Friday, January 11, 2013

The reality of motherhood

I expected this time, the few weeks of really settling into "my" new city, to be all about the transition - where to go, who to meet, how to get around, what to do, and a constant little bugging question at the back of my mind "why exactly are we here?"

Instead (though all of those areas have needed some proper sorting out), the past two weeks have revealed a surprising focus - motherhood.

In Nairobi, something always pulled me away from home (internally or externally), the kids were never incredibly content, I couldn't figure out how to juggle the many things I was sorting through. In Seattle - well, motherhood has taken a new form.

It helps this is the most insanely child friendly place I've ever been to - car dealers have whole sections of their office dedicated to small children, parks are easily found within a 3 mile radius of anywhere, businesses have free activities for toddlers on various days of the month, certain coffee shops are designed with play areas, there are indoor sandpits for those o-so-dreary days - the list goes on and on and on. It also helps that for the first time, we have a house with a good space for the kids to play - both inside and out. It also immensely helps that both of my children are now communicative, incredibly communicative. About everything. About every, single, tiny thing. But still, it helps.

For whatever reason, I've reached a place where contentment is much easier to find and where impatience seems to emerge less often.

I've experienced happiness with my kids before, but in these past couple weeks I have had more re-collectible moments of sheer joy than I can recall ever having had in my role as a mother.

Kai played his first mind-game/joke on me:
As we were driving in the car, he dropped his water bottle on the floor and then announced (quite loudly, and with urgency only a 3 year old can give to a water bottle dropped in a car): "My water bottle!!"
I responded: "it's ok, it's on the floor."
Kai: "huh?"
me: "it's ok, it's on the floor."
Kai: "wha?"
me (with clearer diction - like a tourist talking to a local): "It's o-kay, it's...on...the...flooor"
Kai: "huh?"
me (getting annoyed - an annoyance exacerbated by the fact I was driving in circles, utterly lost): "Do you sometimes just do this to mess with me and see how many times I'll repeat myself?"
Kai (giggles): "yeah, sometimes I do that."
me: "you silly goose"
Kai: "huh?"
me: "you silly goose" (yes, you all know where this is going...I sure missed it)
Kai: "wha?"
me:" you sil - hey! seriously? Again?!"
Kai (bursting into toddler belly laughs): "yes! I gotchya. I gotchya. YOU silly goose."

Sheer joy.

Mika walked up to me, put her arms up, looked at me with huge eyes, said "up".  I picked her up, light little thing, as her sweet little hands held my cheeks. "noses?", she asked quietly - as she leaned her nose against mine and rubbed it back and forth, giggling - looking straight into my eyes. Sweet little lips kissed mine, then she said "lub you", and put her head on my shoulder.

Sheer joy.

Kai asked to pray at dinner time. He held Mika's hand tightly, and prayed a simple prayer, "Thank you God for food. Thank you God for happiness. Thank you God for Jesus. Amen."

Sheer joy.

I stopped to give a man on the street some money. As we drove away, Kai asked "mama, what did you do?" I responded (capitalizing on the opportunity to teach a life value): "I was helping someone who needed help." He said, "Oh, that's good. But mama, what was his name? You should ask his name."

Sheer humility - followed by sheer joy.

It snowed this morning, Kai bundled up and went outside to play in it. The second he stepped into the snow, he froze in his tracks. "Are you ok?" I asked. He glanced over his shoulder at me, silent. "Are you listening to the snowflakes land on your hood?" A single, almost imperceptible nod, and a slight smile.

His newness - my joy.

We went out for dinner at a small Ethiopian restaurant. After dinner, when the hostess was clearing our table, Kai said "oh, thank you. Thank you very much. But, um, could I help you?" Receiving an enthusiastic response, he hopped down and helped carry dishes back to the kitchen.

Sheer joy.

Mika slept on the floor of her room one night while we were waiting for her crib to arrive. Early, early in the morning I woke up to her little silhouette in our doorway. She walked over to our bed, as I pulled back the covers of our bed on the floor, she climbed in, lay down on top of my chest, head tucked on my chin, hand wrapped around the back of my neck, and fell back asleep.

Sheer joy.

Today, at lunch, Kai was helping Mika eat - modeling how to eat, helping her get food on her own fork, sometimes feeding her. I watched him cheering her on, and watched her deep interest in learning from her big brother. When she took a bite by herself, he said "Yeah! Good job, Mee-tah. That's right. I'm so proud of you. Great job! That's how you do it!" She beamed, "tangk ew". Kai smiled back, loving his moment as a teacher, "you're weltome. That was so polite, Mee-tah. So tind. So respectful. Dat is nice to say thant you."

And at that moment, a moment of sheer joy, riding on the back of a week filled with sheer joys, I had a thought: "this is the hardest job I've ever done. This is the hardest job I will ever do."  and an immense wave of satisfaction swept over me - not in myself and my accomplishments, but in finally seeing this job I've been divinely and miraculously given is bigger than anything else I will ever do in life. Ever.

I have done many challenging things. I will do many more. But this, motherhood, will absolutely require more of me than anything else - not in a "forcefully die to myself, I lost my freedom" sort of way - but in a "rise to the task, feel enthusiastically terrified you've been chosen for the job you never thought you could get" sort of way.

It was as if something in me finally recognized that the hours of changing diapers, wiping tears, kissing scrapes, putting away toys, doing piles of tiny laundry, turning thousands of little bites of food into magical airplanes, tucking in, re-tucking in, disciplining, apologizing for my lost temper - all of those moments I thought were breaking my own pride and self-fulfillment were simultaneously doing a part in creating the character of two people.

I get creation of new things. I get invention stemming from new ideas. I get the physics and chemistry of it all works. But creating the character of a person? Being in a position where I profoundly impact who these two little people will grow to be, and subsequently impact every future interaction they'll ever have with others? Well that...that's too much for my mind to fully absorb. And so, usually, I see my role as one of patience, modeling, and endurance - and I'm grateful for that.

But today, for a brief moment - my eyes clear after a week full of so much joy, I saw my role with broader scope. Creating people of character, raising a young man and a young woman (for now is when the foundation of adulthood is laid) who value kindness, generosity, respect, teaching, gratefulness, and selfless pride in other's accomplishments...that is what my every word, every glance, every action have the opportunity to contribute to.

I usually end my blogs with some sort of a universally applicable, encouraging statement. And there's plenty of room to do that here - something along the lines of "you must be the change you wish to see in the world", or something of that ilk.

But tonight, with this blog - I want to leave with a statement to any of you who are in the midst of, or ever will be in the midst of, contributing to the development of a child: yours is the most profound of tasks, yours is seemingly the least glorified, yours is the most revealing of your weaknesses, yours is the most mundane of duties, and yours is the most of unexpected trials. But yours is also the greatest of rewards, the sheerest of joys, the profundity of possibility, and the permanence of impact. Let your soul breathe deeply of it - your greatest is here.

And to those of you who have raised men and women of strong character - well done, and thank you. Your seemingly unnoticed words, glances, and actions are being passed on.

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