Tuesday, September 17, 2013

on choosing this life.

“Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood - finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.”
― Jodi Picoult, 

during weeknights, i'm mostly on my own for the dinner/bath/bedtime routine.

i've been in this boat for about 5 years now, and used to find it draining--to be at the end of a long day with three tired children who all have needs that are expressed in the urgency of their voices, their small hands taking turns wrapping around my neck as they ask for just one more of one thing or the other.  i felt unsettled and uncomfortable at the inability to attend to everyone at once, running up and down the stairs before another erupted in a request, focusing on the settling down so i could breathe my own air once more.  i was duty-bound, and soldier-mom, demanding order, calm, routine.

right around 5:00, just before the sun began to set in the desert horizon, i recognized the feeling of  suffocation with just the thought of the impending next few hours.  i realized i was doing what i could to ease my burden--yes, burden--that is how i used to view my nights alone with my children, by taking the lazy way out.  story times and songs were rushed, tickle fights and spontaneous imaginary games were left for one of the rare nights when dad was home with us.  

but just like everything else, this life of mine is a choice. 

"well, here are your options:  you either accept that you have made this choice and do it with a good attitude, or you choose something else.  don't say "yes" to something and then spend your time angry and resentful toward being in this situation, because you only have yourself to blame.  either choose it and own it, or figure something else out.  listen to your inner voice, and take care of your needs." 

these are words that have actually come from my mouth, while helping others work through some difficulties in their own lives. 

so yes, i had yet another humbling moment of realizing my hypocritical-ness and decided to change.

i looked back at the choices i have made, and i don't just mean this temporary job that makes the nighttime duties my sole responsibility, but i go further back:  to the choice of grad school, then motherhood, and even marriage.  i know that i made these choices naively, without knowledge of either the hard or the good that was attaching to them, so i let myself off the hook--but just a little. because regardless of my ignorance, i did make these choices.  and every day, i continue to make them.  to be a wife, to be a mother, to continue to support the journey of grad school, to be an active partner in decision-making when it comes to jobs that will require a lot from each of us.  even down to the small, daily decisions like making the choice to feed my children, to pay attention to them when they speak, to kiss and hug them, to meet their needs, and bathe them, read to them, sing to them, and pray with them.

i reminded myself that i am not trapped here--i have seen better people walk away from more--and i could actually just leave, if i wanted to.  {side note: i'm not saying i actually want to, there honestly hasn't been a day when i've even entertained the thought, just making the point that i could} however, i have chosen and continue to choose this life;  with this wonderful man, and these beautiful children, and this blasted grad school, in this pink house, driving these more-often-than-not dirty cars....and this mostly-alone bedtime routine.

so, i snapped out of the victim-y-ness of it all, and reminded myself of the advice i had so easily doled out to someone else, and gave it to myself.  i re-read this post that i wrote almost two years ago, most likely when i was having the same "get over yourself and be thankful you made these choices" moment. 

for the past few months, things have been different, because i have been different.  there is still routine in certain areas- -i will most likely always believe some routine is important for children--but i have relaxed and let go, and just enjoyed the time i have, rolling with it instead of pushing against it.  changing my attitude has made the up and down of the stairs much more enjoyable.

we go outside and play together until the stars appear instead of letting them watch t.v. while i get the dishes done, we grab a big stack of books and all climb into my bed to read together instead of separating them to avoid bickering. we pretend caleb's bunk beds are a spaceship, he is the captain and myself and the girls are the astronauts, finding random articles around his room from different "planets" to bring back with us when we return to earth. 

and each night, i spend time with them one-on-one.  for caleb, it's right before his lights are out, we talk about whatever he wants.  we laugh about 8 year old boy things,  he tells me about the current book he's reading,  he asks me to listen to him pray.  with leah, it's during her "settle down" time.  she's in her bed, playing with her choice of toys for the night, and i come in for a few minutes to sit on her bed and play with her, astounded again with her ability to imagine.  for june, it's when her eyes are droopy, just before she begins to dream.  i stand and hold her to "rockaminute" while we sing her favorite songs about the moon and she clings to my shoulder and her blankie.  every night, i feel her soft forehead under my chin.

the nights are not perfect; there are moments of whining and arguing and times when i fight weariness or frustration.  but when their little bodies are all tucked in, and their cheeks have all been kissed, and the lights are all out, and i tell them how good they are and how thankful i am to be their mom, i take time for myself.  but i don't check out as i used to, immediately turning to my phone or facebook to escape.  i sit down in one of the chairs in my bedroom, and listen to the quiet, and thank God for another night i was given to be the one who chose to put these three amazing little children to sleep.   

“Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.”
― Howard W. Hunter


Nana said...

Such wisdom! I am so thankful you were a part of my life so many years ago. I saw so much potential in you, and now you are sharing that potential with your children and those of us who read your blog! I love you Linsey!

Rachel Chick said...

You make me tear up, Lyns. You always do when you open up you soul and share your heart. Thank you for being my friend. I love you so dearly and count your friendship as one of the most treasured in my life. You make my life a better one. I am so blessed.

Toby and Tammy said...

thank you. exactly what I needed to read tonight.

no more pity parties for me. I will be a better mom.

Rachel Holloway said...

You are truly an amazing mom. I used to dread bedtime too--many, many years I have done it alone. It definitely gets easier the older they get, but I've found there are so many amazing discoveries when you take on the attitude youhave. I still love to have a night off duty, but I have found I almost miss it--my kids long for me to return and kiss them goodnight, or snuggle them for a minute. I don't think I ever thought we would get to that point. :)