It's kind of like a club, this motherhood thing. It's a club that requires you to give up everything from sleep to privacy. But the perks are unbeatable! The benefits can range from one of a kind artwork (of the crayon variety) to super tight, slightly sticky, magical hugs. The members of this club are honored once a year. This day is called Mother's day.
As the mother of nine, I have given up countless hours of sleep to sit with sick or fussy little ones or to wait for a certain teen driver to make it safely home before curfew. I have been pregnant or nursing for over 10 of the 12 years that Brian and I have been married. The last two pregnancies required daily shots of blood thinners in my stomach, at times up to 6 shots a day. I have suffered through morning sickness for over 2 years. I have had mastitis three times, along with cracked and bleeding nipples from nursing. (Too much info? Sorry, but it's true.) I wash at least three or four loads of laundry a day. We spend obscene amounts of money on groceries, usually at least $100 a month just on milk. We have had more stomach bugs and colds than I can count. I have wiped thousands of snotty noses. I have changed approximately 30,000 diapers (a friend of mine and I actually figured that one out!). We have had a broken arm, a twisted knee and stitches. We have had a tonsillectomy and a bronchoscopy. We have battled leukemia and an eating disorder. We have dealt with toddler tantrums and teen angst. It has been difficult, exhausting and heart breaking.
So, after hearing all of that, why in the world would anyone in their right mind even consider joining this "club"? Why would any sane person, knowingly, sign up for this one time let alone two or three times, or in my case 9 times? That is the question, my friends.
I had the privilege of falling in love with and adopting three little ones. I have had the honor of carrying 6 little souls under my heart. I have felt a tiny hand slip into mine and give a little squeeze. I have felt the flutter of new life within me and I have seen the tiny arms and legs moving on the ultrasound monitor. I have held a tiny newborn body close to me and gazed into those big gray-blue eyes for the very first time. I have seen the transition from baby to big brother or big sister happen in a blink. I have had the privilege of watching my little family grow and grow and grow. I have snuggled warm little bodies in the middle of the night. I have watched my little ones miraculously turn into kindergartners and elementary school students and then high school students. I have cheered my little athletes on during football, soccer, tee-ball, baseball, softball, and basketball games. I have watched swimming lessons and dance lessons. I have seen the pride in their eyes when they bring home an excellent report card. I have been blessed to watch them grow in their faith as they have participated in Baptisms, First Reconciliations, First Holy Communions and Confirmations. I have watched my oldest four serve the church as Altar Servers. I have seen my son face down cancer and win! I have seen my daughter struggle with her self image and finally start to see the beauty in herself that we all see. I have had a front row seat for dances and proms. I have even survived our first two new drivers. I have seen these children of mine grow and succeed.
These were all things that I expected from motherhood. I expected to see my children develop and grow and change and succeed. What has come as a shock to me, is that I too, have grown and changed. I have become harder and softer, if that is even possible. There is nothing that I wouldn't do to keep my kids safe. Nothing. That is the harder part. As for the softer, I am moved in ways that I didn't know were possible. My heart breaks and soars along with theirs. I feel their pain and their joy as if it were my own.
As their mother, I am their teacher. But I am also their student. I have learned things from each of my kids. I have learned to listen, I mean really listen when your kids speak to you. It means so much to them to give them your undivided attention. I know that it is not easy to do. Trust me! There are many times when one of the kids is saying something to me and I have to ask them to repeat it, sometimes more than once. I have a hard time shutting everything else out and focusing on that one child for that one moment. But when I actually manage to do that, I can tell that they notice. I can tell ( at least for a second) that they appreciate it.
I have also learned not to put a lot of importance on things. Things break (especially with 9 kids!). Couch cushions get ripped. Walls get drawn on (with sharpie of course!). Favorite Christmas ornaments get smashed. Walls get holes in them ( especially if a certain kid drops a chair down the steps). And toddlers can put their head through a window (true story!). Shower walls need to be duct taped because someone tried to use the tiled in soap dish as a step ladder (sadly another true story!) The point is that it doesn't matter. Obviously it isn't ok for your kids to go around intentionally destroying things. That is a definite no-no! But accidents happen, sometimes a lot. Things can be replaced, but your kids can't. And if they feel that a thing has more value to you than they do...well then you are dealing with a broken heart along with a broken thing. Broken hearts take more than super glue and duct tape to fix.
It is important to do as you say and say as you do, because you are ALWAYS being watched! That can be anything from "Eat your veggies!" to "Put a coat on!" The one time that you don't do said thing...you will be busted. I promise! There goes your street cred. And I also promise you that the one time that you don't wear a coat, you will get sick. No doubt.
There are many things that you have absolutely no control over. Your child's bladder is the perfect example of this. The same kid that can play outside all day without a bathroom break will need to pee 15 times during a 60 minute mass at church. (Been there, done that!) You have no control over your child's mood. They can be sweet as pie at home and a little terror at the doctor's office. You have no control over your child's taste in food. Something that they love and can't get enough of on Monday will be the "nastiest and most disgusting thing ever in the entire world" on Tuesday. The same goes for your child's taste in clothing, music, books and movies... and pretty much anything else that they can have an opinion of.
The work will always be there. Always. The laundry, dishes or dusting will be right where you left it. (Trust me. I have hoped that it would just disappear. Nope. Still there.) Your kids, however, will not be. They will keep on growing up. Time will not stand still while you fold that 5th load of laundry. But you can let the laundry sit for 10 minutes and read your little one a few stories or take the kids to the playground. It is worth it. I promise. And the bonus is that the kids will get tired and take a better nap.
It is important to apologize when you are wrong. It might be hard to believe, but even parents make mistakes. I know that there have been many (many, many, many) times that I have messed up. I may have accidentally accused an innocent child of a wrongdoing. (In my defense, I do have 9 potential suspects. The odds are not in my favor.) I can occasionally be a tad too sarcastic. (No, seriously, I can.) This can sometimes lead to me being a little bit mean or unnecessarily snarky to my kids. I have even been known to...wait for it...punish too harshly. I may have a tendency to take things a teeny bit too personally and over react. But, the important thing to take from all of this is not that I suck as a mom. No folks, you have to let that go. The important thing is that I will own my mistakes and apologize to my kids. It isn't fun, actually, it's sort of painful. But it is necessary. Kids need to know that you aren't perfect and that is ok. But, you have to know when to say that you are sorry. Sorry can go a loooooong way. (It's pretty much the only thing that can fix that broken heart that I mentioned above.)
These are just a few of the lessons that I have learned on a daily basis as a parent. Everyday brings new problems and obstacles, but through each challenge there is something to be learned. You just have to look for it. The last lesson that I will leave you with is this. You cannot take things or (most importantly) yourself too seriously. Sometimes a good laugh is the best cure for what ails you. Having kids gives you unlimited entertainment potential. Given a little bit of attention, kids can crack you up! See photo below...
So...this motherhood club thing is pretty hard core. It is intense, exhausting and worth every second. Besides, how many clubs have their own special day??? Happy Mother's Day Ladies!