August 15, 2011

Motherhood is like cake…

Christie & Grandma 1975
My Grandmother and I share cake, circa 1975

When I was young, we had cake regularly.  Yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  Banana Nut Cake with cream cheese frosting.  Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  Sometimes all of these accompanied by a couple robust scoops of vanilla ice-cream. 

My mother loved (and still loves) dessert.  And so, my childhood was decorated with my mothers ability both to bake and her natural inclination to enjoy and share the fruits, errmm sweets of her labors. 

I’ve been thinking about this in relation to something else my mother taught me.  Something that I’ve forgotten in my day to day survival with little ones. 

It’s all about perspective.

My mother is a gentle woman.  She’s not a yeller.  She’s never been an angry person or prone to bitterness.  She’s gentle in spirit and sweet-natured.  Soft spoken.  Somewhat shy.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I grew up, how she managed all four of us, how she dealt with the hard stuff…

I don’t remember my mother letting very much get under her skin.  I’m sure there were times…I know she had moments of anger or frustration or exasperation.  Sure she did.  But she was a calm influence in my life.  Gentle.

And she loved to laugh, have fun with us, play with us…she loved reading to us, tucking us in, singing with us, baking with us, making great food for us…

She loved being a Mom.  Our Mom.  She loved the details of being our Mom.  Not just the sacrificial part.  She made it fun. 

I so long to know how she did that.  How she loved it so much.  How it came so naturally to her. 

If you ask her, she will tell you it’s because “you kids were so wonderful”.

(rolls eyes)

Ok, well I know what she means by that.  We all love our children.  That’s just part of the deal.  But who among us hasn’t gotten a bit testy by the fourth dumped glass of milk?  Or the baby powder squeezed all over the bathroom?  Or the pushing/hitting of the sibling for the umpteenth time?

And let’s just clarify – we four siblings rained down a lot more than some baby powder all over her bathroom floor. 

No…she was onto something.  And I think I might finally be coming to terms with what that was…what it is

Motherhood was like cake.  Like dessert.  She choose to make it that way.

She saw us as the sweetest part of her life, and the most rewarding -  amidst choking down all the hard stuff life can often throw at us. Because sure, there were rough times.  For all of us.  Things we would all go back and change if we could.  That’s just, well…life.

But we were her “dessert”.  The special piece of wonderful that came from her labor – both in the delivery room and throughout our growing years.  She made sure we knew that at the end of the day, in all the big ways and in all the little ways too.  She told us in as many ways as she could “I love you, and you’re the best part of my life”.

She choose to focus on how we enriched her life and not on the ways we perhaps (and maybe often) made it difficult for her.  She set her eyes on how we filled her up, instead of how we surely left her feeling drained at the days end.  She set about finding a means to express her love for each of us in our own space, instead of giving into the temptation she must have often felt to retreat within.  Who among us hasn’t felt the need to pull the covers up over our head and disappear on occasion?  I’m sure she did.  Many times.  She wasn’t perfect.  She might have felt sad or frustrated, hurt or angry – she was human after all.  But her love for us and her ability to express that love was undeniable.

In my own journey of motherhood, I admit to focusing on the negative a bit too much.  To being too harsh, or too stubborn with my children.  To not being nearly as gentle as I could.  Certainly, to not looking at the sweetest parts my children bring to my life and letting my heart settle there for a time.  Instead rushing about, forcing this and that, pushing this way and that way, and altogether being far too stressed out by the whole experience. 

I admit to focusing on the ways motherhood has left me feeling drained.  That I often want to retreat – either within or away for a time.  I admit to feeling that being a mother has left me sometimes adrift, like an island, unhappy, or that my life has become far too difficult.

I’ve forgotten something critical that my mother had down.

Behaving as if my children are the best part of my life and sending them this message very clearly.

Don’t get me wrong, I love them intensely.  I cannot imagine not having them in my life.

But from one pessimist to all my fellow pessimists; this motherhood gig is no joke.  It’s simply put, the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I know I’m not alone in this feeling.

Still, I know, that I know, that I know the utter regret I will feel when I look back on this time of my life – and can only see how foolishly I squandered my children’s most innocent years, while wallowing in my own bowl of cooked carrots. (apologies to those who like them)

Focusing on the wrong things.  Sweating over all the small stuff.  Rushing around willing time and milestones to happen so that I can get back to my (insert former life here).

Forgetting what my mother knew and lived out: that time is precious and painfully short, that we are not promised tomorrow together, and that children are a blessing.

I don’t think I want to even conceive of that kind of regret making its home in my heart.  I want to know that I made every effort not to waste a moment, rather than spending too much time chagrining the whole experience.  When it’s over, it’s over – (and it will be, much too soon) and then what? 

Instead perhaps we struggling mothers should live by this:

Love. Enjoy. Let stuff go. Laugh. Love. Enjoy. Let stuff go. Laugh. (do what ya gotta do but…) Love. Enjoy. Let stuff go. Laugh. Love. Enjoy. Let stuff go. Laugh.

Time to enjoy my wonderful dessert…

Time to eat some cake.