Monday, February 19, 2007

Underwhelmed

(From Friday)

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.

19 comments:

Kristen Laurence said...

What a joyful reflection, Suzanne. Your third-to-last paragraph reminded me of the old but true saying, "Put your brooms and mops down. The cobwebs and the dust mites will remain - they're not going anywhere. But your children will grow and change and will be gone sooner than you think."

I am happy things are easier for you now, friend.

~m2~ said...

Maybe it's time for another little one?

:)

Cheryl said...

Your title made me laugh. This is a wonderful post. It gives me hope.

ascozyasspring said...

This is beautiful. Every word.

Crafty Mom said...

What a beautiful post. I only have 2 children and yet feel overwhelmed some days. Your words are comforting and true.

Beck said...

I had the hardest few months of my life when I had a newborn, toddler and preschooler all at once - it was utter chaos. THings are SO much easier now! I loved this post so much.

Jane Ramsey said...

I was thinking the same as M2, but wouldn't have the nerve to say it! :-)
I'm looking forward to getting to that easier time myself...

Matilda said...

I remember the day all three of my oldest kids buckled themselves in the car. I wanted to shout for joy and burst into tears all at the same time.

4andcounting said...

I'm so glad to hear you sharing these feelings and thoughts. As a mom to 4 under 5 (4 in 4 years really) I often feel those overwhelmed feelings and wonder why I don't see it in others who have come from similar circumstances. So, thanks for the perspective of the before and after. Thankfully, I too am getting to the point where the moments of peace and increasing and the moments of chaos are more managable.
By the way, the extra snack thing immediately made me think that you must subconsciously be preparing for a future addition. :)

Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

Things are changing in my home, too, Suzanne...I'll have a 10 year old soon and a 9 year old, a 7 year old and a 6 year old.

For years I have felt completely challenged and inadequate. In fact, just last night a priest friend reminded me, "It's not about performance, it's about relationships."

Thank you for putting your feelings into words....

We are richer for it....

Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

Things are changing in my home, too, Suzanne...I'll have a 10 year old soon and a 9 year old, a 7 year old and a 6 year old.

For years I have felt completely challenged and inadequate. In fact, just last night a priest friend reminded me, "It's not about performance, it's about relationships."

Thank you for putting your feelings into words....

We are richer for it....

Luci1 said...

What a lovely post, Suzanne. As I was reading it and agreeing with you, I realized that I was hearing the hymn, Great is thy Faithfulness in the background. I found it most appropriate.

Cheryl M. said...

hmmmmm.....you should never have typed this beautiful post.....God is reading this upstairs and you will be announcing twins soon....the writing is on the wall!!! :))) Just imagine your household 10 years from now....no don't - hold onto their "littleness" as long as you can! :)

margot said...

HI Suzanne!
I can't believe you have FIVE little ones. You will always be 20 in my mind's eye. (HAHA) I said to someone recently that looking back on that time when I was overwhelmed with 5 under 6 years old, it seemed a much simpler time. They can now all zip their own coats and fix their own sandwiches, but other things become more complicated. (basketball games on top of orchestra on top of scout meetings on top of etc etc etc.)
Little ones rule!!! I'm so glad you have some consolation (a breath!) now.
God bless
Margot

Suzanne Temple said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind and amusing comments. God knows what the future holds!

Hey margot, It's nice to know that I will always be 20 somewhere! Thanks for stopping by.

Karen E. said...

This is beautiful, Suzanne. So perfect.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such an uplifting post. While I am past the difficult early childhood years, myself, my sister remains embroiled in them. She is the mother to 2 1/2 year old twin girls who are still very needy AND potty training and a 5 year old rambunctious "all boy" little guy. She calls me frequently for sanity breaks and nothing I have told her puts it quite as perfectly as your post. I directed her to your site, hoping she will see the light at the end of the tunnel you so eloquently write about.

Mom to Almost Four said...

I know you wrote this yesterday, but I am just now reading it on Tuesday afternoon. And, as I am sure God would have planned it, it is the very day I needed to read this.

Today I am frustrated with mess, with being behind, with food on the floor and elsewhere, with laundry, with the children in general. And generally doubting my ability to handle the 3 little ones I have plus a fourth one that could be here any day now.

Thank you for those timely words and, always, your wisdom and grace.

Celeste

Dangerkitty said...

Yep, this was a great post. I have 18 kids. 15 of them foster kids...all teenagers....all boys. My three are 23, 11 & 7 & I'm praying for another. I've really had to learn to choose what's important "right now" and what can wait...I agree it gets easier...the teenager issues are proving to be a challenge though. :)