Staying at home with my children hasn't always been easy…or enjoyable. I won't pretend there weren't weeks at a time (especially in the beginning when my kids were still babies) when I woke up in tears, overwhelmed by the long hours ahead of me – me alone with their needs and demands. I was so hard on myself, so quick to judge. There were altogether too many reminders in and around my house (temper tantrums, unmade beds, high-fructose corn syrup-laced snacks, Elmo DVDs, vegetable intolerances, etc.) of my seeming incompetence.
I didn't/couldn't realize then that me just adoring them, hugging and kissing them, laughing with them, reading to them, filling their tiny tummies, and praying for them was having more of an impact on their development than my lack of organic, sugar-free baking skills or money for fancy Old Town School of Folk Music "mom and tot" classes. It never occurred to me that those crash on the couch while my toddlers watched television and the dishes remained unwashed, "just getting through it," kind of days would be inevitable, me being human and imperfect and subject to exhaustion and all.
It's not that I don't still worry or berate myself (ahh, the plights of motherhood), but within the last three years or so, I have, in the healthiest way possible, lowered my own expectations thus reducing significantly my susceptibility to despair. Perhaps I've become more aware of the fragility of life and the lightning speed with which it passes; maybe it finally dawned on me that my sons and daughters seem to be healthy and happy so far despite my numerous foibles – whatever the reason, I am relieved that what once felt claustrophobic now brings me genuine, enduring peace and satisfaction.
Yesterday morning, Ben had a low-grade fever so I had three of my four kids around instead of just the two. Usually, we're pretty busy between public, pre, and homeschool; so often, now, I gaze exasperatedly at the clock (5:00 pm?!) wondering where in the world the afternoon went. It was a nice change of pace, having nowhere to be, nothing urgent to do. Presently, we're all on the verge of illness, just waiting and watching to see which will way the tide will turn. It feels like someone has pressed "pause'; I dare not make too many plans lest we end up succumbing to the subtle aches in our heads, the fluttering nausea in our bellies (like everyone else in our neighborhood seems to have done) and have to cancel them. It's pleasant, every once in awhile, to not think ahead, to just stay in my jammies and be. I am here, with my family, caring for them the best, flawed, way I know how.
We parents are neck deep in such a beautiful and complicated mess, one caked with uncertainties, inconveniences and love so intense, so Divine, it transcends death, disillusionment and even, most amazing of all, our own screw-ups. What other choice is there besides falling, forgiving, standing back up and redoubling our efforts? Those kids can sure get on my nerves, push my buttons and tear at my heart. I want nothing more in this world than to have them near me.