This mothering business is like looking into those 3D hidden pictures where I have to cross my eyes to see the picture pop out, but this hidden picture is a portrait of myself. My kids are little mini-versions of myself. And I don't mean that they look like me or even that they have similar personalities as me. I mean that adults are just kids in bigger bodies. Here's what I mean.
"Mommy? Can I use your scissors?"
"Because last time you used them, you didn't put them away."
"But I'll put them away this time."
"You didn't put them away last time and I even reminded you."
"But I really need them."
"How about I use them just to cut this little piece?"
"But I will put them away."
"And what if you don't?"
"You can put me on time out for a hundred hours. Can I use them now?"
I have these conversations several times a week, not only with my five-year-old but God.
"God, can I have a pristine home?"
"Because that's not the most important thing right now."
"But what if I do all the work myself?"
"I don't think you want to spend your time like that these days."
"But I really need something that looks nice and new in order to be happy. It gives me peace of mind."
"How about I organize when the kids are at school?"
"But I won't be bulldozing anyone."
"And what will you do when the kids get home from school."
"I won't be angry when they mess it up. Really. Can I?"
Here's another example. I see Rose attempting to pour her own cereal again, and I jump to stop her.
"I wanna pour my milk!" she bawls.
"No. You pour too much and then you spill it and I have to clean it up."
That's when Lee pipes up from his side of the table. "I don't spill my milk."
He reminds me of a conversation I had with a mom friend. She was telling me how she's trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into her family's diet and encourage her kids to go outside and exercise. Without thinking, I reply, "Yeah, that's not really something we struggle to do. We grew up eating healthy and playing outside so we don't deal with that."
Then there's the time that we were climbing into the car, and Lee crawls over to Rose's side and pulls a Where's Waldo book out of the seat pocket. Rose started squealing. "Lee! I wanna look at that book!"—which I know is not true because she hasn't wanted to look at a book for the last dozen car trips. She just wants it because Lee wants it.
This incident reminds me of when I hear about single people having a great night out on the town. I grow resentful—which is funny because if I had a night off, I wouldn't want to spend it out; I'd want to sit in bed and drink tea and write by myself—but regardless, I'm annoyed at those free single people simply because they can do it and I can't.
Or take the instance when we have a playdate with some boys, and Rose goes chasing after them saying, "Lars! Look a my dolly! She has a nice dress on. Lars, look at my headband. It's sparkling. Lars, look at my new boots!" And I think, Oh no! She's chasing after boys already and trying to get them interested in her and her things, but the boys just want to ride bikes. They're not interested in her girly things. That's not the way to play with boys.
Then I recall times I've hung out with teenagers, and I've peppered them with questions trying to get them to talk to me and relate, and I've simply ended up with short answers and shrugs. Or there are times when I've presented myself as a bubbly, vivacious personality for the sake of pleasing others and what resulted is exhaustion and forced conversation and sometimes resentment in me because no one seems to be recognizing my efforts. "Look at my dolls, boys!"
Then there are the times that Rose comes to me throughout the day telling me her woes. "Mommy, my teacher spoke harshly to me today." "Mommy, I bumped my head right here." "Mommy, I have a cough." "Mommy, this little finger has a splinter. You can't really see it, but it's there." And she wants to put bandaids on everything regardless of whether they're bleeding or not.
And I'm reminded of the list of woes I dumped onto one of my mom friends. "It's just really hard because I have to get the kids up and then I have to feed Benny. And while they can eat breakfast by themselves, they leave the kitchen such a mess, and I don't have time to do the dishes before we get out the door because I have to make Lee's lunch. And then he complains about not liking what I pack him."
My mom-friend blinked at me and replied in a monotone voice. "Sounds really hard." It was her lack of expression that caused me to laugh at myself. This is just life. This is what everyone with three kids has to do. I can't expect others to put bandaids on all my woes, which aren't really woes at all but the normal discomforts of life.
I could go on. My daughter enjoys telling her older brother what he's supposed to be doing. When the baby accidentally knocks over my son's tower, he decides everyone's tower needs to be knocked over. And my baby will stop in the middle of his play to look at me and wait for my smile. After I give it, he goes back to playing. My older kids do this too. My daughter presents all her artwork to me. My son calls upon me to witness the reenactment of a crash between a Lego ship and a Hot Wheels car. They want me to smile at their play. I think they even want me to smile at their naughtiness.
This one in particular resonates with me.
I want to know that someone's smiling at me. Even if I'm complaining. Even if I yell at my children. Even if I don't fix dinner or get a single thing organized or am late to taking the children to school. Is there someone still smiling at me? Is there someone who is still pleased with me?
Yes. There is.
"The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us! There is no way! No trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture . . . None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us." (Romans 8:34-39 MSG)