Two years ago my sister-in-law gave Maggie an "I love Olivia" shirt. We are now at the point where she wears this shirt at least once a week. She truly LOVES Olivia. And frankly, now that we read the book EVERY night before bed and have discovered the show on TV (shocker), I love Olivia, too. Mainly because she reminds me so much of Maggie. I am fairly convinced that if Maggie were a character it would be Olivia.
Last week we were watching an episode that I (brilliantly) recorded. At the end Olivia's mother is tucking her into bed and she asks, "Mom, are you in charge of me?" Her mom replies, "Sometimes I wonder if it's not the other way around. But I love you anyway."
When I first sat down to write this post I hadn't taken a shower in at least three days. Last week was one of those weeks where I'm pretty sure that anyone would do a better job raising our children than me.
Here is a picture of the inmates running the asylum.
When I think about it, though, it's not just last week. This has been a weird year for me. I feel like I went from paddling along the smooth waters of motherhood to suddenly floundering in the water, gasping for air.
Momming had kind of become my thing with Mags. I was OK with me having my own parenting style and Mags being on her own schedule and doing her own thing (not much has changed...), and I really truly just loved being a mom.
With Howard, there were many days that I found myself shrinking in my own eyes. It was like I couldn't keep up with myself - let alone everyone around me.
But lately (both within the past week and within the past few months) I keep having conversations with people and reading things about motherhood that make me feel as if maybe I am not the only young mother who feels as if she is just scraping by til the end of the day. Knowing that I'm not the only one who does not find it realistic to "enjoy every minute" is rather refreshing and affirming.
Yesterday I read something from an older mother...one who is just sending her son "off." It was very poignant and thought-provoking, especially as I thought about how I will look back at this time 16 years from now. But something she said stopped me from getting all choked up:
"I wish we had read even more books. And I had said yes to every game of Scrabble."
Not that I'm not going to be a blubbering mess when I turn around and suddenly my babies are real people, but I want to look back at these days for what they ARE. I want my future self to remember that there were probably reasons WHY we didn't read more books or that I couldn't say YES to every game of Scrabble. I want to remember that parenting is so much more than the whats...and more about the whys.
There's somewhere in between the cuddles and scrabble games where real life has to happen...and somewhere in the midst of the laundry and dishes that you have to make time for the good stuff. I'm still not sure where the balance lies...but I want to remember this.
There are days when the dishes just need to stay piled in the sink because it's more important for me to be present for a tea party or to pull a train, but there are other days where things just have to get done. Where discipline needs to happen or boundaries need to be set or patience needs to be practiced.
There is a lot of pressure to be the right kind of mom. The Tiger Mom, with all her balls in the air (and her children's as well), whose children are bright and well adapted and well-rounded in all areas of life by the time they are twelve. Oh, and her house is clean, too.
Although I am often overwhelmed by my responsibilities as a mother, I have to remember that God has graciously surrounded both me and our children with a host of others to fill in the cracks where I fall short. Fortunately, He knows my many inefficiencies, and there are a host - family, friends, Sunday School teachers, and an amazing spouse...and so instead of just having to depend on me to give them everything they need, my kids are surrounded by grace, love and wisdom on all sides.
I also am learning to see my mistakes and shortcomings as an opportunity for both my children and I to experience grace on a different level. Maggie and Howard are SO quick to forgive, SO quick to love and SO quick to forget...a hug or a kiss is never far behind the tears. The grace found in an accepted apology (or even before the apology has occurred!) is a remarkable thing.
At some point this summer when I was having a really down moment about not having a clean house and not knowing what to do with the kids and not knowing what to do for dinner other than pizza or macaroni and cheese, let alone not having my own self-starter business or blog because let's be honest who doesn't want to go live in Paris for a year...a song came on Pandora that I have not been able to get out of my head since. "Lord you have my heart, and I will search for yours..."
With my hands immersed in soapy bubbles at the sink I closed my eyes and remembered that THIS was what it was all about. My satisfaction and affirmation should be found in Christ alone.
And even if I don't get to every Scrabble game or my kids don't get straight A's in all of their AP classes, THIS is what matters for my kids, too. I am not scarred by the fact that my parents didn't read me 10 more stories every night or that they sent me to school when I felt sick (but probably wasn't)...but I am forever thankful that they laid a strong foundation for me of knowing and valuing who Jesus is and what he did for me.
So when I feel like my days are spinning out of control and I am starting to become a crazy person about nap schedules or eating habits or messes or how much TV they have watched that day, I am trying more and more to remember what this is really all about...and who really is in charge.
Because knowing that I am not is the most affirming thing of all.