Birthdays were celebrated. Easter eggs dyed, hunted, relished. Little girl hair curled and boys in vests and button downs, all in a row on Easter morning. We made it through March, and time just marches on by.
I'm a mixture of relief and exhaustion these days - relieved that those busy days are past and too exhausted to think of what comes along next. In these 10 years of being a mother, you'd think I would have learned by now that plans go awry and the way we envision things to unfold rarely is played out in reality.
My sister and I used to play a game, tell one another not to imagine something a certain way - certain that, if we did, it would turn out the exact opposite. So we'd intentionally not daydream about Mom buying us a new pair of jeans or the boy we liked from afar asking for our phone numbers. A silly childhood game, to be sure, but I still think about that now...all these years later. As the saying goes, Man plans - God laughs.
It consumes my thoughts during these late pregnancy days. And reminds me that the waiting and the wondering of late pregnancy is really a hint into the work of motherhood that lies ahead. That place where dreams and plans and aspirations don't always turn out the way we envision. Most of us enter motherhood with a list of do's and do nots. In our ignorance, we make outrageous claims. "I would never do...." "I will always..."
I've had my moments of mothering arrogance, as I'm sure we all have. I've also had my moments of utter and complete humility. Those are the moments where I think we can see just how mothering changes us, for better or worse. Like in labor, the only way out is through. The only way out of a tough night with a house full of sick kids? Is through. The only way out of a bad situation with a teenager is to work through the problem. We learn time and again that, in mothering, sticking our fingers in our ears and ignoring the struggles that we face will never get us through them. We'll simply be stuck somewhere in the middle.
When the only way out is through, sometimes the way through is to let go. Let go of expectations, ideals, our do's and don'ts. Let go of that picture perfect vision in our minds of the way life ought to be, and grab hold of the way it is. Accepting the children and spouses we have, our own weaknesses and strengths, and lay hold to the freedom of knowing that the very act of embracing a life of service means we got the most important part of it right.
Mothering is raw and real and, at times, ruthless...not a neat little hobby, an accessory to an already full life. Like labor, this is a ride of waves. A swell that peaks and then dissipates, day after day after day. Some more intense than others. Some we doubt are real, some we can hardly breathe through. The only way out is through and the ride is long, but with determination, we can all reach the other side, the triumph of a job well done - a life well lived. Even when we've left some plans and priorities behind.
In laying claim to these truths, we grab hold of the perseverance required in this holy and hard vocation...You and me? We've got what it takes. Not perfectionism, but humility and strength.
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