Sunday, November 29, 2015

beautiful chaos: when your expectations trick you.

This mothering thing is hard. This season of parenting has many challenges that some days makes me want to melt into a puddle of tears. There is so much noise, and fighting, and emotions and working things out and attitudes, did I mention attitudes?

Recently good friends of ours offered to take our kids overnight. I called them like five times to make sure I heard them right. "you mean like all five. Are you sure? do you know what you are getting in to?" And did I mention my friend is pregnant with twins. Oh my. 
I felt like such a horrible mom dropping five kids off to a pregnant woman and to make matters worse Moses and I had a big fight on the way over and attitude levels were high,  Hope suddenly says she maybe sort of has a sore throat and Eden broke out into a coughing fit. We were a mess.
After I apologized like fourteen times and dropped off enough sleeping bags and suitcases to look like we were moving in, I said goodbye and shut the door. Mark happened to already have prior plans so it was a rare night that I was alone. I met a friend for dinner and then headed to Barnes and Nobles to look for a book to read. Being out in public at night by myself was weird. I felt a little off kilter like I didn't know what to do with myself. I found the book I was looking for, paid for it and drove home looking forward to snuggling in by myself and reading in a quiet house something this introvert mother often craves. Silent time to myself. Ahh.

For some reason though the quiet and the night unnerved me. I missed Mark and the kids. I got home to a dark and silent house. I looked around at the house that just a few hours ago was bursting with life and yelling and fighting and the scurry of getting everyone out the door. It felt too quiet. I went upstairs and peered into their empty rooms and beds still unmade and I cried.
 I recognized how lately I have felt some resentment and irritation with being a mom. I think the older they get it is easier in the physical sense because they can get themselves dressed and bathe and brush their own teeth (well when they want too) but the emotional side is so much more challenging navigating their big emotions, their conflicts and their attitudes while trying to maintain control of what is also going on inside of me. So many times I take responsibility for them thinking if they mess up it is a reflection of me so I take everything personally. It can be exhausting knowing how to handle the conflicts and issues that come up. I want to get it right this mothering thing but so often it feels like we are just flailing around working through our stuff.

But standing there in the hallway by myself in an empty dark house I knew I wouldn't want it any other way. I love my house bursting with life. I love our five kids and the joy and craziness they bring. Standing there I was given the gift of perspective. In the quiet I could see how much I was given. In their absence I could see how much I am blessed.

Heading into the holiday season means more family time together. Usually I conjure up expectations of what that means whether it is getting our family picture taken for Christmas cards, finding our tree or whatever and I almost always am frustrated by how different the real experience goes. There are times I am pleasantly surprised but a lot of times when we are all together it is like a huge ball of energy and tension. Which is maybe just the reality of seven different people trying to get along and work through their own expectations and wants but I can easily get discouraged. We attempted three different Christmas card photos and each time the experience made me feel like poking my eye out. It felt tense and chaotic and not at all ideal. But when I look at the pictures now they are not bad at all, great even, and I am reminded that sometimes my expectations trick me. They lie to me and say I am falling short when really they were something that was unrealistic in the first place.

The point is I need to keep the perspective I got that night in the quiet house in the forefront of my mind. This crazy loud life is exactly what I want and it is a gift even if I do sometimes want to scream and pull my hair out. This house full of energy and noise and preadolescence hormones and mommy emotions and toddler tantrums and imperfect people is beautiful.

When Mark came home that night the kids were away I told him how much of a mess I was at home by myself and we both laughed at the silliness. But we both ended up with tears in our eyes at the thought that some day we will have an empty quiet house and we will look back with fond memories and a smile on the craziness that it is today.