Monday, August 8, 2016

the hidden gift in motherhood

We have been at the pool almost every night for the past few days. Post-dinner swimming is my favorite part of summer living in Texas, where even after the Sun has set, the air hangs all hot on your neck like a wool sweater.

The boys hit each other with pool noodles in some kind of destructive boy ritual, my daughter calls out for me to watch her do tricks and flips underwater, and I sit in awe that they are growing up so fast.

Two of my boys are middle schoolers, and the third one likes to remind me that they will all be teenagers in two years. I die on the spot every time he says it.

I remember when The Teething Years hit our family and created mass destruction a decade or so ago. I thought teething children were the worst version of people ever. But moody preteens definitely give them a run for their money.

I’m not sure if you felt the world end the other night because our family had to eat In N Out burgers for dinner instead of Lupe Tortillas Tex Mex, but it TOTALLY DID. Given the grunts and moaning emanating from the backseat about the horrendous injustice of our change of plans, I thought Jesus was coming back to take us to glory during the car ride to those delicious California burgers. But then, once the child whose life had lost all purpose got two bites of a Double Double in his belly, he told us it would all be okay after all.

“Sorry I freaked out. I think I was just really hungry,” he said in between bites.

We know, buddy. We know.

Even with all the hangry moody feelings flying around our house, I love this season. I love that I can sleep all night and leave them to run to the grocery store. My kids are funny and kind to me, and when their dad is out of town, they take care of me as much as I take care of them. They tell me about their books and I tell them about mine. We watch movies together that don’t make me lose brain cells like the ones we watched when they were little. We can travel and they can pack their own suitcases. They are learning to cook and they can clean their own bathrooms. It’s all simply fabulous.

I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know how the invisible passing of time turned babies into big kids, but I’m loving it. I want life to stay exactly like this forever.

Except I don’t. Because I need to see who they will become in ten years, when they’re all in college. I can’t wait to meet the spouses they choose. Also, I need grandbabies one day. Lots of grandbabies.

There are no spoilers available to help me bide my time until I find out what paths my kids will take. I can’t troll the comments on a blog to find out what happens in season 8 or 10 or 22 of my kids’ lives. It’s all live streaming right here in front of me, and it’s the most brilliant comedy/tragedy/action documentary of all time. I can’t take my eyes off of it.

I spoke with a young mom who is so freaking tired yesterday. Because I’m sleeping a solid eight hours every night, I forget sometimes that scientists haven’t developed a cure for the exhaustion I once endured when my boys were little. But as she described her life, I had flashbacks to the days when I was so tired it hurt everywhere, like a truck had run me over but no hospital would take me in so I still had to make sippies full of orange juice all day. Honestly, my favorite part of getting pregnant was knowing I would get three whole days in a hospital after giving birth, because for several years I just wanted to lie down for more than five minutes without someone screaming at me or almost dying because they fell on the fireplace or tried to swallow something sharp. Small children don’t sit still or sleep enough, in my opinion.

I looked at my friend and I told her I knew how awful it is. I also told her it gets better. It gets so much better. There’s a deep blessing in serving your little people alongside the God who entrusted them to you. Hidden in motherhood is a gift of grace like no other, but we must suffer a bit to find it.

You sacrifice sleep and sanity for a while. You practice patience and kindness when they’re being crazy bratty little people. You draw boundaries and coach them on how to navigate an unjust world and keep their souls intact. You cheer for them, pray for them, listen to them. Then one day you look up and there they are, standing on the edge of the pool, having a cannonball contest while you sit in a chair with a can of Lemon La Croix and a heart exploding with a fierce love that you never knew existed before you had children.

Then the shocking realization hits you that this love is not just what you feel for them, but what God feels for you.

That’s when nothing is ever the same again.

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