If I had to sum up in a word what it’s been like to be a mother in the last couple months … well, I wouldn’t sum it up at all. I would spew a dozen crazy stories and stare like a deer caught in headlights. Oh, wait. It just came to me. Intense. The word would be intense.
Please let me preface. My children are ages 10, 8, 6 and 4. The beauty of this stage is that every one of them loves and adores me. They hug and kiss on me. They miss me when I’m gone. None of them are rebelling and they are all likable people. They pour out their hearts to me and are quick to reconcile. There are much more heartbreaking places to be in motherhood, so I must say this place is sweet.
That being said, even sweetness can be intense. This Mother’s Day weekend I am home missing my boys’ last soccer games and missing church because Haley has the stomach flu. This comes two weeks after she nearly lost the tip of her pinky finger when I shut a door, not knowing her fingers were against the hinges in the door jamb. After the ER, trips to our doctor, and two appointments with a plastic surgeon she is healing and we are coming out the other side of that trauma.
Moving, a severe finger break, a stomach bug, and the ups and downs of life can be a lot for a four year old (and her mom) but it’s also brought to the surface difficulty with sensory processing. This means my little firecracker won’t wear socks, shoes (thank God for flip flops!), anything with tags, denim, zippers, and has made seat belts her worst enemy. Over-stimulation happens quickly and escalates into catastrophic tantrums. We’ve been regularly bowing out of social situations. By the grace of God and His timing, I recently attended a conference that touched on this very thing and I’m gaining some tools to equip and love on her through it. We’re both doing plenty of failing and learning in the meantime.
In the midst of all this, Darla punctured her leg with a wayward rusty nail. Turns out being the chill “I’m sure it’s not that bad” mom isn’t always best. It got infected, swollen, and she spent two days struggling to walk while we waited for antibiotics to kick in. The leg pain made the pain of the tetanus shot pale in comparison, so there’s that.
I chaperoned Everett’s field trip two weeks ago, from which came the biggest e coli outbreak in this area in over a decade. I waited with bated breath this week when he had a stomach bug, praying it wasn’t more. He’s back to healthy and I’m picking up my emotionally exhausted pieces behind him.
Somewhere amidst soccer games, piano lessons, multiplication facts, injuries, field trips, conflict resolution, and making meal after meal, I remember that this goofy chaos is a holy calling.
It doesn’t feel very holy when I’m slamming fingers in doors, forgetting snacks for the soccer team, and allowing my youngest to run me over for the sake of keeping peace.
I made a joke one evening and realized immediately I had hurt Hudson’s feelings. When I tucked him in, I apologized for the foot in my mouth. “I am so sorry, Hudson. My job as your mom is to be a safe place for you. I didn’t do that when I made that joke. I chose making people laugh over choosing what protects you and I’m sorry.” I prayed, repenting out loud. When I finished, he wrapped his arms tight around my neck and mumbled into my hair, “I forgive you, Mom.”
Tears stung at my eyes. This is what it is, isn’t it? My holy calling isn’t summed up by perfection as a mom. These moments of reconciliation, coming from brokenness back to relationship is the very thing I want my kids to catch. My aim is for my kids to know how to run back to Jesus, over and over again. My aim is for them to seek reconciliation and to allow God to continually soften their hearts.
Intensity in parenting comes as I choose to be intentional. It comes when I choose to confront struggles instead of pacify them. It comes when I pray and repent as a parent instead of smoothing things over and moving on. It comes when I work to find out what’s going on in my child’s mind and heart instead of instinctively responding with my own view. It comes when I say no to screen time and material comforts to use relationship and myself for giving comfort.
I strongly believe as a parent it’s my responsibility to parent proactively. Like any skill, it isn’t developed haphazardly or without hard work. For me, it means attending conferences that will equip me. It means gleaning what I can from moms who have gone before me. It means reading books about child development and learning what trauma does to the brain. It means praying for wisdom. It's plenty of do-overs for my kids AND me. It’s stinkin’ hard. It’s intense.
Last night I made the rounds checking on kids before I went to bed.
Haley was snuggled up with a puke bowl, a favorite blanket, and a raging fever but soundly sleeping.
Everett had smuggled a truckload of stuffed animals into his bunk when I wasn’t looking and I could barely find him amidst bears and bunnies.
Hudson, on a streak of independence proving his manliness, had been told no to sleeping in the treehouse for the night so had set up camp in the far corner of the bedroom on the floor. It looked dreadfully uncomfortable but more power to him.
Darla wrapped her arms around me and sighed. “I feel awful for you, Mom. It’s Mother’s Day and you have to stay home. It’s supposed to be your day off! Instead you have to work too hard and I just want your day to be special!”
“Ah, Darla. Mother’s Day doesn’t mean I stop being a mom for a day. It’s celebrating that I have the best job and I get to do it every day. What better way to celebrate than doing the very thing that makes me a mom?”
“But what fun is that!? You need to relax! How can I make it special if you can’t even stay in bed until breakfast or do what you want?”
“Honey, you did make it special. Having a daughter who empathizes, who appreciates what I do, and who wants to bless me, is amazing.”
It's fleeting. This puking, bloody, high emotion, learning to read, developing who they are, stage is so fleeting. I only get one shot. This year on Mother's Day I'm in the thick of it. Years to come may be quieter and involve less bodily fluid. Darla is determined to make the day special. There will probably be a day when she's a successful author and illustrator and she can fly both of us to an exotic location to sunbathe and drink Mai Tais for Mother's Day. For today, I got a hot cup of coffee and cinnamon toast. Exactly what I hoped for.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...