I was tired, zoned out on my phone, scrolling through instagram and facebook, and picturing all the things I would do someday when the “Mom!” yells of my three year old penetrated my brain. He pulled the phone down from my face.
“Do you want to play with me?”
I took in his grin and his sparkly eyes and couldn’t refuse, “How about sleeping monster,”
This suggestion was met by squeals of delight. I laid on the floor with my eyes closed, arms and legs outstretched while he ran in circles. I made attempts to snatch the feet and arms that swarmed around me.
At some point in the middle of the chaos and joy, I came out of my vague dissatisfaction with my role as a stay-at-home mom. The disjointed thoughts that had been swimming in the back of my mind finally settled.
There are many things I want to do in my life. Most of them are made more difficult by motherhood: Write books, travel the world, get a masters degree, read more, learn photography, take classes in everything from art to astronomy, be more involved in the community, volunteer, read the entire newspaper, go to lunch with friends, eat a meal in one sitting…
The realization that struck me with clarity in the middle of my half-hearted attempts at playing with my kids was this: WHO I want to be is more important than all of those things that I want to DO. Motherhood is meant to make me become that WHO if I will let it.
Later I closed my eyes and envisioned this ideal me…. not someone else’s ideal of me, but the me that I really wanted to be and could sometimes feel inside trying to burst out. Not the pleaser, not the me I think my husband, parents, or a friend wants, but the person I really have the potential of becoming:
courageous, compassionate, smart, patient, funny, a good listener, organized, responsible, balanced, peaceful, a good friend, patient, fun, observant, informed, hardworking, wise with my time, optimistic….
I will let my kids refine me, help me with each of these things, by the time they are gone, and I have tons of time (and am probably lonely) I will be ready to take on whatever goals I want.
Motherhood makes me courageous.
I hate tubing behind a boat. The water feels like cement as it skims underneath me. The sole goal of the driver is usually to get the rider to dramatically fall off the tube. As I look into my son’s uncertain eyes I know that if I show fear he will never get on the tube; robbing him of an experience he might have enjoyed. So instead I smile and whisper to the driver to go really slow, climb on the tube and show them how much fun it can be.
After a pleading request from my son, I take a deep breath and start walking toward the mom I’ve never met. The one with the manicure, clad in perfectly matched workout clothes, an uncertain smile on my face. I adjust my own jeans and T-shirt self-consciously as I approach.
“Hi,” I say
“Hi,” she replies, looking down distractedly at her son as he pulls on her leg, trying to get her attention.
“Josh really likes playing with Tyler at school I say. I was wondering if we could get them together sometime.”
“Sure! Tyler would love that!”
We exchange numbers and I walk back to my car, smiling in relief. Josh’s whole face lights up when I give him the good news.
I will do things for my children that I won’t do for myself or for any other adult.
Motherhood makes me a good listener.
“Mom did you know that the Titans were actually the parents of all the other Greek gods? And that some people think there are 346 Greek gods, but some of them have more than one name, so there could be almost 700. I actually believe….”
All three of my kids can talk. forever. about. almost. anything. Too often, I say, “uh-huh” “sure”, “cool”, intermittently without really listening. Lately though I’ve tried, “No way! Tell me more about that.” or “Which one’s your favorite?”
As a reward, the soliloquy usually continues with more intensity. I practice listening, not telling.
Motherhood makes me an optimist.
“Guess what guys! It’s chore day!” I yell and run to hug my kids. This announcement is met with good natured groans and
“Will you tell us stories while we work today?”
“Can we play questions?”
“I get to pick the music!”
I tell my kids cleaning day is my favorite day of the week because I get to hang out with them for hours and hours. They believe it wholeheartedly and I mostly mean it. By the time our house is relatively clean, we are more than done with each other, and more than done cleaning, but we tried to find joy in drudgery.
I want my kids to find joy no matter what life throws at them and if I want that cemented in their soul I have to find joy too. I don’t make a game out of every chore, but I do try to be more peaceful, to stop and look when they show me something that brings them joy, to enjoy the small things.
Motherhood makes me smart.
Kids ask questions about everything. Some of our recent favorites have been , “Why are there letters (as in the alphabet)?” “What are roads made out of?”, “How are buildings made?”, “Where do Transformers come from?”, and “What’s the speed of light?” A lot of times I don’t know the answer and have to “ask my phone”. As a result of my kids curiosity I know just about everything there is to know about sharks, a fair amount about Greek and Egyptian gods, and a small amount about the earth’s core and astronomy. When I read the newspaper at breakfast my kids always ask, “What’s going on in the world?”. When I explain current events to them the information sticks more firmly in my own head.
Motherhood makes me seek and find.
Deeper questions also arise. Usually when we are driving in the car. Something about staring out the window, while listening to a mixture of pop and country music inspires deep thoughts in my elementary-school-aged children. Is there a god? What does he look like? Why are some people different colors? Why are some people mean? What happens after we die? etc. Having children has made me explore more deeply my beliefs on faith and freedom. I don’t want my children to leave my home without a solid foundation, to be blown about by the wind. I want them to know and recognize truth, which means I have to find it and teach it to them. I have to be clear on the importance of equality, faith, freedom, respect for others and a million other hard topics. Having to explain it to them cements it for me. That doesn’t mean I know everything, but I know more than I would. It doesn’t mean I don’t want them to be open to the opinions of others, only that I want them to have their own.
Motherhood is for me. It refines me as nothing else ever can.
Motherhood makes me more fun,
more able to love
more joyful and optimistic
more comfortable in my own skin
more courageous, determined, sure
more organized, hardworking
more able to listen, to be patient, to appreciate
more able to see through another’s eyes
Motherhood is for me…