I was chatting with my good friend Shauna yesterday about the other side of motherhood (you know the screaming at the top of their lungs in Sprouts while they nearly knock over an entire row of glass salad dressings?). The part that we don't write sentimental blogs about around Mother's Day. It is at her suggestion that I write this entry.
In the shower I have lots of conversations. My latest one involves sitting next to Lady Gaga on a plane and striking up a conversation about our lives. I think it is my form of therapy to myself to explain why I choose mothering over more 'worldly' paths (never mind that I know practically nothing about Lady Gaga!). I tell her that I'm so glad to be a mother. That it's a balance between thinking you are are going to go crazy to getting the sweetest payoffs and loving what your life definition is. Like the insane stress that accompanies having dinner guests (which we do one to two times a week)- you desperately try to make a beautiful full meal and dessert, during the kids "fall apart and fight" hours of the day, alone (because your husband is lucky to get home at the same time company arrives), trying to have a spotless house, and pretending that there will come a moment that you can try to spruce yourself up a bit too (this seems to rarely come to fruition).
As the moments get closer to dinner time and my efforts more intense, I remember I have to create a whole separate meal for my children because they subsist on literally five dishes (did I really go through all that work to hear shrieking and bawling at the dinner table because of green objects on their plates?). About this time, I usually turn to see Alison sitting on the table pushing the plate settings off, or dumping full glasses of water. It is at this moment that I vow to myself that I am never feeding the missionaries again or that I am making Glenn try this magic act alone sometime to appreciate what he is putting me through (I laugh at this because Glenn is not the one who invites our dinner guests over, so it is totally illogical!).
But then you fast forward ten minutes. We are in the arms of friends (or handshakes to missionaries), chatting and smiling, eating a good meal together, children quiet as they eat their grilled cheese sandwiches and looking forward to dessert, and I am happy. I totally rescind my former vow and tell myself that I couldn't stand life without dear friends (this is true, I am an extrovert to the core).
This is just like motherhood to me. I get to the point where the screaming, testing the limits, laundry, or chronic sickness*, etc. threaten to make me want to pack a suitcase-- but then Max will hug me in a way only a little boy who truly loves and needs his mother knows how, or Ali will start saying new words and initiating games and I marvel at her intelligence, or I feel like the smartest mom in the world because I found out that I can get Jonas to do anything by blowing in his ears to make sure his "listening ears" are ready. And suddenly I know that the work and forced growth (often due to public humiliation!) are something that really give me the most definition and joy in the world. And I remember that "I get to be big because they are small" for only a short season more.
When I left my grandma on my visit to San Diego last week, that is what struck me. This really ends sometime. Her days are becoming desperately few due to terminal cancer. Her children and husband love and gather around her- and they are the ones who make the dinners for her now. I asked her favorite part in life and she said "Being a mother. I loved being a mother. And Earl always made life nice." She glanced at my sleeping Grandpa and said "I knew if I married Earl, he would always love me and think I was wonderful even if I was awful." She wasn't awful, but she was right about Grandpa.
And so I tell Lady Gaga this stuff while the Ali cries at the shower door and tries to climb in.
*Not the real serious stuff, just every cold, flu, etc. My kids pick up everything- I may be one of those mothers who actually makes their kids sick by hand washing and sanitizing too much. Mercy, that just seems an ironic cruelty doesn't it? The more you try, the more often they'll get sick anyway? All I know is my diligence doesn't seem to spare us any bug.