Monday, May 12, 2008
Last night, I read a profound statement in one of these books. One character was describing motherhood and the changes wrought in a woman's life when she becomes a mother to another character who is expecting twins, her first babies. This is a conversation Rich and I have had with many couples looking at having children, or getting ready for delivery. It is so much easier to quantify the bad things about being a parent. It is much harder to quantify the good. The good really does outweigh the bad, but it is hard to define that to someone who hasn't experienced it. It always seems to sound like morning sickness, heartburn, labor pains, sleepless nights, dirty diapers, trouble with babysitters, trying to find time for oneself and marriage, etc. Those things don't actually define motherhood, though they are a reality of it.
There are moments of pure joy, of surprises that reveal just how valuable your work is, delight in seeing the world anew, in watching your children grow to be beautiful people with gifts and talents and character. At 6:25 a.m. yesterday morning, Rich and I heard a knock on our bedroom door. We are used to this sort of thing, and basically rolled over and answered, "Yes," meaning, of course, "What do you need?" We were answered by a chorus of all of our children wishing me a happy mother's day. It was such a sweet surprise and only got better. We didn't get out of bed immediately after that, but Elijah asked if he could come in to have us read him a story, so we scooted over and Rich read to him. When we got ourselves out of bed, we found that the children had all gotten up, cleaned up, made their beds and gotten ready for church without being asked. That was the best surprise.
Anyway, in this book, the experienced mother was on the cusp of an empty nest. Her youngest son was going away to college in the fall, just a few weeks away, and she was telling her friend how she would trade a year of her life for just one day of the troubles, messes and hard work having a small child around still. She advised her friend to enjoy her children. "The days are long, but the years are short."
This is so true, and it is a hard truth. I look around at my eldest son, my firstborn, who was a tiny baby just a few minutes ago, who frustrates me and does things he's not supposed to, and takes care of things without me asking and is considerate and compassionate. We have about nine years more with him before he heads off to college or work, and then marriage and family. This little person who used to fit in my body is now almost my height, and growing into a young man. We see it every day, and watch them growing up to leave and make their own lives and families, and it is bittersweet. We joke that that is the real reason we have more babies, so we never run out. There will come a day when they are all gone, and we will be able to spend money more freely, organize our time the way we like better, have more time for each other (which is why we put so much into our marriage now), have a cleaner house where we can leave things and find them in the same place, put things away and have them stay away, do laundry once or twice a week instead of once or twice a day, keep on top of dishes and have more time for our hobbies and interests. We will also miss out on the sounds of a family, of laughter through the house, of smiles and kisses and hugs that spring out of nowhere, of messy decorated cakes (my Mother's Day "surprise" from our children), of tightly grasped wilted flowers, of someone who wants and needs your attention and time for stories or talks or questions, of games and songs and family jokes.
For all the positives of owning our own time, I wouldn't trade this life for the world. When it comes time to trade most of it back, it will be a difficult exchange. For now, I hope to enjoy it more and remember that it will not last as long as we would like.