My oldest children are rapidly stretching their wings to make their first flights out of the safety of the nest and into the world. One of them will sigh at this analogy and say so sweetly "aww Momma" the other will roll his eyes and look at me as if he firmly believes I am from another planet. Some days I feel I stand at the top of a precipice with them, ecstatic at their attempts yet over whelmed with a sense they are facing grave danger. I want to tackle them and wrestle them to a safe place where the world cannot harm them...but duct taping your children to their bed is frowned upon and is not conducive to healthy growth, so I will refrain...for now.
Realizing we are standing at the beginning of a whole new stage in life has caused me to look back over the years I have spent as a mother. I remember being pregnant with my oldest, feeling my world was alive with possibility. I wasn't fearful of becoming a mother. I was in awe and fully confident in my abilities. I vowed the vow of stupidity...I wasn't going to be like those harried mothers seen in restaurants, church, and shopping malls...their faces pulled back in tight grimaces hissing through their teeth, eyes darting around embarrassed everyone had witnessed their failures as a mother as they drug three little hellions (pardon the expression) who were doing their best to make sure their mother's humiliation was complete by knocking things off shelves and howling like banshees. Yes, my heart reserved judgment for the mother caught bribing her child to be good in public, and scorn was directed to the parent who had obviously completely lost it and was on the floor paddling their child's bottom while the child laughed at her feeble attempts to regain control of the situation. No, my children would be disciplined, clean, polite,well mannered, quiet, and most of all perfect.
I could see my future brood in my mind's eyes so cutely dressed, their hair combed neatly sweetly replying to my questions and directions. My children would love me and sweetly want to do everything asked of them. After all one only has to model good behavior and children will follow in suit. How far the arrogant and untried by the fires of parenting fall.
I remember the summer we went to a farm house in Minnesota. After a long day of home schooling, having bathed the children and settled them in front of a movie, I went to the kitchen to get the dishes done. I scraped all the left over food into the garbage disposal and loaded the dishwasher. I noticed the house was eerily quiet but making the mistake of thinking they were involved in their movie, I took the garbage out. When I returned to the house, I flipped on the garbage disposal only to hear an awful noise coming from it. Off it went and I did what ever one does in that situation. I stuck my hand in to fish out whatever was causing the racket and pulled out what I thought was food only to find a very dead and very mangled mouse, which I found out later was retrieved from a mouse trap in the shed. I screamed like a sissy slinging guts and gore to rival any horror flick all over the kitchen. Once I had fished my heart out of my shoes and my screaming had subsided, I could hear the sound of giggling coming from under the breakfast nook table accompanied by little faces peering out from under the table cloth at me. I did not recognize the voice that came forth from me as I scarily whispered "You better run." I guess the protective desire to see my children live outweighed my fury so I gave them fair warning to save themselves, and they lit out of the kitchen like they were on fire.
Oh yes, I have learned a lot about mothering and its requirements, challenges, and blessings. Mothering requires learning when to speak, when to give a child room, when to comfort, when to scold, when to ignore, when to teach, when to hold,when to challenge, when to bend, when to come down hard, when to recognize the need to look the other way and when to tell them to run. I have heard it said mothering requires being nurse, maid, educator, accountant, cook, driver, president, and the list goes on and on. No wonder we are so exhausted. Yet we rise to the task time and time again.
Nothing makes the journey so sweet as watching them excel in the things they love, receiving hand made mother's day gifts, or the simple pleasure of walking through their rooms at night. Even now, as big as they are I love hearing their laughter and yes...even their feet running through the house, but nothing is quiet so wonderful as peering in on their sleeping peaceful faces. These blessings, my jewels from heaven, are the greatest gifts of my life. As I wait for the day to arrive when my very first ones will leave our home, I realize how empty my life would have been without the opportunity to mother them. I will miss them dreadfully...I know I will long to haul a ladder to their apartment or dorm room window and climb in...pull them in to my arms, rock them and sing our favorite lullaby...just like the mother did in one of our favorite childhood story books. I will only refrain because it would be quite humiliating to have to call Seth to come bail me out of jail for accidentally peering in the wrong window.
There have been moments when I questioned the wisdom of God in giving me the task of raising people. There have been bumps and bruises, sleepless nights, worry, dashed hopes, emergency room visits, and times I wanted to throw in the towel. A mother experiences the mountain top highs and the depths of despair and yet through it all one learns that it isn't about the hard and fast rules, or counting your successes and failures. This journey of motherhood is not only about what I have taught them but about what I have learned. Mothering has educated and changed me.They have made me an artist, and taught me to embrace life in all its creative messiness and to be thankful in all things. I am learning the art of mothering day by day, and I imagine, even once they have all left their childhood home, I will continue to grow and learn. Mothering is for life and the art of it lives on in our children.