Monday, July 14, 2014

My #1 Motherhood Priority

I have moments of complete smugness when it comes to my current occupation as mother. Perhaps it had been a good day with the children. Perhaps their good behavior corresponded with an opportunity to get a lot of housework done. Perhaps I got up super early that morning and knocked out all kinds of work even before they awoke and my "children hours" began for the day. In this moment of complete smugness, I turn to the frazzled, bad mommy, horrible housewife I was last week and say "What's your problem? This is easy!!!!"
These moments never last very long. In fact, as soon as those thoughts form in my mind like some ominous toxic curse on myself- the world around me slowly unravels. A child pees all over their room. A library book is torn to bits (and then peed on as well because of course). A child pitches a temper tantrum- out in public- where PEOPLE ARE WATCHING HOW I DEAL WITH IT. Laundry piles up and forms billowy oxygen sucking mounds of clothes that I didn't even know we had. The kitchen sink breaks and fills the house with a something-died-but-we're-not-really-sure-what odor that I can't fix myself and hubs is too busy at work to assist. A behavior issue I thought was done springs up bigger, badder, and more discipline resistant than ever. Out of nowhere, all three children all of a sudden refuse to sleep- ever, ever again. The beautifully healthy meal that I produced as a labor of love is refused with cries for "ICE CREAM. ICE CREAM." and then tantrums when I refuse (x2).

And without fail, just as on those days when I look around my tiny kingdom and think "This place looks awesome- you rock!", no one ever just "stops by" to witness said "rocking". On the days when all 3 children are scurrying about like mice destroying and contaminating everything they touch- on the days when the house smells like dead sink and the couch is full of laundry- on the days when the tight grip I had on "super mom" relaxes to grab a death grip on survival- THAT is when people stop by, look around, and leave with a silent clucking sound as my name goes up in the "women who don't know what the heck they're doing" hall of non fame.

Picture a newly crawling baby. He confidently pulls himself along, happy and determined to crawl to the next shiny thing that has caught his eye. He is moving like a ship in a calm sea- silently, quickly, and with a mission. Suddenly and without warning, he loses balance and pitches forward to be smacked in the face by the floor. Tears ensue. Cuddles are needed. I mean- the floor? Really?

That is me in motherhood.
And honestly most of the time it's not even the outward manifestations of motherhood success. Sometimes just the responsibility and the complexity of my role overwhelms and smothers any chance I had at confidence.

Think about it. Every day, not only am I responsible for

1. Keeping 3 children safe
2. Feeding 3 children
3. Clothing 3 children
4. Cleaning the home to keep it safe and happy
5. Washing clothes to be able to clothe the children tomorrow
6. Shopping and planning food items to be able to feed the children tomorrow (that are a. healthy and b. something they WILL eat)

It goes much deeper. Every minute of every day has lasting consequences. I'm supposed to

7. Read to them A LOT a lot a lot. Like probably one book every ten minutes. SLACKER! Five minutes. Okay one book every five-THREE minutes.
8. Teach them constantly throughout the day. Teach them about life- about colors- about our family- about how to behave in the store- about numbers- about letters- about what that sign means on the side of the road- about the animals and what they all say- how to dress themselves- how to USE THE POTTY (omg why is this SO HARD!)- about every thing in life that I have learned in 29 years boiled down into simple sentences- about speaking in complete sentences Subject, Verb, and THEN their request. "I want_____PLEASE- oh yes, how to say "please and thank you"- how to be kind and share- how to say "sorry"- how to entertain themselves- how to….(this list could go on forever)
9. Do flashcards to help with speech progress or counting or reading or Latin prep
10. Establish a discipline system that is consistently followed. I can't keep them safe if I can't keep them under control. And I can't keep them under control if they sense they have the upper hand. Getting on top of issues immediately- this is hard stuff and takes the patience of a small country.
11. Encourage good eating habits NOW so that they're not fifteen and surviving on Pringles and Little Debbies alone. Watch out- they might swell from 30 pounds to 90 in the next month if you let them have that one small dish of ice cream. DON'T DO IT!!!!

and each act makes me wonder what the reaction to my actions will be in ten, fifteen, twenty years

12. Will this prepare them for academic success?
13. Will this give them an interest in a future occupation or will they try to live on my couch forever?
14. Will this scar them forever needing intensive "mommy recovery" therapy as soon as they hit middle school?
15. Will this food give them cancer?
16. Will they hate each other in high school if I don't totally understand their sibling dynamic now?
17. Will they hate ME in high school if I don't totally understand their personality now?

and of course

18. NO TV (do you want to rot their brains?)
19. NO SUGAR  (do you want to rot their teach?)
20. NO ________BRAND OF DISCIPLINE (omg you are going to RUIN their self esteem! but don't let them be spoiled!!!!)

and every time I log onto Facebook there is another article telling me that

24. Whatever food you are feeding them will mess with their brain and cause a million problems in 3…2…..1…..
25. You're not doing enough fun projects with them! Try this super simple 1,000 piece sea shell wreath MAKE SURE THEY DON'T CHOKE ON THE TINY SHELLS
26. You're not going them THIS supplement??? DO YOU NOT LOVE YOUR CHILD?
27. Make sure they don't swallow air too quickly and start to ASPIRATE and CHOKE and DIE IN THEIR SLEEP! Watch them EVERY SECOND!
28. You're not capturing every moment perfectly! Put together this week's memories in a picture album and PRINT IT. Or else you will FORGET the MAGIC.
29. You're not enjoying this all enough. They will grow SO FAST. ENJOY. NOW. ENJOY. BETTER.
And as I find myself on the floor, just having been smacked in the face by something (I know it's hard to imagine that I can't juggle all of these pressures on a daily basis), I wonder if we are going to make it.

I look up from my position on the floor and see grinning children tearing the cushions off of the couch so that they can jump on them (because of course). I see the baby find a cushion and pull himself up to stand- dangerously close to where the 2 and 4 year olds are hurtling themselves down onto the soft cushions that swallow their tiny bodies as they land.

Picking myself up, I rush over to stand guard over the baby. When he topples on his own with a grin, I am there to catch him. When the jumping children need tickles- I am there to find that perfect spot and cause giggles that explode into the room. And instead of rushing to put the cushions back to TEACH them that the cushions DO NOT BELONG on the floor. Sometimes I just lie there with them.

I exist only in that moment. The lists up above mean nothing to me. The shoulds, coulds, and next twenty years don't have a place in the moment. Dinner plans, laundry progress, and teaching ideas- not important right then. In that moment, the only thing that matters is holding small, warm bodies. Kissing noses and brushing back hair that fell in eyes. Giggling with them. Asking them questions. Listening to their answers. Pushing away responsibility and just enjoying that they are mine. That we are a family. That moments build days and days build years and years build a lifetime. And I want to stamp those moments with happiness, trust, and the simple act of simply being more than I want to stamp those moments with perfection and a well-structured child.
And as we lay on the floor, breathless with play and capturing something so sweet that no photo book in the world could capture it even if I tried (it would be like trying to take a picture of the wind "That's a good gust! PRINT IT!")- I grasp the memory tightly- replacing the survival and "super mom" grips of before.

I need these moments. The other day- I let the entire afternoon be like this. I ignored my lengthy TO DO list, and pretended that I was the babysitter. I wasn't responsible for anything in the house- except for being with the children. Yes, this did include some teaching- but not because it fell on a list. Because it happened in the moment. Questions led to answers. Independent play happened. Mommy led play happened. We just sat out on the porch, enjoying the gorgeous summer weather, the deck toys, and each other. The organic nature of the afternoon bonded us in a way that Pinterest crafts never have. Nothing was analyzed. No guilt was there. No fear. No shame of a job done badly.

I need these moments.
And then the next morning after I slacked off the entire afternoon before- (if merely soaking in the essence that is my children can be considered slacking off) and someone drops by to observe the disaster that once upon a time was a neatly kept house? I hold my head high. I own it. I refuse to care.

Because I know that to get the moments that we need, something else has to give. And we will get to those lists. We will do the things required of us. But we will go off list sometimes too. And not only is that okay- it is good. It is necessary. 

It is motherhood.

Sometimes when magic is made, a little fairy dust is left behind. And I have learned that sometimes fairy dust comes in the form of laundry, dishes, and clutter. Worth it.

(yes, that is popcorn in Addison's hair #owningit)

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