The other night our neighbor, who is an older man with no children of his own (by choice), gave the boys ice cream. As we sat together on our shared front yard he mentioned having not heard the boys all day, alluding to the fact that most days the chaos and ruckus that is our everyday filters it’s way over like the smoke from a BBQ.
The ice cream dripped down their cones and in true childhood fashion made for sticky hands and a rim of chocolate around their mouths. Our neighbor glanced over at his long-time girlfriend and said something along the lines of, “Now see, no need to remind me why I opted not to have children”. We made a few jokes about releasing the boys in his newly carpeted house and eventually we parted ways; they, presumably, to enjoy a quiet and peaceful evening and, us, to clean the chocolate off our kids’ faces, fight them on brushing their teeth, and remind them for the umpteenth time that it’s not nice to say that they “hate” us or that we’re “not their friends”.
I know life as a parent only from the mother’s perspective. And having children, for me, was a very innate desire. I spent my childhood training for motherhood; taking my cabbage patches to pretend school, filling out forms I’d take from the drawers of my dad’s office, and loving and cuddling any baby that came within a ten foot radius of me.
That night, I glanced over at Willy – who was struggling to get pajamas on one of the boys – and asked him if he’d rather have had it another way. His answer was true and sincere, he said, “I think I would have been perfectly okay if you didn’t want to have kids. But at the same time, I wouldn’t trade any of this for the world”.
It would be hard to argue that parenthood is where it’s at to a neighbor who realistically sees (and, errr, hears) you struggle nearly every day. I suppose it’s hard, in general, to make the argument for having kids to someone who clearly never wanted kids. And while the days are generally a struggle, all I can say is that the hard days, filled with relentless whining and tantrums, are all but forgotten in the second it takes for them to tell me that they love me.
I think any mother would agree; sticky hands, chocolate crusted mouths, booger filled noses n’ all.
I’m moderating the feed over on Childhood Unplugged this week, sharing images of motherhood. Feel free to join in by hashtagging your images with #cu_motherhood. Also want to take a moment to give love to all the women out there – both the ones that are mothers and those that long to be. There is so much surrounding conception and pregnancy and birth and life that is out of our control and while it is important to celebrate those that have children here on Earth, it’s also nice to acknowledge those who’s children live in dreams or heaven or in another form all together. I imagine this last weekend was difficult for many and I hate for their pain to be buried, or unheard.
There’s loads of different ways to mother a child but I like to break it down to two categories: those who prevent the mess or those who clean it up later. A while ago, my dad suggested I read a story called “Spilled Milk”. I’m not sure where the story came from; leave it to my dad to hand me a neon yellow sheet of paper that has a story about spilled milk on one side and suggestions for password security on the other.
sponge, towel, or mop. The boy chose the sponge and they cleaned up the mess together. When the mess was cleaned, she brought her son outside and allowed him to practice carrying the milk without spilling it. The lesson of the story being that we must not be afraid to make mistakes, that with each mistake comes an opportunity for a valuable lesson.
Sure, it’s all kind of cheesy and if you could read, verbatim, the language used you’d have cheese seeping out your ears (I know, it’s a lovely visual). But as I was busy the other morning wanting to ream Van’s neck for throwing ice all over the floor, I thought of this story.
And when he insisted on drinking from a water bottle in my car only to have half of it spill all over himself, I thought of it again.
And when I needed to use the boys’ clean bath towel to soak up all the water they were spilling out of their bath, I thought of it again.
And when Hooper took my perfectly folded laundry and insisted on helping by picking it up and throwing it in his brother’s room (where it actually did need to go), I thought of it yet again.
And when Hooper started copying me in the yard by cleaning up Sarah’s turds (I had a bag over my hand, he did not), I thought of it again.
I can’t say that each and every one of these scenarios turned into a thoughtful lesson that ended with them practicing cleaning up dog shit, for example, but a lot of them did end with a shoulder shrug, a “thank you for helping”, or a good hand scrubbin’.
That’s because I’ve accepted that I can’t win them all. In fact, I don’t even want to win them all. I love the idea of a child being a child. I love watching my boys explore their world. I see their admiration for me every time they mimic my behavior.
So sometimes spilled milk is okay. Just so long as it’s not spilled breast milk, right?!
What kind of mom are you? Do you embrace messes or try your hardest to prevent them?