What They Don’t Tell You About Raising Kids

I spent five long years trying to become a mother.

And I’ve spent the last fifteen trying to be a good one.

Raising kids is probably the most important thing I will ever do. But I didn’t get educated in a classroom or with a how-to manual; I learned on the job and mostly by making mistakes. When they wheeled me and my new baby girl out of the hospital to join my husband who was pulling up the car, I remember hesitating and looking at the nurse nervously. She patted my back and whispered, “You will do fine.”

For our first hour at home as a family, we sat across the room and stared at her, while she slept in her carseat.

We were terrified she would wake up.

We were terrified she wouldn’t.

That sort of sums up my parenting experience so far–What if they do? What if they don’t? Will they? Should they?

I have second-guessed and been given second chances. I have marveled at all I didn’t know and been amazed at what I learn every day.

They didn’t tell me the sleepless nights of pregnancy were a foreshadowing of the next 18 years.

They didn’t tell me the deep-breathing was for more than birth.

They didn’t tell me about the first set of stitches or the second. Or that I would get woozy every time.

They didn’t tell me that I would want to give my kids everything, but that I mustn’t.

They didn’t tell me how hard it would be to say no, but I must.

Wrtf_030

DSC_19731

They didn’t tell me I would watch my heart get on a school bus.

They didn’t tell me I would long for school to start as much as I long for it to end.

They didn’t tell me there would be math. Lots of math.

They didn’t tell me about the first time my child would hurt my feelings.

Or how angry I would feel when someone hurt my child’s.

They didn’t tell me how I would ache to fix their problems.

They didn’t tell me I would fall into bed physically exhausted when they were little and emotionally drained when they were older.

They didn’t tell me I would give up something I love, so they could figure out something to love.

They didn’t tell me I would yell.

They didn’t tell me I would laugh until my sides ache.

They didn’t tell me I would cry myself to sleep because of something they said or worse, because of something I said.

They didn’t tell me my son would call me in the middle of school today and ask to go home early because he is grieving his beloved archery coach’s terminal diagnosis.

They didn’t tell me I couldn’t make some things better. Or how badly I would hurt when my children do.

They didn’t tell me how hard some days would be.

They didn’t tell me how fast it would go…

Wrtf_005

SBP_8427cbw

They didm’ tell me how much I would love being their mom.

They didn’t tell me all these milestone and phases for one reason:

There is joy in discovering motherhood –the beautiful and broken days– for ourselves.

One day at a time.

For the Days (And Weeks) When Everything’s A Mess (Including You)

How is everything? 

It was a sincere question from a dear friend.

We stood in the small Mercy House building that sits in my backyard and there was barely room to turn around, as we unpacked product from around the world.

I immediately thought about my filthy floors just a few steps away in my kitchen begging to be swept.

And the laundry in various stages throughout the house and the dirty dishes in the sink and the clean ones in the dishwasher.

laundry

I thought about the bills that needed to be paid and the taxes that needed to be filed and my cluttered closets and the boxes of stuff still waiting to be donated. I needed to go the grocery store, I thought, before I tackle the rest. But we have after school practice and Fair Trade Friday packing and . . . I don’t even want to think about upstairs. My mental To Do list grew by the second and I took a deep breath.

IMG_7309

I assumed she was really asking about the crazy-busy week I was living, but all I could think about was the chaos and my first world problems.

I tugged on the headband covering my graying roots and I said, “Everything is a mess.”

She smiled, relieved to hear honesty, I think.

“Yeah, everything is a mess,” I continued. “My house, my car, my pantry, my garage, my hair, my life.  Do you ever feel that way? Like some days you’re on top of the ball and other days you’re under it?” I asked.

IMG_6174

She nodded her head, “Yes! I totally get it. I have entire weeks like that”

I immediately felt better. Honesty will do that for you. So will community.

And then she added, “How can I help you?”

Oh, friends.

When we let down our guard, we can let others in.

When we let people into our mess, they don’t point and judge at our disorganization or dissatisfaction, they help us clean it up.

We talked awhile about what I could to catch up and mostly rest.

Because it wasn’t so much my surroundings that were messy (although they were), it was the mess in me. The unsettled I can’t do everything, but I need to do everything vortex I get sucked into.

When I got home, I didn’t tackle one thing on my list. Instead I went and got a massage.

And I let my friend do my dishes.

I thought about my time, how to best use it, what was sucking it. I shared my thoughts with my husband later and we formed a plan to tackle some of the chaos.

But mostly, the messes are still here and there. (The sink does looks better and I made a hair appointment).

What really changed was me.

I realized all the other things in our home and life piled up because we were focusing on what really mattered more: people. 

Because really all those untidy places are just proof that we are living.

So, I’m determined to tackle a pile when I can, but I won’t hate the mess. I’ll try to look for the beauty in it.