In the Midst of the Mess

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Mother and preschool daughter
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Here is what I know so far about being a mother.

Some days you will like your child. Some days you won’t. Sometimes these instances are minutes apart.

You will wipe the spit-up off the baby’s face first, even though it’s dripping down your cleavage and will probably create some sort of cesspool because who knows when you’ll be able to change your shirt and/or take a shower.

You will cry when the baby has gas or the toddler has a fever because you can’t take it away and make it better with kisses. You’ll kiss the tears off their cheeks anyway, just to hold a little bit of them inside you again.

You’ll give them nicknames like Peanut Butter Pie and Doodlebug and Chunky Cheeks and hope they’ll forgive you someday. You’ll find yourself saying things like, “Look at those fat thighs!” and mean it as a compliment. And wonder why your own fat thighs aren’t so cute.

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You’ll cry when they fall down and when they push you down. You’ll cry in frustration about how your carpets might never be clear of tiny trains and crumbs ever again. Every so often you’ll become a whirlwind, tossing toys in garbage bags and threatening to take them to the dump … or at least Goodwill. You might even follow through.

You might love your pregnancy, or you might hate every minute of all nine months. Probably a combination. But when your baby learns to really smile at you every time you tickle his chin, you’ll think maybe the pregnancy wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe you’d do it all again just to see that toothless grin.

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You’ll understand your friend’s addiction to coffee or Diet Coke and develop your own drug of choice.

You’ll spend nights wondering what you did to deserve this. If God was thinking right when He gave you the ability to conceive. Whether anyone would notice if you checked into a hotel and slept for three days. That the mental institution sounds like a vacation. You’ll fall over the edge and have to keep right on running.

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Nothing about giving birth makes me more incredible than any other woman. It forces you into battles you never knew you’d fight and aren’t prepared for at all. Like the epic Wearing a Sundress When It’s 35 Degrees Outside Melee. Or, David’s favorite, HOW COULD THERE NOT BE ANY CHOCOLATE MILK WHEN I WANT SOME? You’ll stay calm 98% of the time and beat yourself up relentlessly about the 2%.

Motherhood makes you tender. It rips out pieces of heart muscle and tapes them precariously to your skin. It makes you afraid, it makes you want, it makes you cry, it makes you insane.

But also, it makes everything make sense some days.

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Those times when you do like your 3-year-old are really, really good. Golden sunshine days with baby-toothy-smiles, rompers and overalls, giggles, bubbles, no longer worrying over the messes and mistakes. Good nights of sleep are like magic. Seeing them grow makes you proud and strong and butterfly-stomached.

Learning the faith-lessons along with a toddler makes you grow yourself. You remember how faith is supposed to be like a child’s. And yours, some days hanging on by a string, needs a little childish playtime with Jesus. It needs some loud Jesus-Loves-Me singing in the backseat with only a semblance of a key. It needs to wonder why God made frogs green with funny tongues and why babies grow inside you from a few cells to seven and a half pounds of angelic mass.

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I don’t think you have to give birth or adopt to be a mother. If you love a child to the point where you’d die for her … your heart says mother.

I know I’ve only learned a fraction of the lessons that will come as these three grow and continue to rip my heart to shreds and mend it back with jagged stitches. Together, we’ll discover what it means to be child and parent. Sons and daughter and mommy.

Someday they’ll ask me, “What was I like as a kid?” And I’ll remember those sunny playground days, big sunglasses, white sandals, and say, “You were perfect, my child.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.

Title of this post shamelessly stolen from a line in Hope for the Weary Mom, which also has the gem “I am tired beyond normal.” I think that’s going to be my new response to “how are you?”

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