It seems that wherever I go with my full clan (and sometimes even with just part of my clan while Addison is at school), I get a lot of long looks. Eyes widen, bodies quickly move out of the way as I run with my cart full of children to the checkout before the baby's crying escalates to screaming, and then as they continue to stare as I juggle the baby, the toddler, the 4 year old deliberately antagonizing the toddler, the cutest little girl ever with special needs, my cart full of groceries, and my bag overflowing with all the stuff to take care of my cart full of people while really REALLY hoping that my wallet is in there somewhere and I didn't leave it at home (the horror).
Without fail, soon after this comes the words, "Wow. You are supermom! Look at you!" Some people even bow as they walk by. (I claim writer's license to exaggerate in order to use a story to make a point).
I'm not sure why so many people have been saying this to me lately. It always leaves me slightly speechless. This also happens when people follow my life via Instagram pictures- getting small glimpses into the parts of my current life that I chose to freeze into a photograph- the moments that I want to remember later (sometimes just to laugh at). I can see how this might paint a glowing picture. A cropped photo paired with a witty sentence or two- yes, this tells part of the story. The thing is, I don't take pictures of the moments that frustrate the dickens out of me. The ones where the baby is screaming and the toddler is bouncing on my knee yelling for a horsey ride while I try to get the screaming baby to stop screaming and nurse....where the child with special needs is at that exact same moment having a potty accident on the rug (but not on the hardwood floor...oh no. never on the floor where messes are the easiest to clean up) and the 4 year old is off opening windows that he will later attempt to lure the 2 year old to dangerously hang out of. These moments when it is just all too much and I snap at my beloveds to "STOP! GET OFF MY KNEE!" and "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST USE THE POTTY! YOU'RE SIX YEARS OLD!" and "IF YOU OPEN ONE MORE WINDOW YOU WILL BE IN TIME OUT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE."
I don't take pictures of the moments where my children's faces fall. Where they get snapped at. Where I sit with the now peacefully nursing baby, feeling like a complete failure. Where my good intentions to always be sweet and calm and quiet and only refer to them as "My darlings" go in the same toilet that Addison chooses to ignore. Where they scamper off to make mischief somewhere else and then mimic my same snapping tone toward each other.
I don't take pictures of the moments where I bow my head and plead for help. Where I search for the tiniest bit of patience left within me, find none there, and beg for Someone else's patience to take over. A much bigger patience that is endless, that I can lean on to find some strength.
I am not a Supermom or Super Woman or a Super anything (Except maybe a Super Coffee Drinker. My cape is an oversized filter.)
I am just an average mom with four amazingly beautiful children...with the tendency to fail...but with the refusal to stay there because I know I'm not in this on my own. Yes, I yelled at them. I apologize. I call them "My darlings" again. I kiss their sweet cheeks, still wet with tears. I hold them close and they cling to me, needing so much from me- so much that even after I'm exhausted from giving, they still take and take some more. So I keep giving. I whisper in their ear how much they are loved. I hold them as long as they will stay there, refusing to end the hug on my own. I breathe in their scent, their essence, their personhood that has completely stolen my heart.
And we try again.
So often the sticky moments collide with the messy moments and the fractured moments and all of a sudden the confusing mix of puzzles pieces all line up into the most beautiful picture. A picture of love and belonging and family and home. A picture that I am blessed to be a part of. A picture that I did not design or draw- but here it is, more perfect than I could have ever imagined it.
Addison is quite a mother to the baby- she begs often to hold Morgan. And if Addison is holding her, the boys come swooping in, eager to sit close and plant wet kisses on their baby sister's head. They giggle. They smile. Their small bodies wiggle to get closer to the next. "Gentle" and "Soft hands please" come quietly out of my mouth as I watch their relationships blossoming in front of me. In these moments of serene beauty, I feel beyond blessed. I feel humbled by who they are becoming. I feel thrilled when I see them mimicking gentle, kind behaviors toward each other. I feel challenged when I gently try to teach them, guide them, and continuously help them.
There is so much to learn. And not just them.
I never know what to say when people tell me they think I am Superwoman. I'm not. Not even a little bit. It's embarrassing how much I fail. (After one particularly difficult week of having to yell to get kids to the van to get them to school on time, I didn't yell at all. Yay! Except when I went to drop Carter off he says, "Mommy, wait! I can't get out of the car until you say sorry for yelling. Right?" Because my apology had become so much a part of his morning routine. Oh my gosh ouch.)
But even though my world right now tends to be a swirling mix of confusing chaos and more stumbles than I can count, I am thankful for how forgiving my children are. How eager they are to try again. How happy they are for these moments with me. How bright their faces light up when yelling is replaced with gentle teachable moments. When they are understood, loved, given a safe spot to do life. When they eagerly learn things from me- not just how to succeed, but how to fail, get back up, and try again.
I am thankful for them. Super, super thankful.