On Being Someone’s Mama
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Baby Girl was complaining recently about some pains in her joints, I couldn’t tell you the name of the joints, maybe I should consult the hip bone’s connected to the…song. The poor girl seemed legitimately hurting as she pointed to where her little legs met her little hips and I gave her a little hip-noogie to dull the ache.
My brother used to get growing pains in his legs, my baby brother who stands 6 feet tall. I told Baby Girl that she might be getting growing pains, and why would the girl who has grown two clothes sizes in one school year stop growing now? Cruel fate this rapid growth of my babies. You feel me?
I had forgotten, though, how exciting the term “growing pains” is for someone who plans her next birthday party 11 months in advance.
So a couple days later the girl says, “Mom, maybe we should check and see if my Croc shoes fit now. Because you know I had that leg pain?”
Oh. My. Head.
Oh my head, girlfriend. In your own head, you just leapt from possibly having growing pains to definitely having grown and now wanting to try on new clothes to boot. The next day you came out wearing that disco dancer skirt you got for Christmas which then was decidedly too big and now, you know what? It looked a tad more fitting. Of course, you probably thought. You had the leg pains, so…obviously, Mom. Time for the upgrade.
I’m sorry, Baby Girl. It is truly an awful joyful thing to have you growing up so strong and so swift. You might feel the pain in your joints occasionally, but your mom feels a judo kick to the heart on the regular.
Was that the sound of you just gasping because you had JUST told the lady on the bus (the one with the leopard-print neck brace) that you were DYING to know how Kendra spent her day?
I thought that was you!
Well, lucky for all our loyal readers here at kendraspondence, Kendra invited herself to the party going on over at Bowdenisms and will be sharing her real, that is, providing the true itinerary of a typical day in her shoes.
Most mornings I am up by 6:45 a.m. In the months when it is not dark out, I will wake earlier than this and go to the gym and hide behind my ipod, which is not an ipod but it sure beats calling it a walkman which is still, honestly, what I call it. I talk to no one at the gym because speaking before 10 a.m. when I am not being paid to speak and/or one of my children isn’t about to accidentally eat glue for breakfast is against my constitution.
But supposing I don’t go to the gym in the morning, I hit the shower while Loverpants readies the children. After my shower, I enjoy snuggling for a minute with the Little Man. I put on my clothes that I never ever ever plan the night before, and I apply make-up because if I don’t get to eat breakfast, the world will still make its lap around the sun but if Kendra doesn’t put on concealer, well, then, all bets are off. I should probably carve out time in the morning to pray, but I am more clearheaded with God at night. This is maybe what I tell myself?
If I do get breakfast, it is instant oatmeal in a bowl while standing and asking for the fourth time for at least one of our children to put on his/her shoes. I also absolutely need to eat a banana and drink a mug of coffee or I write with a palsied hand and drool uncontrollably for the rest of the day.
We all pile into the car together to go to my workplace and my daughter’s school and my husby and my son go the gym. Maybe this is your idea of hell, your whole family bumping down the road, sharing in the morning commute together, but this is a thin slice of Heaven for me. Even if someone is usually crying. We say a little prayer for our days and then I go to my office.
I go to my office and scan my e-mails and think about how I should have been better prepared for class.
Then I teach class. In other words, I jump around a room and embarrass my students with my enthusiasm and punny phrases. I laugh. After class, there is a good deal of requisite loitering in halls. Most of higher education actually happens in doorways and hallways I’m convinced.
I then proceed to not use good time management with my office hours. When I finally decide to get something real done, like grading or responding to work e-mails, 8-9 students or co-workers drop by my office. This is very good. Except when it isn’t. There are a number of people who don’t know how to end conversations. I am admittedly annoyed by this but cannot somehow disabuse myself of –anyway. So that’s my morning.
In the afternoon, I usually catch lunch on campus. I try to single out one student who might be struggling with life’s questions and we try to eat and pray together about stuff. Otherwise, Loverpants and Little Man will join me for lunch at the dining hall. Little Man usually behaves like a muppet on crack and embarrasses us like no parent deserves to be embarrassed. And yet we keep bringing him to lunch in the hopes that he’ll learn (?) Most afternoons I teach a class which I really love but still wish I were more adequately prepared. Right after that class, Loverpants picks me up from work. This car ride usually makes me sick and the kids are usually shouting over Loverpants and me.
Then Loverpants goes to work. He sees clients after school and in the evenings, so we kinda have a shift 1 and shift 2 going on in parenting land.
Just about every day I take a 20 minute disco nap after school. I need this. Sometimes it turns into a 1 hour nap. Usually one of the kids joins me on the bed and pulls my hair, which is undeservedly mean but whatevs. They watch TV and I nap, either on the couch next to them or on my bed.
Then we play outside in our big rambling yard and sometimes we accidentally trample the neighbors’ flowers. This is a really good time of day and affirms why we moved to Tennessee where it is moderately warm even in the winter.
After that we will wander inside and I will make my kids a dinner that will consist of whatever carb they are not sick of and lots of fruits. They eat in front of the TV. I am okay with this for now because I have chosen not to kill myself over a family dinner that hinges on me alone (see also: co-parent works evenings). I also eat a snack. A snack. Who has time to make themselves dinner? Not this girl. Showing my real here.
As much as it depends on me, my kids are bathed and pajamafied by 7:30 p.m. We read books and someone usually gets clocked in the nose. By reading books you ask? Yes. You’ll have to stop by sometime.
Then comes Candle Time where the kids fight over who gets to blow out the candle first. We sing a little song, say what we’re thankful for in our days. Then someone accidentally blows out the candle. Little Man always says he’s thankful for his Flynn fire truck. We sing a song about Jesus and then someone says a prayer that usually entails an intention for whomever was absent in Baby Girl’s school that day. Then they both re-blow out the candle and they get in their beds.
My children are not like your children who, the second their heads hit the pillow, they are out. My children are like I was when I was a child: overstimulated and of the belief that a reasonable bedtime is overrated. My children come out of their rooms 23894028343 times every night. I know I should read a book by Dr. Ferber about this, but I choose to sit in their room and rock them and tuck them in 2389408234 times.
I answer e-mails and work on my book project and by 10 p.m. I am too tired for all that malarkey so I read a book or do some yoga and then I do my devotions. I fall asleep feeling like the luckiest 32 year-old woman, in the body of a 78 year-old woman.
Long day yesterday. Taught an early class and a late class and did beaucoup grading in between.
I was crawling the walls of my office, not a glimmer of natural light could find its way through the brick.
The highpoint in my day was getting to meet Baby Girl for swim lessons. That moment when she’s racing into the gym, brimming with all the happenings of the school day and all the excitement of getting to change for the pool plunge–I wanted to drink her in.
After swim lessons, I got to hug and kiss my Little Man, but then I had to leave again, to go back to work again, and there weren’t enough hugs and kisses to make that departure okay.
The cherubs were long asleep by the time I got home. Their little paintbrush eyelashes at rest, dreaming about summer and popsicles and bike rides.
I stayed up folding laundry and as my hands pawed a T-shirt of Little Man’s my heart started to hurt. Touching his shirts rather than holding the real thing. It was hard to swallow.
I felt heavy, and then I felt glad. Glad for the experience of getting to teach and have a career, but also for the soul-hunger because of not being able to see my children as much.
This is surely the cry of every parent who works outside the home–not ever getting to see our children enough.
But this is also no doubt the cry of every parent. Because we all so much want to see more of our children.
Sometimes our eyesight is poor, you see. Sometimes we can’t see our children because our focus is off. We see the toy-laden mess on the carpet, 5 and 37 Legos on the floor. We see sprinkles on the toilet seat, marinara handprints on pants. We don’t see the shy but present need for affirmation. We just see the scattered remains of Hurricane Craft Project.
When my work at school is done, I get to see my children. Therein is more work, however. I am increasingly grateful for the chance to see my children but sometimes I must work to see them, to fix my gaze on their beautiful personhood, to really examine their condition. So what if their T-shirts are fraying at the edges, what of their souls? Are they fraying too because of neglect?
I have been changed by this work of seeing. Folding clothes and touching T-shirts, the little armholes where arms that throw and wave and flail poke through. I never saw all this before.
This work is such gift and I pray that my eyesight would always be sure enough to do it and love it and become better by it. And to always, always be changed by it.
Before we owned real estate with plummeting values
Before we slept an average of five fitful hours/night
Before we ever knew the meaning of the words IRS Audit
Before we ate cold snacks for 75% of our meals
Before we considered a “date night” a free lunch at the school cafeteria with only one of our children pilfering food off our trays
Before we worked multiple jobs
Before we moved across states
Before grocery shopping on a Saturday night was the weekend m.o.
Before sleeping in past 8 a.m. was pure decadence
Before “vacations” entailed spending a week at our parents’ houses
Before we bandied about names like Ferber and Princess Presto and Chuck the Truck
Before we really knew what it was to be stretched to the ends of our resources and sanity, meaning before we really knew what it was to pray and to love…
…this is what we looked like:
And to think.
The goodtimes hadn’t even begun.