Today was one of the best days we’ve had at home in a while, for me and the kids. The long-awaited pajama day at preschool was trumped by a snow day, and all three little people spiked fevers sometime after breakfast. No fewer than 7 (seven. SE-VEN) hours of cartoons were consumed by a certain someone with a 103 temperature and an abiding love for the Octonauts, and I was only dressed in real clothes for about an hour, during a brief foray to the doctor’s office and the grocery store.
And it was, truly, one of the best days in recent memory.
I didn’t yell, I didn’t cry, and I didn’t stress over what I was or wasn’t getting done. The kids were so needy, and I, for once, was so acutely aware of their littleness and their neediness that I just threw up my hands and settled onto the floor in my yoga pants to soothe, cuddle, and read aloud.
Sure, a few loads of laundry got washed, but nothing notable was checked off my endless to-do list. For once I could clearly see their needs, and somehow, there was the grace to meet them.
I do so much in spite of my kids, stepping around them and over them and looking past them – or at least looking past whatever trying developmental stage we might be stagnating in currently – that I’ve lost countless opportunities to train flabby mommy muscles and hone parental prowess by meeting reality head on. I grit my teeth and get through it, whatever “it” happens to be: pink eye, potty training disasters, sleeplessness, etc.
And I drag them with me.
Today felt different, though. Today, maybe because it’s Lent, or because I prayed first thing like I always should but never actually do, or because school was cancelled and my agenda was derailed, I just met them where they needed me, extending my arms and letting them climb all over my slowly shrinking lap and reading Little House on the Prairie until my voice got scratchy. (And yes, hours and hours of Netflix, too.)
I didn’t try to escape it, not in the virtual sense or the literal sense. I didn’t load them up and force the planned Costco run. And, miracle of miracles, I didn’t send a single electronic smoke signal to my homebound husband on the evening commute. I just accepted the day as it unfolded, and for once I played the role of competent, caring adult for a solid 10 hours.
Maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit, but it certainly didn’t feel very familiar. I think I spend more time than is polite to admit attempting to escape from this particular season in life, whether it be through exercise or constant, low-grade panic-cleaning or the endless busyness of saying yes to yet another little project or another small commitment, giving away little pieces of myself bit by bit until there’s nothing but scraps left for the children.
For my children.
This isn’t some kind of self castigating tell all about the terrible state of my motherhood. I’m not a bad mom, and I know that. But I am a highly distracted mom, most of the time. And an overworked mom, exhausted by my own free will more often than not.
My choices and my standards are what keep me there, though. It’s not really the kids, most of the time. It’s me. My expectations, my plans, my agenda…and my failure to put first things first, vocationally speaking.
I’m not saying mom shouldn’t make it to the gym every other night. God knows I need that precious time on the Stairmaster with HGTV blasting through my earbuds. And there’s nothing wrong with keeping a clean, clutter-free house that brings peace and life to your family. But there is something wrong, something out of place, when the kids and the marriage and the vocation you chose, of your own free will, become not the means to your sanctification but the burden that tugs at the edges of your sanity.
I am there too often, and I can see where a long string of days and months and years in such a place could lead.
Thank God, then, for little graces wrapped in feverish bunches of damp pajama bottoms and snot-streaked faces. For the bloodless surrender to a day spent reading stories and filling juice cups and vacuuming around clumps of kleenex. He knew just what I needed today – what we all needed.