Stealing time

There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said before and that could in any case convey the bittersweetness as Molly cuts her third tooth and climbs to the top of the stairs as soon as my back is turned. And I won’t apologize for neglecting everything to rock her as she nurse-naps in the afternoon.

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Maybe we could just call it Woman’s Day?

I don’t hate Mother’s Day like I used to. For one, it was a lame animosity on my part, petty and resentful and small, un-acknowledging of how blessed I am to be a mother to four healthy daughters. And for two, Tom buys me gardening stuff for Mother’s Day, and helps me build ever-more garden boxes. How can any day that has come to represent all that is good and holy about Spring be bad? Especially since in the normal way of things, Tom would rather watch Pride and Prejudice (even the Keira Knightly version, which is much less strident you must admit, not to mention, shorter) than work in the yard.

Mother’s Day at church is a different story, an as-un-yet-unreconciled story. I am not the only one who thinks sleeping in on Mother’s Day Sunday (more canonized than Easter Sunday in some districts) is the best present one can aspire to. This year I heroically got us all there only half an hour late despite taking Tom to the airport that morning. Callie, struggling with her tights on the living room floor as the clock ticked past the passing of the sacrament and Mom urged (loudly) to hurry, said “Daddy helps us with everything.”

Church was mixed. Lucy cried and refused to go up and sing with the primary¬†, the first of my children to not enjoy that rite of passage. They sang a non-traditional rendition of [Mother] Do You Love Me? with some of the mothers singing the teacher part. I was wrestling a nursing Molly and a crying Lucy so I wasn’t overcome, but it was quite touching.

Several youth speakers talked about how grateful they are for mothers who make Cinderella look like a lazy, grasping slacker. I told Avery that I would be supervising her talk if she were ever called to eulogize me in such a fashion. I’d expect her to say that she appreciated my example in reading late into the night, discussing current events at the dinner table and explaining during homework time that al-gebra comes from the Arabic for restoration. I would like to be better remembered for the emotional support I gave my children than for how many times I swished a wand around the toilet bowl.

(What does it say that the by-far-best youth speaker was the oldest daughter of a single working mother?)

The adult talks were more of the same, and the Bishop’s spiel in Primary, where it was at least mentioned that mothers, in addition to being flogrified housekeepers also play games with and read scriptures to their children. I think I have recommended Blokus here before, but I will again, because it is the first game that both Avery and Callie have beat me at.

Our ward has the tradition of getting substitutes for all the women in Primary and YW so that all the sisters can go to Relief Society for a short lesson, lunch and mingling. The schedule called for a discussion of honesty, which on the face of it has little to do with motherhood. Our teacher (also the R.S. President and the lady who had done lunch and dipped strawberries in chocolate for our after-Sacrament favor) passed out mirrors and asked us if we could look ourselves in the eyes and say that we are honest.

There ensued a silly discussion about how to negotiate tricky social situations without either admitting that someone’s butt looked fat or lying. And then Rebekah asked us to consider whether, when we look in the mirror do we see ourselves as we really are?, and here I was expecting some sort of listing of shortcomings — do I see my double chin? (yes, and the fat creases in my neck), do I see that thing that makes me, half-defiantly, wholly despairingly, whisper in the tiny guilty voice in my head that surely I am going to hell? (yes, I see that, no lecture required).

But she asked if we see ourselves as daughters of God, do we see ourselves as women He loves? Do we see the truth? Are we honest about ourselves, to ourselves?

And I confess, I wasn’t.

Unlovable Lovable You

The other day Tom asked me, half (or more) seriously, why I love the baby best — why I never get mad at her, why she always gets kisses and gaga-happy greetings, and how I can cheerfully drop everything to take care of her ficklest of whims.

Evolutionary biology, I said.

But I do have three other kids; the oldest is ten-going-on-teenager and all four of them are girls: emotional, hormonal, sweet, cutting, endearing, curious, determined females. I’m not entirely sure how we’re going to survive the next twenty years, especially because the memory of my own middle school experience is so fresh, but here is what I have learned:

When kids are most unlovable, they are most in need of love. When they are sour with sickness or stinky with kid sweat and suspicious-smelling mud, they are most in need of hugs. When they are frustrated and impatient, they are most in need of compassion and patience. When they feel most unworthy and insecure, they are most in need of praise and security. When they make choices impossible to understand, they are most in need of understanding.

And when they are angry or sad enough to shout that they hate me or wish I wasn’t their mother, that is when they are most in need of exactly me: with all of my impatience and insecurity and frustration, all of my love and forgiveness and here-take-the-last-bite-of-bread (but don’t touch the brownies), they are most in need of me.

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This was originally a guest post on MamaBlogga for Mother’s Day. I intended to write something else for this space last week, but didn’t. I hope it is etiquette-ly soon enough for me to put it here. And etiquette or not, I realize this is quite pontificatory, not something I usually aspire to, especially in regards to motherhood, but the more I think about it, the more I know it’s true — and also, the more I recognize how utterly hard it is for me to act on said knowledge. Instead, whining makes me yell, screaming makes me want to stab someone (usually myself). I’ve been a mom for ten-plus years, and it ain’t getting any easier.

Admitting ignorance/need for divine help is the first step, right? Although this I do know: it’s worth it. (I think).