Friday, November 23, 2012

Love, not labor

[I wrote this 2 years ago at a different blog. More true now, more true everyday. Reading who I was then, reflecting on the changes and the constants. Happy holiday season to you all.]

So. Today I was conversing (via email) with a colleague and mentioned that I will be taking the kids on a 10 day road trip in a couple weeks. I may have used the words bleary-eyed and dread. He replied “Take it from me, these are the good old days.” Keep in mind, about 80% of my colleagues are at least 10 years older than me, if not 20 years. But it got me wondering… why do people assume I’m not thrilled about my daily work?

Most people who find out that I have 4 kids say “wooooow.” Then they find out my kids’ ages (3-8) and they are like “WOOOOWWWW.” I can usually sense a bit of awe, pity, and disbelief in their response. Some edge away slowly as if I might be contagious.

(This is usually followed up with “wow, you don’t look old enough to have kids!” or “oooh, you really have your hands full.” I get it people, I look like a 12 year old and you don’t know what else to say. No need to say anything really. We’re not freaks because we have 4 young kids.)

I love this crazy life. It confuses people that I would love it so. But really – I know how babies are made, and the adoption was no accident either. True, I had originally planned a very different life. In my early adult years, I was never going to marry or parent. I would travel the world, join the Peace Corps, live in exotic huts, learn new languages and have huge adventures all the time. But I fell in love, and losing a life with that man was a far worse prospect than losing a life of adventurous solitude.

And it just so happened that we’re as fertile as the Nile, and for some reason God trusted us with children. I have discovered myself in the parenting of these children. On my worst parenting day, I am a better human than I was on any of my best pre-parenting days. I am more complete. I am accomplishing something. Where I once viewed the domestic life as being desperately mired and bound, I now understand as being gloriously grounded and connected. Indeed, this family has given me wings. They are my legacy.

Our life is hectic and chaotic. It’s like a constant cloud of moving kids and noise follows wherever I go. Someone is always fighting with someone else. Someone is always hungry. Someone is always covered in dirty, wet, or sticky. If it’s not a spilled drink or busted forehead or skinned knee or puking kid/pet, it’s a Sharpie on the wall or broken plate or toy needing new batteries or dog stealing someone’s dinner. (Usually it’s my Wild Thing, all of those simultaneously. He has a special talent, that one.)

Yes, we also have 3 large dogs. With lots of black, brown, and white dog hair. Keeping the house clean is so! much! fun!

I work extraordinarily hard to keep our family happy. I lose sleep, am constantly cleaning, and never have time for myself. My family gets the best of me, and my career gets the leftovers. But you know what? That doesn’t mean that I get nothing for myself. The biblical principles are so true: love begets love. Kindness begets kindness. Energy begets energy.

This isn’t to say that I don’t struggle sometimes. That I don’t want to be left alone, or that they don’t drive me crazy, or that I don’t come dangerously close to my limits. But I have a choice. When the kids do something “bad,” I can respond with anger or with love. I can punish or I can teach. I can scream or I can communicate. Each day is a fresh struggle to make the right choices.

This weekend, my Junebug created original artwork just for me. My Stitch told me repeatedly that I am her best buddy. My Martian Child sang “Bacon Bacon Bacon” by “Justin Beaver” who is “the best singer ever.” My Wild Thing, with his chubby red cheeks and sweet dimpled fingers, slept in my arms.

They don’t exhaust me – they give me energy. I know people who can’t wait for their kids to grow up and leave home. They are literally doing the countdown – ugh, 8 more years until they’re out of my house! Truth told, I am terrified of a day without children to care for. Being a mom is such a huge part of my identity that it’s hard to see past these days of parenting. I adore these little people beyond my capacity to articulate. I keep thinking – only 10 years until my firstborn leaves me. Once she is gone, only 5 short years later my youngest will be a man. And then what will I do? Who will I be?

Of course, that’s another topic for another day. I do look forward to the day my children are men and women – when their desire for my companionship will exceed their need for my parenting. But now, looking at their tiny hands and feet, listening to their childish voices saying the goofiest kid things, I want to freeze time. I have felt a sense of urgency about the passage of time since my Junebug was a baby. Each day that passes, I feel that I am losing them. I am near frantic in my desire to hold on to their youth (or for that matter, my own – that too is another topic for another day).

In the daily tedium, I hope they can sense the vastness of my love for all four of them. I hope that they can forget the moments of impatience and even anger, to recognize how I passionately I adore them. Do they know? Can they see? I never want these good old days to end. I don’t want the quiet; I don’t need the rest. I just need armfuls of wriggly, giggly, lovable monkeys.


  1. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it here. I am pregnant with my 4th, due in a few weeks, and my other 3 are all boys fairly close in age. I needed to read this and be reminded of it today!

  2. Yes! I feel like I'm holding my breath sometimes as if somehow that act freezes my time with my babes, 5 & 9. You captured it.