Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories. -John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
I was 26 years young. I had visions of being a stay-at-home mom. I imagined lots of cooing and giggling and love going on in my house. I imagined I would take my baby to all of the play-dates and tumbling classes. My husband would come in from work to a sparkling home and a happy momma with child.
Then reality quickly (and literally) hit home. With my first child I was learning the ropes and thankfully had time to focus on my daughter and try to figure this parenting thing out. But then we had two. And again, I imagined.
I imagined I would have time to shower (although that thought quickly disappeared). I imagined my two sweet angels would laugh and play while I cleaned the house. My husband would come home and kiss me on my cheek as I finished last minute preparation on the lovely roast and homemade garlic mashed potatoes. I would put my bouncing baby boy in his jumper and my then precious two-year old would sit quietly and eat her peas. Okay, so by now you can see, I had quite the imagination!
Truth be told, my fairytale household was anything but a fairytale. My house was spotless, but only while I was dreaming in my sleep. With my husband working six days a week and no family close by to come and relieve me for a couple of hours, I was in the trenches! My home was a complete disaster. On any given day you would find dishes piled high and quite possibly a few diapers that were waiting to be tossed in the trash (but the trash was usually full). I was lucky if I could get a Hamburger Helper on the table by the time my husband walked in. My unfinished laundry was daunting and my mountains of paperwork and bills were all in a big pile marked ‘to-be-filed’. My son was colicky the first six months and that definitely didn’t help matters. And a shower… yeah, right! I was happy if my pajamas matched.
Then we had baby number three. Oh, yes, maybe I was imagining bliss would start with three. You can imagine the look of concern when my husband and I announced baby #3 was on his way. I think everyone must have thought we were completely out of our minds. And I won’t lie- at times I think we were!
Now imagine a newborn, a two-year old, and a four-year old. And unlike a commander in an army, there was no way to radio back up. At that time it felt like any event or outing was a major production. To leave the home I needed to be very organized. I can tell you right now, I was not. I needed to have snacks pre-packed, bottles ready in hand, extra outfits, Sippy cups fully loaded, diaper bag with all the basic necessities, and of course, my fully un-automatic double-wide stroller. Not to mention only leaving during certain hours to ‘try’ and maintain nap schedules! At times I felt like it might have been easier to just enlist in the army.
My kids are now ten, twelve, and fourteen. Thankfully, all my years of imagining a picturesque “Leave it to Beaver” life have all but vanished. I think sometimes we all have unrealistic imaginations on what this parenting thing is all about. As I look back on those younger years I will be the first one to admit that they were messy at times. But I wouldn’t trade any of it. Those weren’t just growing years for my little ones, those were also growing years for me. I grew in my faith, I grew as a person, and thankfully, I grew as a mom. And, as one might imagine, I also grew in patience.
I think back and laugh as I remember two out of three screaming in the car as I raced just to make it home. I look at my scrapbooks and see all the days that we did enjoy. We did make it to the zoo (a lot). We did the museums and the aquariums and we actually really did enjoy most of it! And guess what? I, no, we, survived. And not only did we survive, we made beautiful memories right there in the middle of the messes. If I could blow fish one more time on their bellies, I would. If I could kiss their little feet one more time (without being stinky), I would in a second. If I could hold them in my arms until we both stopped crying, I just might. But I can’t. So instead of living with ‘if I could’, I’m going to be at peace with ‘I’m glad I did’.
Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart. I imagine it’s for those of us that are in it for the long haul; for those of us that accept the messy with the beautiful. Parenting is for those of us that realize that there is no such thing as perfect and that sometimes we will be called to give and give and give and accept nothing in return. I imagine that sometimes parenting will be painful, but that pain will be nothing in comparison to the joy of seeing my children live a full life of their own someday. I imagine for them one day, that they too will have their own beautiful messes, and all will be as it should be. I imagine.