October 8, 2011
Last night I found myself wishing that I was married with NO children...again. The idea of cleaning the house and having it stay that way, the thought of eating a nice dinner with my husband from beginning to end without interruption was like imagining cheesecake. And being able to afford decent pajamas and a clean couch and some sort of cozy slippers or socks or whatever to relax in. It was all too great.
Perhaps I would have worked out yesterday instead of teaching school for four hours. Perhaps I would have put out some cute fall decorations in the house instead of scrubbing the smashed broccoli off the chair. I could have found my pumpkin candles and lit them instead of file school papers, baked a pie instead of retaping the latest drawing of Jeff's back to the wall so that the scotch tape wasn't partially over the window glass. I would be in a smaller space, of course, since we wouldn't need such a large house, so HOORAY!- less to clean! I'd still have most of my glass dishes unbroken and perhaps I would have finally gotten myself out of the "sunflower" decade with my china pattern by now! I'd be 50 lbs lighter because of no babies, have a gym membership, and have time to use it. I'd eat very different because I'd have the emotional energy to THINK about the food I put in my mouth. I'd be able to SEE the fall leaves outside so much more clearly out the window because Brandon isn't in the habit of licking the glass like some other people are.
My kitchen floor would smell more like pine and less like the urine deposited there from constant potty training. The radiators in the bathroom would be more white instead of rust due to the countless "misses" at the toilet bowl.
I could have dainty, quiet, fancy meals, head up countless projects, and sleep all night long- regularly!
For some strange reason I gave all that up. Actually, perhaps it was more like gradually having it pulled out of my grasp. I didn't have my first child and immediately agree to a trade: child for soul. I didn't plan on getting rid of all those things at all, in fact I still desperately try to imagine the day I will get my hair cut, nails done, eyebrows waxed, and take a shower in all the same day. If I'm really lucky- I'd imagine it a peaceful day as well.
Instead, I'm drinking my lukewarm coffee with 1% milk because that was my best effort at choosing a healthy breakfast today. I'm writing in my journal as far away from me as I can reach because Justin, in my lap, has this attraction to all things in his grasp and they MUST be chewed on. All of them.
He squirms in my lap- with the hiccups. It's 8:20am on a Saturday morning. Sane people would either be in bed or doing something invigorating like watching the sunrise atop the mountain. I'm sitting here in my 5 year old maternity pajama pants and a long sleeve, too big for me hot pink t-shirt complete with baby spit, a large grease stain, and countless wrinkles cause I wore it yesterday and then slept in it last night and I've already been up for 2 hours in an attempt to let Brandon get some extra rest.
I sigh and shake my head at various sights:
-the floor that I just mopped yesterday afternoon that 2 hours later boasts a large, fresh, milk puddle.
-the cute decoration I placed in the hallway of a small shelf unit with a couple of trinkets that are non-breakable but meaningful to me that are now overwhelmed by a pile of K'Nex because it has now become the dumping grounds for toys that belong in the attic.
-the spider webs and their makers that I can't seem to find the time to get rid of and so we have made a truce: Don't climb on me in my sleep and I will only attempt to kill some of you once every 3 months.
Yes, sometimes the picture seems a little ridiculous- piles of laundry, the dirt, the GRASS, the nasty toilets, the odor, the clutter...
Some people might would say, "Yuck! Such a messy housekeeper!", not understanding that I DID clean that bathroom yesterday or I DIDN'T wash the tub because I chose to scrub the mud off the floor just inside the door instead.
Others who have children come in and say, "How do you do it?" and have this notion that the level of cleanliness in my house is somehow next to godliness and I did it all by myself. HA! Some think I did it all by pleasantly asking my children to do this or that and then immediately responding appropriately- even bigger HA!
Sometimes I just long for the days when I only had 2 kids and people were still brave enough to have us to dinner or even babysit so Brandon and I could have a date. Or even more shocking- take them overnight! and let us have an entire weekend alone.
Much of that is gone now. There are still a couple of brave souls out there- you know who you are and are life lines for me!
Kids are hard work! They are a complete dying to self- unless you want to be miserable trying to stay selfish and make everyone around you miserable too. It's humbling- I'm not the cute dresser, or the one with even last year's fashions. I don't have a cute house with perfect landscape. I don't know about all the current events because when I get a chance to read something I choose another article on surviving parenting or learning new herbal remedies for skin irritations, or saving money while eating healthy. I'll just vote for the president based on who complicates my parenting the least!
Some days my devotions and Bible reading consist of this sentence, "God, help me be what I need to be today and cannot be myself." Awfully pious and spiritual there!
Thanks to exhaustion, I've learned just how many days I can go without a shower and still not hate my own smell. I've discovered that even I can absentmindedly wipe my nose on my sleeve because I'm too tired to get a tissue, and some days, regardless of healthy eating efforts, brown sugar Pop Tarts really ARE the answer!
People say, "How do you do it?" as though I am a juggler that keeps 20 balls in the air at the same time! Ha! I wish. I, instead, have this picture of a tireless clown running around a field picking up balls that are on the ground and throwing them back into the air, one at a time, so that each one at least gets some amount of air, but none really stay off the ground for long. Truth is, I DON'T do it. I've learned to live with more grossness than any single person- bachelor's included- would think reasonable. I've gotten used to trusting God to take care of some things like finding Jeff cleaning out the gutters, and then just desperately hang on for the ride in situations like the baby deciding his favorite time to eat it 3AM- exactly 1 hour after Renna has decided that 2 AM is her traditional "wake Mommy up to go potty" hour.
Just now Renna is sitting on her potty chair, which will have to be dumped, Jeff is playing with the broken pencil sharpener he took apart, Jonathon is raking Pop Tart crumbs off the couch and onto the floor I just vacuumed last night, Rachel is lounged across the desk in clothes she has worn for at least 36 hours, Joseph is beating a pencil on the already badly scarred coffee table and James is watching a movie on a laptop that, honestly, I don't know how they can see the picture since so many sticky fingers have touched the screen.
People sometimes judge and say, "You should have thought of that before..."- yeah cause that's REAL helpful today.
Really, though the question comes down to this: Can I survive and is it worth it?
While some days the answer gets a little blurry, it's never different- always YES!
Just like in exercise you learn that you can push yourself further than you ever thought possible or in the military you discover you can deal with things that you never imagined you could, or a doctor can function on much less sleep than he thought possible- so it is with parenting. It's a gradual thing- a breaking in of sorts that we look at in the beginning and say, "I could never...". But once we've been pushed to that limit and have little option in the matter, we find we CAN- that we are stronger than we thought, that God helps to make it possible and when we really CAN'T, Jesus is there to meet the need in another way. Thus we can survive- just as we have in all sorts of other situations.
Then I'm left with the part of the question, "Is it worth it?" Well, perhaps what my goal is determines the answer. If my goal is to be rich, successful, live life to the extreme, or become the best at some sport, talent or something else, then the answer would be an obvious NO! To have a cute house, look put together, be popular, or even super social? NO.
But if it's about eternity, about pointing my children to Jesus, about dying to self, putting aside the things of the world and becoming more like Him- If it's about encouraging others and serving others and drawing them towards the love of Jesus, then YES!
I'm not saying everyone should HAVE a bazillion kids to be more like Christ, though children is the best way of learning it that I've experienced so far! I'm just talking about laying down your life for the one(s) you've got.
It's not always obvious, but when I see hard work ethics developing, I know they will grow into good employees and be a blessing to others. I see a sensitivity to spiritual things as a result of our constant focus on God meeting out needs and know that they are developing the habit of trusting Him. I see the nights Brandon and I have to have "in house" dates and know that as a result we have to talk about reality more often and it's probably the lack of fluff that keeps us as well connected as we are. I see the children forced to get along with each other because they don't have school to escape to and know they will probably be life long friends.
And there is some magical thing that happens when I'm worn out, tired, or weary from "well doing". This little sparkle of satisfaction and happiness twinkles down deep inside. Many times it's VERY tiny- almost unnoticeable, but it's this steady stream of spectacular fire in the depths of me.
Perhaps it's love, perhaps it's contentment or courage, or a sense of reward- I don't know, but it's a feeling that comes when I've poured out all of me without an expectation of return.
It seems strange that this small magical twinkle would be worth so much, but it's an addiction. As powerful as drugs, it drives me to want more, to keep it alive. Sometimes it explodes into a furnace of warm fire when there is some connection made or I see a child take initiative or do something on their own for the first time.
People who have never been addicted to something won't understand why one goes to such extremes to possess a thing, to feel something for a moment, however small and as soon as it's over have such an appetite for more that one will go to the greatest measure to gain the experience again.
Love is like that. If you keep self love and thought for one's rights on the back burner, the satisfaction gained from pouring out unconditional love to others is delicious. It can be heart wrenching too. It comes with great risk, but the smallest payoff is worth trying 100 more times.
Granted, during the hard times of the day, the hardest ones- I can forget that there is any reward at all. But eventually it all comes around again and I taste that sweetness and it hooks me once more.
Then there's the "gravy". The hugs and kisses, the sweet cuddly moments, the endearing comments.
I will endure 20 rounds of nursing in the middle of the night, occasionally being bitten for even one of those times when the baby reaches up and places his tiny hand on my cheek, rubs, and stops to give me a grin, then eagerly goes back to his food as though it will disappear if he hesitates too long.
I'll tuck a child in bed 500 nights to experience one night where my boy says, "You know, Mama, I'm not afraid of the dark anymore."
There is great reward in the small things- delicious, satisfying reward. Just like any other addiction, I wish I wasn't so hooked sometimes. I wish I didn't care so much. Other times, I can never get enough! In the end, it keeps me coming back for more. That's the way God's love is. Completely irrational, hard to explain- impossible really, difficult to balance with the world's values- but worth it? Absolutely.
I wrote most of this several months ago but never posted it. Today I have not been in the place where it's obvious that it's worth it. Mess, depression, sickness, fighting, lots of emotions and learning happening. But I reread it and was reminded that what I'm doing is valuable, worth doing, and really what I WANT to be doing.