you realize if I played by my rules, I'd be cleaning out kids' rooms right now?
This post is in honor of Caitlin at iMommy, who's looking forward to the arrival of a new baby into her family. Several of her blogging friends (The Big Piece of Cake, Is Any Mommy Out There?, Eat, Play, Love, Insta-Mom, Issas Crazy World, Marinka, and Psych Mamma) are also posting in honor of Caitlin today as part of a virtual baby shower to share our parenting advice. After reading this rather long-winded, typically wordy post I've laced with random bits of "awww" and sprinkles of "that's so sweet," I hope you'll take a moment after commenting (if you wish to here) and visit Caitlin's blog and offer your own advice or even just your well wishes.
Last Tuesday afternoon, armed with garbage bags and a wavering sense of determination, I stood in the hallway outside the boys' bedrooms and viewed the carnage that littered their hovels. Stuffed animals loitered shamelessly with action figures. Clothes I couldn't recall either victim wearing earlier in the week laid tangled among the other cast-offs. Books were dumped on the floor just inches short of their shelves. Under my nose, a distinct yet utterly untraceable funk that can only be labeled "boy" mingled. I closed my eyes and counted to 10. Ten came to pass and still I stood there, eyes still closed, hope - never really there in the first place - fading.
"This is ridiculous. OK. I'll go, I'll go, I'll go, I'll go, I'll go, I'll go," I muttered, channeling my best Cameron Frye from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
But I didn't go. I stood there a second or two longer, thinking about how a day spent clearing out these two crime scenes - slash - bedrooms wouldn't be fun. How it wouldn't include lunch at a fancy restaurant with the Sausage King of Chicago, or singing a Beatle's song in a spontaneous parade through my house. In fact, like Cameron fighting the plan, I may have hopped up and down in a mix of anger and frustration. Mostly frustration.
Frustrated? As a mom? Shocking, isn't it? Well come a little closer so I can let you in on a little secret...
Sometimes I get incredibly frustrated being a mom. I have days where hearing the word "Mom" - whether from my kids, a stranger's kid, or even the television - puts me on edge. Makes me want to run screaming out the door, down my street, and straight into some child-free paradise. Except the screaming part would remind me of my kids, and then I'd get all frustrated again, and see? Hello, vicious cycle.
Perhaps I'm not alone in this thought. I hope not. I hope I'm not the only one who wakes up some days and wonders how they're going to face the same routine, put together the same peanut butter sandwiches, repeat the same set of rules that were in place yesterday, but seem to have evaporated from smaller minds during slumber. Wash, rinse, repeat. If I am, I should obviously look into making an appointment with a qualified specialist. But first let me figure out how I'm going to juggle the laundry, get one kid to sports practice, and arrange childcare for the other.
Yes, being a mother is frustrating. Staring at the cavernous mess my two boys had created in their rooms (Did that pile of clothes just breath? Is something alive in there?), I was struck by the thought that the only reason I'd want to go in and dig out that day was the hope that my excavating would turn up a human resource office to which I could submit my letter of resignation on the whole motherhood gig.
"What's that?" I'd say when the HR director tried to stop me from quitting. "You say I'm too valued a member of this team to just quit? Ha! Oh, that's rich, HR director. In fact, that's far richer than I'll ever be! Is there value in washing the same underwear and socks every week? Are the heavy sighs of complaint I hear when I put a homemade meal down in front of my children my reward? Are the riches in the missing reading glasses someone else must now be wearing because they so-called "mysteriously disappeared" from my oldest's backpack on his way to school? If so, then I should have quit this job sooner!"
Those are the moments that (sometimes) make me wish I could forget I was someone's Mom.
Last Tuesday night, with the boys' bedrooms still in manic disarray, I sat on the couch. Quiet. In the dark. Alone. "This is good," I thought, closing my eyes to really take in the peaceful moment. When I opened them a few minutes later, my oldest son had quietly come into the room and sat down beside me. Close, but not too close, according to 11-year-old boy standards. My youngest son, 6, stood in front of me. I'd remarked the other day how he's becoming so big that it's hard to lift him, but there he stood in front of me, and before I knew it, I held my arms out in front of me and was asking him to climb onto my lap. Often this boy's own set of standards causes him to shoo away the hugs, but on this evening, he willingly entered the half circle my arms were creating, climbed atop my lap and settled in. In seconds, he was nesting his head under my chin, allowing me to smell the fruit-scented remains of the shampoo earlier used to wash away that distinct yet utterly untraceable "boy" funk. His hands, still small and with the last glimpses of the knuckle dimples I'll mourn when completely gone, rested upon my shoulders.
The three of us just sat there. Quietly. In the dark. I could feel my youngest son's body relaxing into mine, and soon after heard the faint sound of a "pop" as his lips - typically moving rapidly and always with the need to tell me Very Important Things - opened slightly as the final indicator that he'd sunk into deeper sleep. "This is great," I thought, once again closing my eyes to really take in the moment.
And I really did want to take it in. I wanted to sit there forever with these two boys who mess up my world, forever request peanut butter sandwiches, who can't seem to remember even the smallest thing from one day to the next. Yes, I get frustrated being a mom. Yes, there are days when I (sometimes) wish I could forget I was one. The dirty rooms, the sporadic whining that feels like it goes on forever, the complaints about my meatloaf? They're always going to be there. The moments like the one I got to have with my boys last Tuesday night (and, truly, so many other times) though? They're the ones that won't always be, and they're the ones that make it easy for me to remember why I'm happy to be a mother. So, remember those. Hold onto them. Forget about the messy rooms and hold onto your children as often as possible. They are, in essense, the Sausage Kings of Chicago.
Which, come to think of it, could finally explain that distinct, but utterly untraceable funk...