A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a tribute about motherhood to share at Karissa's baby shower. I was so honored to bless my dear friend this way! Here are some thoughts that I compiled....
First, a little background:
I met Karissa back in her wild days, when she was over-the-top about everything and I knew nothing beyond my little sheltered conservative boundaries. I think we were twelve. I was instantly thrilled by her manic spirit and her ability to capture the attention of everyone in the room--not to mention a few in the adjoining room, too. I absolutely wanted to be her friend. She was less than enthralled with my goody-two-shoes personality.
But as time went on, we did become friends. We became the kind of friends that passed dozens of notes between classes and fought over boyfriends. We invested time in each other. So much time; years of time. But as close as we got, we never lost our individuality. We never became carbon copies of each other, and so, even though we disagreed at times, we always had our own qualities to bring to the relationship. I think that is one of the reasons our friendship has lasted these 17+ years.
I say all of this because, when I think about my journey through motherhood, it is impossible to separate that journey from the friends that have traveled the road with me. Raising a child really does require that virtual village. (I haven't yet determined what raising FOUR children requires!) I have found that there are a few close friends that I do rely on during the course of this journey. God provides my purpose, my daily strength, and that still small voice that guides my decisions--should I let my kids go to that friend's house? Will that ice cream cone become a before-bed disaster, or just a happy childhood memory? Has it been quiet just a moment too long in the playroom (or the bathroom)? But through these friends He also provides my JOY. I could raise these kids with just the help of the Lord, but something in my soul would always long for that missing companionship of other mothers. Through them, God provides encouragement and He meets my physical needs--a ride when I am stranded, a hug when I am dismayed, a hot meal when I have a newborn to hold.
Motherhood is hard. It's hard right from the day of conception. Back when I was pregnant with my first son, I used to say that I finally understood why God have us a nine-month gestation: Because it would take me at least that long to wrap my mind around the idea of how largely my life was about to change. Pregnancy took my sweet, skinny bridal body, gave it a few good punches, threw it around the room a bit until everything was in the wrong place, and then handed it back to me. I was a little bit horrified at the result! I was thankful to finally deliver, believing that after going through a difficult pregnancy and the thrills of labor, that I would begin to get my body back. Ahh, the deceit! The aches and pains! Oh, the joy of it all!
Motherhood is hard in every respect. It's the only occupation that doesn't require a degree, but expects you to adequately answer questions like "If I blow up a balloon, and take it with me into a rocket, and then go up into space, and let the balloon out the window, will it pop?" and "What would have happened to the world if Adam and Eve HADN'T have sinned?" before you've even had your first cup of coffee in the morning. And it's non-profit. On particularly hairy days in his construction world, Justin will come through the door grumbling, "I don't get paid nearly enough for what I do!" I always laugh, "Neither do I!"
Kari Anne Roy writes haiku poems about some of the less-than-beautiful (but definitely eternal) elements about motherhood. She compiled some of them in her book Haiku Mama: Because 17 Syllables Is All You Have Time To Read. Here are a few of my favorites.
O, lovely naptime.
You are better than birthdays
With the gifts you bring.
Yay! The perfect time
To strip down naked and scream--
When Mommy's on the phone.
Bubbles are awesome,
But don't pop them with your eyes.
Then they kind of suck.
When she was my mom,
She said no sweets before lunch.
Here is one that is all too familiar:
Your misshapen, squeaky mouse
Is freaking him out.
Please, grocery lady,
Don't make him eat the free ham.
He is scared of you.
And the tie for my personal favorite:
Other playgroup moms,
So svelte in their yoga pants
While I eat cupcake.
Child hugging TV
Should probably not be your
Christmas card this year.
My favorite thing about being a mom is the LAUGHTER. Children laugh so, so much during a single day. I appreciate books like Haiku Mama because they, too, are a reminder of the joy that sometimes falls on the back burner when there are hungry boys to feed and a two-year-old to potty train, when the laundry pile has become Mt. Washmore and is threatening to not only take over the laundry room but belch its lava into the playroom, and when the gas bill is starting to arrive in the Blue Envelope, signifying that they are about to turn my heat off for lazyness, I mean, lack of payment. During these moments, I do well to take a deep breath shut my eyes to the seemingly incurable mayhem, and enter into the World of Play with my boys for a good half-hour or so. To build robots and Star Wars pods out of Legos, and draw our favorite sea creatures with fat Crayola markers, and play Crazy Faces Eights and laugh at the Onion Guy with his wild hair, and turn on the battery-powered Panda (don't ask) and race him up and down the beds, jumping up and down and cheering him all the way....(even though there is no one he is racing against....hmm....) These moments revive my spirit. It is the hardest thing in the world to turn my back on a messy house and disorganized checkbook and PLAY....but I find, every time, that when I finally leave the boys to their games and trek back upstairs into Real Life, I arrive with a smile on my face 100% of the time, and my burden does not feel so heavy. On the contrary, I race through my work in record time, having found new life in my calling.
I have a sneaking suspicion that I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of figuring out what motherhood really means. There are days I wish I could have figured it all out before actually having kids, but I'm realizing that's just not possible. This is an occupation with On The Job training. Only. Period. But despite the crying, the cranky attitudes, the whining, and the messes....and all the negative sides of my KIDS, too....I really don't ever wish I was anywhere else, doing any other job. This is my satisfaction. This job of Mothering enables me to try my hand at all of the things I have ever expressed interest in: Gardening, cooking, cutting hair, teaching school, managing finances....the list goes on and on. So what if the pay's not great? What other job can boast all of these perks?
Karissa: I know you share my heart on this. I am so thankful for you, every day, and for our like-minded approach to mothering.
One last thing I'd like to share: A poem by Amy Rosenthal, simply titled LOVE:
I love how when we're listening to the radio in the car the DJ's banter and band names are a foreign language to them and so they get hysterical and blurt out the few words they do recognize, like "Mom, he said 'Bare Naked Ladies'!"
And I love that whenever it's my or their dad's birthday, they can't grasp why there aren't any goody bags
And I love that they think yellow taxicabs are really just baby school buses
And I love that they refer to the exterminator as "the ant hunter"
And I love that they wonder if there is specifically "a Chicago heaven"?
And I love that when our flight was delayed for seven hours and I was a whiny brat they showed me that it was just as much fun to play at the terminal as anywhere else
And I love that they define my job of writing as "drinking coffee"
And I love that they get excited, I mean really excited, about Jurassic Park paper plates
And I love how they can say so much with so few words, for example, "Your feelings came into my feelings, and they came and took my good ones out"
And I love playing make-believe games with them where they get attacked by a tiger or vampire because then I get to revive them by slowly applying the "magic lotion" all over their soft yummy little legs and arms and cheeks
And I love being wakened (if one must be wakened up) by the words "Mom get up, get up, it's seven o'clock! WE'RE WASTING TIME WE COULD BE PLAYING!"
So Happy Soon-To-Be Birthday, Little One,
And Blessings on your Mama--she has earned another jewel in her crown!
I love you