Something strange happened today. I followed Nicholas upstairs as he put himself down in his new-to-him crib for a nap. When I turned around, my eyes rested on the clean and simple beauty of our newly decorated little boys’ room. There was an updated craft hanging on the door and the smell of fresh baked bread wafted up from the stairwell. I stepped out into a vacuumed hallway beside a moderately full hamper and all was quiet as the four oldest boys played a self-organized game in the downstairs playroom. I had the happy knowledge that the morning school work had been completed (in the morning, mind you), that lunch had been made, the kitchen cleaned, and a few afternoon extras were planned.
(Begin Twilight Zone music)
This may not seem strange to you, dear reader, but to someone just now emerging from the most difficult phase of her young family’s life, this was an unusual moment of unplanned peace--the kind of moment that has been happening more frequently around here.
It seems up until just very recently I was always on edge, always behind, always late, always exhausted, always a mess. It seems just yesterday (though it is nearly two years ago now) that I called my sister, Helene, in desperation wondering how other mothers do it. I will never forget her words because I banked on them,
“You are at the very hardest time right now—when all the children are still so little. It gets easier. Believe me.”
It came as a shock to learn that my life with five boys under age six was more difficult than other mother’s lives that had eight, nine, or even twelve children. It was also a great comfort. I had been struggling with feelings of inadequacy and wondering why God had given me more than I could handle. He isn’t supposed to do that, right?
But I am seeing, now, that it does get easier. Now that I don’t have to put on every mitten and zip every coat, now that the boys are getting older and caring more and more for their own needs and are more able to help me with the little ones, too, things really are easier.
This can’t be, I think to myself as I realize we’ve caught up on all our lessons (I think we're ahead). There must be more children, I imagine as I notice that I have been making an extra snack and pouring an extra glass of milk the last few afternoons. Who’s missing I wonder when the room doesn’t seem quite loud enough or crazy enough.
Things have changed and so have I.On this side, looking back, I am glad I went through that difficult time. I think it is good that there was an extended period of time when I didn’t have things as I would have had them (Not that they are perfect now-- just easier).
I think I’m a calmer mother on account of it, more joyful, happier in the moment of the swiftly passing childhood of my little ones. I find myself wishing time would freeze. I think I've learned to focus more on what really matters and let the messes be messes and the mistakes be mistakes-- because these will always be with us-- but our little ones will not.
I'm more optimistic, too, more likely to see the hamper as half empty than half full. I'm less attached to the things of this world and more desirous of those things that cannot be spilled or stained or broken or ruined or lost.
And I am humbler, I hope, knowing that God has asked of me more than I imagined possible of myself. I have managed so awkwardly what He has blessed me with, but with His help, I hope I have learned a little something about love. And, with His help, I am eager to learn more.