There are four days in every month that find me, without fail.
Day One: in which compassion runs dry and I just don’t care.
For crying out loud, is washing your face every the morning really the cruelest, most horrible, scream-worthy request a mother could ever make? Could you finally figure out how to walk and stop whining every single stinking time I’m more than two feet away from you? Why does everyone demand something from me every single moment of the day? My kids are little and needy; I am overwhelmed and tired; everything’s an annoyance, not an opportunity. I spend much of Day One envying people who live in monasteries and eyeing the calendar to calculate how many years are left till they’re all in school.
Day Two: in which the whole endeavor is a sham and it’s all pointless.
What’s the purpose of parenting another generation when we’ve already destroyed the earth, scrambled society’s morals, crushed the church’s soul? Newspaper headlines set me off; TV makes me insane; Facebook affirms that we’ve all lost our minds. I read the latest study about how children are screwed up by this or that, and I conclude the whole affair damned to hell in a handbasket. I eat a lot of chocolate on Day Two.
Day Three: in which the problem isn’t parenting; it’s me.
I conclude that other people must be, despite the screwed-up state of society and the inherent whininess of toddlers, finding utter fulfillment as they raise superstar children while making it to the gym five times a week, excelling at their careers, and happily crafting Martha Stewart-worthy homes with bright smiles on their freshly made-up faces. My problem must be my own personal failing. After barely squeaking through Day Three, I collapse on the couch to host my own pity party, trolling the interwebs, glass of wine in hand, convincing myself that if I were meant to be a mother, I would be a maternal Zen Master, a patient primary teacher of my children, a happy homemaker bursting with infinite ideas to engage my kids’ creativity and decorate our well-kept, eco-friendly, simple-living home, and a professional photographer Instagramming Pin-worthy shots of my delightful kids grinning adorably in a grassy field. Day Three often finds me fantasizing about hiring live-in help while I hide under the covers.
Day Four: in which the other three days seem impossible; it’s all grace.
I can laugh at the mess, breathe in the sweetness of their small years, glimpse God in their bright eyes. Dance in the kitchen, sing goofy songs, tickle till they squeal, love them up while they’re fresh and young. The spin slows, for a second even, and I see the goodness of the work I’m doing, the love I’m giving. The glimmer of parenting becoming prayer. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I realize my kids are learning, from me. I see how they are slowly becoming caring, curious, hilarious people in their own right. I notice how I’m growing as a person and a parent, too. I remember I wouldn’t give up a second of this for the freedom of kidless days.
And the funny thing is, the more I notice Day Four, the more I stop to breathe and give thanks and notice beauty unfolding before my eyes, in the messy midst of heaps of laundry and towers of Legos and stacks of dishes and piles of clutter, the more regularly it rolls around, knocking Days One through Three to the corner with a saucy shake of its mama hips. Stay back, Day Four warns, wryly. I got this, girls.
And I do.
. . .
Inspired by my brilliant friend Love-It-Or-Leave-It, whose four days of ministry smacked me in the head about mothering, too. Go figure.