Was that really a piece of dog hair embedded in dried snot on my child’s face? Yes. Yes it was. Unfazed, I reached up and pulled it off, and then thought I’d better clean that snot off, too. Gross. Only, not gross. Just normal. It’s weird how normal gross things are when you have kids. I’m nearly immune to the smell, texture and sound of bodily fluid as it drips, squirts and flies out of my children. Motherhood. Is this all?
I can still remember when my first-born nephew was around 18 months old (that would have made me 6 and a half). He was eating a cupcake (or something white, I can’t really recall). He had a smudge on his face, and my sister casually reached over, wiped it off with one finger, and licked her finger clean, all the while grinning at my nephew, who thought it was hilarious. I was completely grossed out, and even at that age thought, “I will NEVER do that when I have kids.” Oh, I was so young, so I’ll forgive myself for being so stupid.
Now? I’m in the throes of parenting. Kids who still don’t sleep through the night. I’m exhausted. And you never know when one will suddenly start projectile vomiting, wipe their bottom on a bathroom towel, come down with pneumonia, poke their sibling in the eye with a turkey baster, or have a large set of deer antlers come crashing down on their head, requiring stitches (these are ALL things that have happened in our house during the past TWO weeks alone). I kind of knew motherhood would be tiring. I kind of knew motherhood would be hard. I kind of knew motherhood would be messy. But this is something you just have to go through to understand. You can watch every movie there is about climbing Mt. Everest, talk to every person who’s done it, but you’ll never really know what it’s like until you ascend the peak yourself. Then again, you get like a medal, or praise, or a whole lot of bragging rights for that. Raising kids? It can’t be that hard, or not so many people would do it. Right? Motherhood. Is this all?
As my oldest prepares to enter kindergarten next year, and my youngest is leaving toddler-hood, I’ve done a lot of self-reflection on my own abilities as a mom. Most days, I think I do alright. Not stellar, just alright. Our house is in constant chaos. I clean, and clean, and clean, and my God I clean. All the time. But this is not my calling. I’m neither efficient or effective. And my children look like ragamuffins most of the time. Hair brushed but not neat. Shoes old. Socks matching sometimes. Rolling up late to daycare in an dirt-covered minivan. And I can’t leave the doors open long or all the trash might blow out. We’re like redneck/suburbanite crossbreeds. Glamorous. Motherhood. Is this all?
No. It’s more. So much more. It’s making a bed on the living room floor when it’s 21 below outside and your kids’ bedrooms are too cold. It’s watching two sisters giggle and snuggle under the covers of that carpeted campsite while their favorite movie plays on the flat screen. It’s savoring the innocent softness of your sleeping child’s small hands as they lay folded together. It’s looking deep into your child’s perfectly-blue eyes as she anchors herself in your safety while an unfamiliar doctor at immediate care puts a stitch in her head. It’s stopping by Sonic afterward for an ice cream dish with whipped cream and a cherry on top.
It’s hearing your child ask for an extra lollipop at the pharmacy…to share with their sister. It’s ignoring your child most of the day so you can work, only to have them ignore you when you want their help making dinner, and you’re all “Cat’s in the Cradle” until they bounce on in and eagerly announce they’re ready to spend time with you. It’s watching your oldest as sous chef chopping portobello mushrooms with a butter knife. It’s wincing when they manage to cut their finger on said butter knife, but swelling with pride when they calmly go to the bathroom to wash it off and announce, “It’s not as bad as it looked once I washed the blood away.” It’s watching your children watch their own shadows on the wall while they perform ballet in your living room.
It’s feeling completely stressed out with life in general and expressing your concerns about never getting this filthy house clean until your child asks, “How can I help?,” and then picks up a rag and starts wiping. It’s stealing away a moment of time with your toddler who doesn’t like to read books, and gobbling up as many pages as you can turn when they beg, “Mommy, read to me.” It’s knowing just how to rub your child’s feet when they’re covered with eczema, and they roll their eyes back in their head because it feels so good. It’s finding your child asleep sideways in the recliner after you’d put them in jammies and brushed their teeth and you can’t help but notice how curled up their lanky body has to be to fit in that position anymore. It’s kisses and snuggles and “hold me’s” and inside jokes and dancing and singing and…it’s marvelous.
Motherhood. Is this all?
Motherhood. All, this is.
Linking with a community of writers who are writing on the prompt “Word. Speech. Language”. Feel free to join in at Kirsten Oliphant’s place.