Monday, September 22, 2008

Lessons From Motherhood

I am fairly certain I have addressed this topic before, if not in my blog, at least in my head. I am constantly amazed at how many interesting lessons I have learned while raising my sons. Today I had one of those "Aha!" moments when I realize I have - despite any focused effort on my part - grown. So I thought I would share just a few of the life lessons I have learned from motherhood.

I Know I Have Grown When...

1. I find myself kneeling over a toilet filled with little boy pee, plastic spatula in one hand, ladle in the other, trying desperately to rescue the bottom half of a Lego Power Ranger from imminent death, and instead of crying over my wasted college education, I am laughing hysterically because, well...its just funny.

There was a time when this same scenario would have brought out the tragic theater major in me. I would have wept and gnashed my teeth over the loss of "me" as a respectable, educated, contributing member of society. Today I realized I am over that. Actually, I realized I am over myself. Yes. I fish toys out of toilets, but to one little boy (who was cheering me on enthusiastically) I was saving the day. Society may not recognize my contribution from the bathroom floor, but Cal Henry did. I realized today, that is enough for me.

(As an aside, I obviously still have not learned how to teach children to flush the toilet after use...any tips on that one? Because while I appreciate growth opportunities, the scene would have been a lot more tolerable without the pee factor.)

2. When my child is sick, my first reaction is pity, not repulsion.

Anyone who knows me knows that my greatest fear, hands down, is puking. I am so afraid of it, I spent years thinking I would not have kids because people can actually throw up from pregnancy and labor. (In retrospect, I laugh. Like throwing up would have been the hardest part of labor?!?! Young me cracks old me up!) Once we had the boys, Mark and I made a pact that I would handle blood trauma, and he would handle gastro-intestinal trauma (while I holed up in a germ proof bunker several states away). All of this got thrown out the window two winters ago when all four of us came down with the stomach flu. If you ever have wondered what hell is like, you should have stopped by. I am certain we were living it. Poor Cal Henry took the worst of it, and after a week he ended up in the hospital.

Never, ever, ever, EVER in a million years did I ever see myself volunteering to stay by the bed of my vomiting child. But I found myself more than willing to hold him and rock him, knowing what would eventually cover me. Love overcomes fear every time.

3. Giving your child easy answers to life's hard questions only delays them finding out that life's lessons are hard.

I have learned this through countless conversations with Jude. Jude can be very pensive. If he hears something that strikes him strangely, he will mull it over again and again. Eventually he will ask Mark or I a question that has no easy answer.

I want so much to protect my sensitive, empathetic child from sadness or pain. But I am not sure how to do that without lying. One day he told me that he heard someone say that sometimes people die when they are children. This obviously bothered him, and he asked me if it was true. What a hard moment! I want to protect Jude from the tougher stuff of life, and at the same time I realize that God has created Jude with the heart he has for a reason. When he hears that there are people who don't have houses to live in, he immediately offers to share his room. While that may not be the solution to homelessness, it gives me hope that when faced with the difficult truths of life, he will respond from his heart.

4. People are who they are. And that makes life interesting.

This is my Cal Henry lesson! Cal is an individual. He feels no need to follow a crowd or socially conform. All this at age 4. He isn't a rebel, he is just fully himself.

A perfect example of this happened just Sunday morning. Of course, I had laid out a nice handsome outfit for church which after a brief inspection, did not make Cal's cut. Instead, he selected a red Power Ranger shirt, blue shorts, one white sock and one gray sock. (The Hulk shoes did match.) I have to tell you, I have spent more time than you can imagine wrestling with Calvin to get him into "appropriate" outfits. At those points, neither of us was fit for church - physically or spiritually. I double checked with Cal Sunday morning to be sure he knew his socks didn't match and offered him a matching pair, but he understood what he had chosen and we went with it.

Maybe that shouldn't be a big growth step for me, but in all honesty it is. Calvin is adorable and I almost melt to see him dressed up like a big boy. But he is a Power Ranger kid, not a Children's Place kid, and that keeps things interesting around here. He is who he is. It is kind of inspiring.

5. Little things are big things, and big things are little things.

Little things, like rescuing the lower half of a Power Ranger, matter. Not to the world, but to the people I love most in the world. I would love to do something grand and magnificent with my life, but my idea of "grand and magnificent" has changed dramatically in these last few years. I may not have the eyes of the world on me, but the pairs of eyes that watch me, see everything. Every little thing. And that makes the little things matter.

The flip side is that many of the things I have stressed out over probably don't have eternal value. I have to think long and hard to remember what my SAT scores were in high school. I know it was a major event in my life, but I cannot remember one question on that test. In Pre-K, the children have to fill "letter bags" each week - you have to send in three items that begin with the letter of the week. Sweet heavens, when Jude was in Pre-K I thought I would get a bleeding ulcer from "K" week. Now that Cal is in Pre-K I find myself chillin' about the letter bags. Just like I have no idea what they asked on the SATs, I am certain twenty years from now I won't remember what went in the "K" bag. And my life with be rich and full without retaining that knowledge.

So these are a few of the lessons that being a mom have taught me. Motherhood has softened and sharpened, grown and trimmed, and stretched and relaxed me. I love being a mom. Even when I am fishing in the toilet.


Danielle said...

You're so good at this Ann. Thanks for sharing.

Carrigan Family said...

How did you go home and write this after you left here AND get dinner? You know you have me here in puddles -this just echoes what I know God has been showing me - we just can't waste these days - our children can't afford to have momma's who are anything less than authentic - I'm so thankful that doesn't mean perfect - He calls us to simply "be".

And next time you need to rescue something so valuable - I have some long thong/pincher thingys you are more than welcome to borrow - Rob uses them on the grill :). I'm so glad you guys came by - Ryan talked and talked about it - Addie kept fussing about no "basagna" - but I kept reminding her that she got see Ann and then she would laugh. See, not contest between Ann an "basagna". love you!