Friday, May 31, 2013

On Becoming

I was watching my two younger boys in the gray twilight hours of early morning. They had each chosen a puzzle to work—or, more accurately, the 4yo had chosen a puzzle, the 1yo had requisitioned it for himself, & the 4yo had moved to the floor with a different puzzle.

The 4yo was doing an alphabet puzzle, singing a song about the letters and their sounds as he made it up. The 1yo was standing in a chair, leaning over the table, taking a car puzzle piece & driving it along the top edge of the puzzle lid with "vrooms" & bumps. Each was so intent, so focused, they were oblivious to me there watching.

As I watched, I thought of all that raising children entails—the feeding, diapering, kissing ouches, math lessons and reading lessons...

But here they are, doing things without me, in spite of me, oblivious to me.

And I saw a new thing that mothers do: step back, give space. Let our children become.

It's so much more than a flower, but it reminds me of the process—of planting, watering, waiting for the seed that grows in the darkness. Watching the green sprouts curl upward toward the light. And for all we do with watering cans and dirt, there is a point at which you can see the Hand-of-God, the Not-You of it all, when you can see the bud break open and blossom.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

More Undignified

After the birth of my last baby, I said something like, "Whew. Now to return to some level of dignity."

The L&D nurse (who was amazing, by the way) got this look on her face that I'll never forget. She started lecturing me about how dignified childbirth is, how honored she is to attend women during that time, etc. I don't remember her exact words, but the look on her face was: "THIS. THIS is dignity."

I hadn't meant to insult her, but let's face it. No matter how beautiful or spiritual the advent of new life, it's not exactly a state in which you want to interview. There are no photographs that come out of that that you'd want on a business card. My feelings afterward?

Pardon me for that.

The indignity of birth has been on my mind lately, as I look toward another labor & delivery. It's all very shocking & inappropriate, & I do wish somehow it didn't have to involve an entourage.

Besides the birth itself, there's the indignity of the number that this one represents. (It's number 6.) Culturally, I have passed from unusual to insane. When they're all clean, their clothes match, & their behavior is great, it's not too bad. I mean, people gawk, but trying to turn in the grocery store IS like waiting behind a duck crossing.

On the other hand. Well...they're NOT always on their best behavior, & sometimes they pick out crazy clothes or I overlook a hole, stain, dirty face. Oops. I usually notice all of this at once, while standing in the check-out line, the checker's goggle eyes lacking any sympathy. He's likely wondering why I brought a circus to the grocery store and not because he wants to buy tickets. *sigh*

There's indignity to motherhood. We almost never look like those Victorian pictures or Hallmark cards or even Other People's Christmas Cards. You get puked on, pooped on, assumed to be a walking tissue/burp cloth. And I don't mean at home.

So, yeah, given all that, here comes number six. Whee!

But this morning, in the middle of anticipating the "dignity" of L&D, I heard the words of David to Michal when she criticized his worship of the Lord:

"And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight."
 (2 Sam 6:22)

Before that, David clarifies—it was before the Lord—that he danced and played his music. It was not FOR Michal or anyone else watching.

And that's how I see this whole motherhood gig: it's an act of worship, offered to the Lord, not to the checker at the grocery store or anyone else observing—for good or ill.

To the goggle-eyed, I say: I will become even more undignified than this! But in my heart? I'm praying, Lord, help me. Because I'm not really quite as brave as David, and I’m pretty sold on being dignified.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Children are a Burden

There was a blog post circulating around FB—last month, I think—about Society's idea that children are a burden. The blogger was a mother of a large family, & point by point, she refuted this idea that children are a burden, arguing instead that they are a blessing.

We hear this refrain so often—CHILDREN ARE A BLESSING! But unlike other "blessings," we work to control the ahem "flow" of divine generosity to some extent. Unlike other "blessings," we have support groups to talk about these wonderful bundles of joy. Unlike other "blessings," we hire help, send to school, or hide in the bathroom from these.

I think we've stretched the word “blessing” a little.

So let me say it: children are a burden. They cost their parents time, money, sleep, sanity, and to some extent, health. They are not "blessings" in the traditional sense of the word—bits of manna to be gathered up like Mario points on a video game & then enjoyed without footnote.

There are footnotes. Like the first time you have to take care of a baby despite a Really Bad Cold. The first time you sit in the waiting room of the ER or in the NICU. The first time that Blessing stares you down with your own perfected GLARE & defies you.

I admit it: children are a burden. MY children are a burden. But WHY have we as a society become so averse to bearing burdens?

I had a philosophy class once that talked about the maturation of the soul. There was something about starting out seeing things from the perspective of the good of SELF and then you’d end up seeing things from the perspective of the good of SOCIETY. There was other stuff in between, & I wish I could tell you better, but I was toting a newborn to class, & some of it gets a little fuzzy.

My point, then—let's stop pretzeling parenting around into something that's all sunshine & kisses & tell the truth: it's hard work. It will make you sweat, cry, curse. It breaks you.

But that's not bad. Hard work & pain are not things to be Avoided At All Cost. When the end goal is worth it, we should have the strength of character to know how to make sacrifices, to back our ideals up with our blood.

Well-loved children WILL make the world a better place, WILL make their parents better people. These children ARE a good, but the goodness is not just the Child-In-the-Raw: it's the product of decades of family life, of the quiet love and sacrifice of parents, being reflected back to them through their children, of this love and sacrifice acting upon the souls of the individuals to create Human Beings, members of society, in which families reflect love and sacrifice to other families, communities to communities, nations to nations.

And that's okay. You might even call it a blessing.