Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Springtime and Motherhood

What is it about springtime?

Something in this fresh air and possibly the new life all around turns me into mush for the time when my children were smaller and not celebrating these bigger birthdays.

Every ounce of my being aches to freeze time exactly where it is, but this busy season seems to pass all the more quickly the tighter I try and hold onto it.

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day, and she was talking about enjoying a few hours in the afternoon of doing some "get to" things instead of "have to" things.

My heart leapt when she said those words: GET TO.  YES!!

How many hours a day do we spend in the minutia: the morning routine of packing lunches and making sure the correct homework folder is tucked away and "Oh, don't forget your milk money!"

We fly off to work, with visions of their school days dancing in our heads. Did he remember his belt? Did I put an ice pack in her lunch box? Even though our bodies are elsewhere, at least a piece of our minds remain focused on the "have to's."

And then afternoons of checking homework and fixing a quick dinner and off to soccer practice and "Wait, I need to put some sunscreen on you!"

Then, the evenings. The showers and hair combing and teeth brushing. The stories and prayers and snuggles and all of the cups of water and fixed nightlights.

And we move on to dishes and laundry and tidying and preparing to do it all again. The. Very. Next. Day.

And it's exhausting, at times. Sometimes, the right answer is just what my friend was enjoying: a bit of euphoria over some time for a "get to."

Enjoying a show without folding laundry at the same time, finally finishing that book you've been halfway through for months, just falling asleep early and waking refreshed, an hour walking outside or an evening glass of wine.

And the weeks where the Meat Man travels are the weeks where I see most keenly the juxtaposition of "have to" and "get to."

Sometimes, I rush around all day in the "have to's" and forget, that maybe, some of those can be "get to's" as well.

On our way home from soccer practice, as I begin to relax as the mania of the day comes to a close, I look into my rear view mirror. And I see a handsome, chiseled face just starting to take on the look of a young man.  I see messy, sweaty hair, and the evening sun glancing off those cheekbones and that chin, and those long eyelashes topping that ornery grin as he sees me watching him and smiling at him and smiles right back at me.  He was just arguing with his sister an hour ago--how can he look so mature in this moment!?

And I recommit myself to the "have to's." The details that I'm responsible for that allow these precious beings to feel at home.

The comfort of a home-cooked meal that took me hours to prepare.

The safety in looking up at practice and seeing me watching.

The love felt in snuggling up with a book that I read while I ignore a hundred other tasks.

Sometimes, I just need a reminder: these "have to's" can also be "get to's."

Don't misunderstand me: at the end of the night, I need a little mindless tv or a few chapters of a good book, and when my husband returns from his trip, I may will likely knock him over sprinting out the door for a not-so-quick trip to the coffee shop and some time alone with my own thoughts-- but there is joy, too, in the mundane.

And sometimes, we need the reminder that what we are doing IS hard, but it IS important, too. This is God's work, this raising of children. Sacrifice and tears and frustration and full hearts: these, too, shall pass, and often far too quickly.

So, for today, I will stick out my chin and open my arms and do my best to let my "have to's" and my "get to's" come together and create my life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Last First Day

"Ward Christopher!!"

I hollered up the stairs for what felt like the thousandth time...

"If you cannot stop teasing your sister, you are skipping dinner and going straight to bed tonight!  I've had it!"

During breakfast, a song plays in the cd player.  The singer croons, "And our babies never cry, and we can look you in the eye, and say, 'I'm not afraid to die-e-e-e.'"

Elliot: "What's that mean?"

Ward: "It means, he's lived a good life and so he's not afraid to die now."

I looked at him a thousand times tonight.

I thought about how little he still is, in some ways.  Relentlessly teasing his sister, still struggling to swim; he hasn't even lost a tooth.

We ran around the yard together playing hide-and-seek.

Surely, he's still little.

Every so often (although it's become a rarity now), he shows up in our room in the middle of the night, standing with red eyes and disheveled hair, and insists on crawling right in between us because he dreamt about some bad guy getting him or us.

I remember the seemingly endless nights when I wished he would JUST GO TO SLEEP ALREADY.

And now, he does.

Now he folds his clothes and carries dishes and takes his own showers. He jumps from high places and swims out just a little too far.

He pretends to box with his sister, but never actually throws a punch, even though she doesn't hold back.

He gives his things to younger children without a second thought.


I asked him tonight if I could cry tomorrow when I drop him off, and he shook his head.

"Would it embarrass you if I cry?"

He looked at me through the side of his eyes, and shook his head again.  He has learned to tell a small fib to preserve my feelings.

How does that happen?

And in every new skill mastered I feel a twinge of regret.

The last first reading.  The last new letter.

Tomorrow will be the last first day of 1st grade for him.

One more last first.

For weeks, he's been saying that although other kids get nervous about school, he's just excited.

Tonight, in the quiet of bedtime, he shared his innermost thoughts that only a parent gets to hear in those moments.

"I'm a little bit scared.  Mostly excited, but a little scared, too."

We've talked a lot about what this year will look like: stricter rules, structured work, longer days.

At bedtime, he prayed, "God, let me behave at school tomorrow.  Help me be kind to others and make lots of new friends."

I remember so many of these moments, preserved perfectly in my mind.

The first time I held him.

The first time he wrote his name.

His first bike.

I was there for each of those, actively encouraging him towards that last first step and even past it...

My role tonight was more of an observer.

He took his own shower, and laid out his own clothes for school.

He made his food requests for day one: biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and chili for lunch.

I hugged him and reassured him.

I promised him I'd make him a great lunch, complete with peanut butter cookies.

And that I'd do my best not to cry.

On his last first day.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pre-Birthday Time

Right about this time of year, I start freaking out.

It's the "pre-birthday" time.

Not my birthday (although my own years seem to be passing ohsofast), but my son's birthday.

Six, this year.  Six.

This baby that we hoped for and prayed for and wept for.

He came.  And he stayed.

And he took our lives and shook them up and pushed them forward and took all the breath out of us.

And so, as this time approaches each year and our discussions turn to cake and invitations and a couple of special gifts, my heart begins to beat at an incredibly rapid rate and I try and fit just a little bit more into the current age.

More outings.

More snuggling.

More activities.

More sitting and staring at him and squeezing him and begging him to please stop growing.

I try and sit and listen more when he tells me about the ninja-ship-training station he's made with his Legos and I try harder to come up with creative answers to whether Lego Luke or Lego Obi Wan is really the better Jedi master.

I am more in tune with turning off distractions and giving time for him to ask me deep questions about spirituality or checkers or music.

I practice biting my tongue and giving warnings when I may have snapped on a typical day.

In short, I panic.

I find myself clutching at these weeks/hours/days/minutes with increasing desperation as my children grow and stages and ages fly by in a whirl of color, never to be visited again.

And yet, though all of my being screams for time to pleaseslowdownwontcha, I can't help but urge him on.

In the midst of it all, I find myself encouraging him to do more on his own.  Sure, you can go ahead and make that bread and crack the eggs, too.  Of course, you can cross the street, just be sure to look. Well, I think you can read that all on your own now, why don't you try.  Well, what do you think about that rule--does it seem fair?

And he continues to one-up me.  He'll bend down to help a friend while I'm getting frustrated at how long things are taking.  He'll spend entire evenings creating gifts for his baby cousin.  He'll entertain his sister by letting her ride around on his back.

He bombards us with questions.

"Why do flamingos stand on one leg?"

"How can it be fair that some people speeding get caught and others don't?"

"Does God still love Satan?"

Isn't this the bittersweet of parenting?  We cling to the past, but somehow, can't seem to stop ourselves pursuing the future.

As nostalgic as our past always is, the excitement of the 'yet to come' begs us to keep moving forward.

And although my little boy is quickly losing the "little," I think I'll still work, as often as I can, to hang on to those little moments.

I think they're the ones I will remember.

Happy 6th Birthday, Ward Christopher.  Thank you for being the first reason we were called mom and dad.  We love you so very much.