (hugging too rough, pinning to the floor) her brother until a song she knows well comes up on Pandora. “We sing this song in church” she announces and begins to dance. I ask her why she doesn’t sing instead. She says “Because I have to dance.” She rarely dances in church, even though our church actually encourages kids to dance during worship with an open area at the front of the sanctuary set aside for this purpose and the children are provided with scarves and streamers if they want them. But here in our living room surrounded by baskets of clean laundry waiting to be folded, she dances. My son sits back on his haunches, chirps and smiles as my daughter continues to dance. Here in the mess of everyday life, is a holy moment. I long to join her, but I’m mesmerized. Five minutes later the chaos has resumed as my daughter hauls her trains upstairs for some alone time and my son chews on a piece of cardboard he has found amid strains of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Yet something has changed. As though I got a little taste of the nativity or the via dolorosa here in my tiny living room. As the son of God arrived in the mess of everyday life in a stable and died in the routine execution of a criminal; he inhabits my everyday chaos as well. I may not make it to the Ash Wednesday service at church tonight, but I feel as though I’ve had a holy experience of my own. Sometimes we must choose to dance.
What if I’m not enough? As I begin my fledgling attempts at lesson planning I feel a small sense of panic. What if I really can’t do this? What if my daughter won’t learn to read? What if she never really understands math? What if she has a learning disability that goes undiagnosed because I think she’s being stubborn? What if she doesn’t perform up to state standards (whether those standards are fair, accurate or properly representative is another issue entirely) and they make me send her to public school?
I try to feed the kids healthy foods but at the same time, just want them to eat. I gratefully watch my daughter chow down on peanut butter and non-organic apples while at the same time hearing the voice of “real food” advocates in my ears. “Sure apples are healthy, but they are the most pesticide laden produce. You are probably poisoning her too.” I give my son bottles of soy formula when he won’t nurse and pray that the soy isn’t going to give him seizures, depression or low testosterone.
Being a mom in today’s world is a time of fear. Not the same fears of previous generations though. Here in the United States most moms don’t worry that their children will starve (though there are days like that in my house). We don’t have to worry that our children won’t make it to age 2, dying of measles, polio or whooping cough. We know that at least the basics of education will be available to them.
We worry about whether our children have the best possible food, but not if they will get fed. We worry about the chemical additives in vaccines but not whether our children will die from the diseases vaccines prevent. We worry that they won’t have the ideal educational environment, not whether they will be educated at all. First world problems.
The truth is. I’m not enough. I can’t be. I can’t control it all, fix it all or create a perfect world for my children to live in. I can only love them and let that love spill into all my involvement in their lives. And when my own love runs dry, I can fall to my knees and appeal to the lover of my soul for more.