Thursday, May 26, 2016

I have often wondered....a lot of things, really, but this one thing has come to the front again and again. How does God expect any person to become a parent and be any good at it. How He knows they will become parents is pretty well established and it seems to be working great for a good portion of my friends and family. There are definitely some who are now or have in the past struggled with infertility- and my heart goes out to them. I definitely have no idea how that feels. At all.
But the part where they (parents) are any good at it is the part that has me shaking my head in wonder.
First of all, there really is no training available that really does parenthood justice. It helps if you are an older child in a larger family or a younger child of a larger family and prolific siblings who provide material for study but in the end it turns out that all you really walk away with is a little more realistic expectations of how much baby poop stinks and how many dishes a big family can make in a  short period of time. Because, really, have you noticed that children sleep really well through babies crying, they aren't bothered (much) by noise if that is what they are used to - and they don't worry about all their siblings growing up and going to jail. Or if they do, it's a fleeting and perhaps at times even a hopeful one if regarding an older brother they deem a menace to society that should be locked up to preserve their Barbie's lives.....or heads....or whatever you call what Barbies' have.
I became a parent at a young age and I'm grateful that I learned to spell early on in life because that's really the only thing that has felt orderly in my life since. There are few times that I remember peaceful silence in my house in the past seventeen years with the exceptions of those times that all the kids went with Dad to feed cows or everyone was napping at the same time and that creates a magical equation for the unique parenting style I like to call "Interrupted Parenting".
This is a method were the mother spends a lot of time trying to recall the page number she is on in the child rearing book she is trying to read while nursing and re-reading parts that she finally recognizes after a few paragraphs and skips ahead hoping to guess close since the bookmark was knocked out of the book when it was bumped off the arm of the chair she uses for feedings. Because once you get that baby latched on you aren't going to go looking for it, Heaven knows.
She soon advances to cooking, cleaning and paying bills punctuated with baby crying for attention in the background of every call which confuses the heck out of those stupid automated machines who love to repeat "I'm sorry, I couldn't understand that. Please try again."  There would be silence for a moment and emboldened, Mommy starts again,,,,just as baby drops the favorite toy and begins wailing. Nevermind the wait of twenty minutes, at this point Mommy would kill for a live person to talk to who can guess what you're saying in the moments of silence.
Being interrupted is difficult so she becomes an expert at waiting until baby is sleeping to do anything possible and after bedtime she catches up on anything she missed and decides that she didn't really need sleep anyway.
If she's blessed she might have several more children close enough together to make certain that one child will interrupt the other child who is having their story read while Mommy is nursing and she is off the hook of ever having to finish that book about how to get babies to eat, sleep and poop in some sort of intelligent fashion that allows for uninterrupted showers or whatever but she doesn't really care that much anymore because she doesn't really know what showering alone is like anymore anyway. She has learned that at least if baby is buckled into their car seat in the bathroom and is sleeping when the shower begins, at least you know if there is crying it isn't because Daddy forgot to watch out for the fast two year old and he isn't smothering the baby with too many kisses or a blanket or anything and she can relax through the crying as she showers as fast as humanly possible. Though she sometimes wonders if showering is really necessary- there are tribes that don't, and they don't do much laundry either.......hhhmmm.
She advances over time to the the stage where she doesn't really notice the frequent punctions of "Mom! Mom!" as much anymore as she ties the shoes and buttons the pants as she  cleans while on the phone and dispenses drinks with almost telepathic ability, only rarely giving the cup to the wrong child or kissing the boo-boo on the wrong elbow. But she can't seem to remember very many things for very it the fact she hasn't had a full and uninterrupted night's sleep in almost twenty years? Or maybe that she hasn't had a thought process without interruption in almost that long?  When her spouse takes her out for a rare evening away and she either sits in silence and can't think of anything to say that doesn't involve the children or she can't stop talking because no one has listened to her all day it may seem strange to someone who speaks to one person at a time in an organized fashion- maybe even with a secretary to run interference and prevent interruptions. It may seem odd to someone who hasn't ever had a group of children sit and stare at them as they are trying desperately to zone out enough to hear themselves think taking bets about what's wrong with her until a little impatient one takes her face in between both hands and yells "Mom! I want an orange!"
Several days ago I was trying to print four pages of financial statements off the internet with my phone. The phone was not defective, the printer was not defective or even out of paper. It took me an hour. I called a teenage boy down from upstairs, out of the bathroom and in from outside at least four times to finish his chore of sweeping the floor, dialed a number for another so he could call a friend, helped another child with four math problems because it couldn't wait- you know, URGENT math- and helped a toddler down off the sofa so he wouldn't jump on his sibling who was sitting smashed up next to me watching me push "Print". I also answered several questions from other children and called someone to get the toddler a drink. And change his stinky diaper for me. No I didn't pay them any money or favors, I reminded them they get groceries and clothes and don't pay rent. It was discussed but I held firm. My husband called me a little later and asked if I were finished printing them off and when I told him I had just barely got them, he wondered aloud (silly man)" What were you doing that took so long?"  I am considering going on vacation alone - perhaps to take part in a sleep study, where I could get paid to sleep without interuptions and leaving him home with the kids to find out what I was doing. They say women need more sleep because they use so much of their brain in so many areas at the same time. I wish it were possible but more sleep has yet to materialize. My parenting plans have been quite impressive in the past, the times that I remember what they are and they usually last just long enough to create hope in my bosom before they get interrupted by chicken pox, winter, morning sickness, accidents, emotional upheaval, travel or death. So I conclude that God intended for parents to love their kids and mess them up all at the same time. If that weren't the plan He would have made sleep a part of the equation. Or maybe the solution is hiding in one of those books stashed so carefully under a chair somewhere. I hope it's not any further back in the book than chapter one........
* Completely random sidenote- I was only interrupted ten times while typing this the first ten minutes that is. My toddler is jumping off his bed and landing on the floor which happens to be right above my head. Over and over. This doesn't count as an interruption. I don't have to do anything about it unless I adhere to a system of child training. I seem to have lost the book that explains that one.

Monday, May 9, 2016

To Be A Mom

I'm a mom, a very mormon mom. And it's the best and hardest thing I've ever done. I'm not unusual amongst my peers for that sentiment, for there are many wonderful moms in my church. We take being a mom very seriously and devote much time, energy and effort (not to mention lesson time ) in our women's organization focusing on our divine calling as mothers.
I have a confession. This won't be heard by my bishop nor will I likely announce in my women's group. Today in church we celebrated our mothers and their selfless sacrifices and devotion, every word reverential and respectful and the phrase "All I ever wanted was to be a mother." was said a number of times. But not by me.
"Being a mother wasnt all I ever wanted"
There, I said it. I love babies and before I ever wore a bra I liked children and thought people who didn't like children were crazy. I come from a quasi large family- 6- and there were a number of families of that size in my town and there were at least three I can think of with twice that many.
I always wanted to have children, but that wasn't the only thing I wanted. I wanted to travel and see many parts of the fascinating world we live in. I wanted to learn how to sword fight, play the accordian and speak other languages. I wanted to read, write, paint, sew, design homes and ride horses.
Sometimes I even wondered if I wanted to bear children. Maybe adoption was the way to go- a physiology class was enough to convince me that perhaps squeezing a baby out of the tiny orifice in my nether regions was likely the worst idea I had ever heard- long before I realized that our human bodies are amazing and wonnderful and that there are indeed many ideas that are far worse!!  (drugs, breast augmentation and the piercing of certain body parts were not on my radar yet!)
I knew some of my limitations with regard to patience, kindness and attention span and that created in me a curiosity to know if I were even capable of not misplacing any possible offspring, though I wasn't overly concerned since I wasn't exactly sure how any of the ladies I knew did it either and their kids seemed safe enough. I kinda figured guardian angels had some important role here- (they do!)
I then entered High School. A place where my observations of the opposite sex clarified my doubts that I would ever want to live in the same house with one of those masculine nutjobs if I didn't have to (with my elder brother, I most definitely had to, and it was an experience I both enjoyed and abhorred depending on the day and knew I didn't have the intense desire to replicate for life).
I liked a number of those masculine nutjobs and enjoyed their company quite a lot but a close look at their habits and hobbies and understanding of their interest (or lack thereof) in being helpful with small children, clarified in my mind that marrying, much less reproducing with one of these beings would be a headache, perhaps the biggest headache imaginable.
I wasn't wrong. I wasn't right either but I can tell you that the choice to marry a masculine nutjob was not as hard as I thought.
So how does a girl who liked kids and loved babies and had a great many other plans for her life (at least preceeding a family) get married at age seventeen and have six children?
I met a guy that neither liked sports nor had any interest in a large family.  He said two - I said eight, just to bring a little balance to the perspective. I was kidding. He was the cleanest person I ever met and a good cook. He said not much and didn't commit to something unless he really meant it and he didn't hesitate to speak his mind. I knew marriage would be a headache ( I watched Princess Bride, I knew full well that "life is pain").My parents are wonderful people who have loved and served their whole lives, giving their best for their family and I watched them closely as children do and realized that being married was going to be inconvenient, expensive, annoying and try the patience of a saint. I knew I wasn't a saint.
But I also knew that there was something in that man that I met, something that made me feel alive, something that to me felt  like coming home. He had something that awakened in me a memory I hadn't even made yet and I trusted my intuition long enough to get to know him. For to really know     someone is to love them- and I wanted to know him. I sought the Lord in prayer and made the best  and hardest decision of my life and married at seventeen. Not because I didn't have any other options or plans, not because I was afraid to go out and find life and live it to the fullest. I married because I couldn't betray my heart and live with that regret.
And it was and is an experience that I wouldn't change. We as a couple sought the direction of God as to when to have a family. The details of those conversations are none of anyone's business but ours. Not that people didn't offer their own brand of busy-body business minding but the timing and number of my children was God's timing and the results of our obedience as a couple. Certainly not based in an over-inflated belief as to our ability as parents, our confidence as to patience and our possession of it, nor our impressive pocketbooks. The doubts in my head by far out matched those of skeptical family members. But if my mother had her doubts, she never spoke them to me, for which I am grateful. My mother has stood by me and helped me kindly and gently meet the challenges of childbirth, sickness and skepticism without ever discouraging me or critisizing my best efforts

I have learned that I need to climb that mountain, buy that accordian, take a break, even take a vacation to be me, not only a mom but a person who has hopes and dreams and lives them. So that my children see that I am happy to be a mom, a wife, a musician,  a world traveler and a writer, even. Sometimes. So that my kids see that sometimes I don't feel happy and what I choose to do about it.
Because I am more than my ability to produce a baby - though if you want to list having pushed six humans out of a hole that size without medication, in a resume, I think you should get credit for sheer guts, personally! A mother isn't only someone who gives everything for her family- I believe she is someone who knows herself better because of her family, someone who gives herself- her best self- to the life experience that a family lives together. That woman who mothers gives her experiences and love and wisdom and these things come from a life lived. My plans changed but they were exchanged for richer experiences. Sure, there are some things I haven't yet done- small children need their mother's presence and that is the highest priority, but I have lived many of those plans with my children,  they see that anything is possible because families support us in our hopes and dreams, mothers too. My kids have watched me make time for things that challenge me, scare me and inspire me. I hope they see that life is not something that you do until you have kids but rather something that goes on no matter what and we find the joy, the lesson and the rewards.....together. Not one of those mothers that said today, "All I ever wanted was to be a mom" meant that they don't have hopes and dreams and talents and fulfilling lives- just that they didn't put something else at the top of their list. They are all amazing women.
All I ever wanted was everything. Everything I need to learn, grow, experience and love.I have traveled (some), I have learned several languages, learned to sew, play accordian....and violin, baritone uke and someday maybe even the bass after I inherit a million....or earn it. Someday I will paint a beautiful painting but for now I am loving painting furniture.  I've sewn beautiful gowns and quilted insanely large handpieced works that no longer match the homes I've decorated......because I redecorated - and I've not learned to sword fight. I don't want to anymore. I became a good shot instead. Ha, eat your heart out, Indiana Jones. I've ridden horses and can't get enough time to please me but my kids got the the love and a dad who is horse poor (13 might be enough....maybe) and he teaches them to shoot and sword fight, and someday I'll ride to my heart's content. And I have learned that I do like children- my own much more than anyone else's. I do love babies, and the exhaustion that comes from not sleeping for what feels like years ( ha, because it is!) makes you realize that far from wishing that they would never grow up, you are actually happy to love each stage and let them get to that magic age where they sleep (3,4, case someone here is hoping to hear the answer to that question, it can also be never but they learn to be up alone without you ).  And you look back with joy in remembering those soft and sweet first moments, days, months of that child's life. I've learned that your children will teach you more about yourself than you can imagine- and to know yourself is the greatest gift.
So when you look at a mother you may see a woman doing her best- if you can't see it, look harder.
I didn't only ever want to be a mom, I knew I wanted that but I also needed to learn what else I  wanted to be. God has shown me the miracle of His Grace in giving me everything I ever asked for in a better way than I could imagine. It's not "either/or" but simply "And".