Scott’s been out of town for a week and it turns out I need that man! I knew this, of course, but nothing brings the message home quite so well as serving up pancakes for dinner… at 8pm on a Sunday night with multiple children crying.
By and large we’re hanging in ok, but I caught myself saying out loud to no one in particular tonight, “Why does it have to be so hard?!” The answer, for me, is that hard things help us grow and this life is all about becoming better and helping each other with our “hards.”
Without a handsome husband to keep me company after I put the kids to bed, I’ve been cleaning out a backlog of photos and notes on my computer. So often the photos I share are the shiny ones because those are my favorite bits of life. But the truth is my life as a mother is better encapsulated by this quote by Jenkins Lloyd Jones:
“Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.
The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
The Fuller Story
There are many messy moments of motherhood. Sometimes the kids are making the messes and sometimes it’s me. Often those messes are tangible and sometimes even gross, but they also come in the subtler forms of short-tempers or crowded schedules. My own imperfections encountering lots of minor crises over the course of a day can cause relational messes if I don’t guard my tongue.
Last week, we rolled up to piano lessons just barely on-time but with a wailing, hungry baby in tow. The student hustled inside just as I discovered that baby had gone past the limits of her diaper and made an awful mess of herself and the carseat. I used every last wet wipe we had cleaning things up, then as I was nursing her I heard a yelp from one of my other kids in the back of the minivan. Instead of sitting and reading a book, this child had flung themselves into the way back and bloodied their nose. Every last napkin in the glove box got used up on that new problem.
This was a messy moment.
But by the end of the 45 minute lesson, the baby was fed and in a new outfit, the bleeding stopped and we were all laughing and playing tag on the sidewalk. I was grinning and panting and tickling my son in the fall sunshine in the middle of the afternoon and I thought (not for the first time), I have an amazing job.
It is on task for me to play tag in my line of work. It is on task to have an impromptu picnic at the park, to read aloud and snuggle for hours, and to get lavished with sweet notes and sloppy kisses. But those notes wouldn’t be half as sweet if they didn’t pop up amidst the messier moments.
I got a heart-melter of an apology note today, hours after my son’s butterfingers made us late for piano lessons and had me on my hands and knees cleaning oats and water off the whole pantry floor.
I wasn’t a bit mad, and only consoled him in his tears of surprise and frustration. But hours later, his heart was still sore from breaking a beautiful bowl and he labored over a note for 15 minutes, asking me how to spell each word and writing it down carefully because he’s six. Hard helps us grow.
So, here’s to the messy moments!
What follows is a smattering of photos that capture a portion of our everyday messy moments alongside the shiny moments I would normally be more inclined to share and remember.
- My kids are all pretty great travelers, and our two year old was positively angelic on a recent flight. She just sat there and read her “mazagine” the whole time.
However, keeping track of them all at an airport can be hectic. This picture below was taken a few minutes after we left Josie behind accidentally and a nice lady held her hand and brought her over to us. Doh! Does it look like our kids are about to dart off in four different directions? They probably were…
- My kids LOVE playing in the snow…
until they don’t:
Please note the mismatched mittens, pajamas, and rainboots. We are not going to make it on a Lands’ End catalog cover anytime soon.
- Kids get sick. It’s the ultimate experience of knowing how very much they need you as a parent, and simultaneously realizing the buck stops with you in terms of cleanup duty. Blech.
- One gorgeous summer evening we had an impromptu family date at the park with bikes. Scott read aloud the last chapter of a great series (Fablehaven) while the kids hung on every word.
We picnicked and played on the playground until after dark. But, we ended that particular evening with one kiddo insisting they needed to use the bathroom and refusing to use a portapotty, weeping loudly, and ultimately going in their pants a looong way from the car. Cleanup, Aisle 4. Someone watching us usher worn-out kids to the car at the end of the evening would likely have a very different impression than the people who walked by and smiled at us as we read aloud and picnicked as the sun set.
- Yeah, that’s the butternut squash I roasted for dinner one night, which I dropped unceremoniously on the sink faucet & sprayer.
- That’s the spare tire I put on the minivan myself after getting a flat on the freeway in December. I was morning sick, had four kids in the car, and had never changed a tire before, but I got ‘er done… only to discover the spare was super low on air. So we limped to a gas station, filled it up and then got a new tire put on.
- Don’t let their smiles fool you. This kid didn’t listen about staying away from a ditch while we were looking at slabs of granite, fell, and got soaked in nasty, murky ditch water. We had to strip him down to get him home.
- No picture, but I had what I can now call a “messy moment” this past spring as we were moving out of our house.
My husband’s friend had come to help with the heavy stuff and I was fully aware that our house was an absolute mess. Not just a mid-moving mess, but also a just-returning-from-an-ill-timed-vacation mess plus a super-sick-for-months pregnant mess, plus a we’re-trying-to-finish-building-a-house mess, plus I had a two year old, and well… I homeschool and I’m not a naturally neat person to begin with. At that point I was just doing my absolute best with each day and carrying forward, but I did a full stop when I saw this friend look around at the state of our house.
I saw it through his eyes and realized he’d never been to our house before and he thought this was our normal! Even adjusted for being in the middle of a move, it was bad. I could read the genuine pity in his eyes.
But it was like someone seeing our minivan in the driveway of the piano teacher’s house and watching me mop up blood and poop like a crazy person and assuming that was our normal. No, these are messy moments. Yes they and their embarrassing, chaotic companions have been part and parcel to my experience of motherhood but they don’t tell the fuller story.
Side note: There very well might be a more elegant way of raising kids but I’m the mother these five have so it’s my way or nothin’ for them. 😉
- These kids were good as gold and sweet as pie for dozens of appointments with subcontractors. They’d set up shop with their books or audiobooks and wait patiently… most of the time. But that didn’t mean we didn’t have bloody noses, incidents of vomit, tantrums aplenty, squabbling and whining on many occasions. We did!
- With kids, my house is constantly being “reorganized.” It’s not that unusual to come across something like this.
I have a couple of kids in particular who can’t seem to stop themselves from touching absolutely everything. It can be frustrating.
But it also means I come across things like this:
- I think this last photo, a view from our new house, sums up my experience as a mother pretty nicely. There’s a portapotty and a whole lot of unfinished projects (landscaping) in the foreground but there’s also a spectacular view and a fleeting double rainbow if I look past the mess and pay attention.