Children.These fierce, transcendent little beings, that bleed my strength and coil my muscles. Turn my ordered life into a sleepless marathon.
Scribbling and unraveling my tidy plans.
I crave moments of escape- my coffee, workouts and phone. I find myself chronically irritated, because they’ve taken everything. What is left that’s mine?
I’m fighting for real estate in my own life!
But today was a good day.
I watched them feed the zoo animals in Chiangmai. Gentle yet unafraid. Today we were young together exploring a new country. My youngest son, and biggest challenge lately- the one with anger and emotional escalation issues- stopped mid track in his mockery of little sister, and split his cookie instead. I sat with him as he drew his little pictures of the animals, trying so hard to get them right, and grinning shyly when I guessed. His hands are still small, his round face and button nose and tight curls and baby skin perfect in the glow of the bedside lamp. He wanted to skip tv so he could play a game with me. He is a little man, impressively strong for his age, but so vulnerable, so sensitive when people hurt him. He is not the chubby happy baby he was, and I can’t have that back. Nor will I keep him five always. He is toughening. He shrugs off affection, but still begs for attention. I see in him the man I hope he will be. Sensitive not volatile. Strong not violent. A gentle hero to those weaker than him, who is patient when misunderstood. Every day whether I acknowledge it or not I face my own battles against irritability, being impatient with the hundredth mess, anger at being ignored, harsh responses to disrespectful words and sibling meanness. And I see that it matters. It matters that I control my own anger and show them patience and grace. It matters that I am present- and really see them in the present. It matters that I cherish them at each age with a firm resolve to make this time count, instead of a whining sentimentality about what I miss, or an escapist longing for them to be older. I will fail sometimes, but I must also win these battles, because it slowly makes a difference in who they will become. Some days I’m just surviving them. Some days I’m just trying to control them. Some days I really see them. Some days I’m not trying hard enough.
But how? How do I mother wholeheartedly when exhausted? There have been times in my life where I had margin to recharge, but this isn’t one of them. In reading Philippians 4, the author said that he had learned a “secret” of being content under any circumstances. He suggests a source of joy and love that you can draw from even in the midst of great stress. I think I need to admit that I don’t have the energy, patience and self-sacrifice needed to be the best mother for these kids. But I can choose joy and contentment in this moment. Just this moment- I can’t promise about later! That choice releases a new power, a power that comes from God but is available to us. I feel my reality click into a better gear. I’m still exhausted and marginless, but have found the freeze button on my life. I can see what I have been given, if only for a little while. The frustrations and difficulties don’t go away, but they are counterbalanced by delight, and even wonder. And that makes me a better mom. Maybe I could do this every day, or most days? Maybe I could look back on this experience called motherhood and know I gave it my best.