We went over to a new friend’s house for a barbeque last night, and I think that the universe was trying to help me to be humble. This is the euphemism for it was a total nightmare. Who knew I’d have the opportunity to test out the talk I gave in church on Mother’s Day? (I included a link below if you’d like to read it).
Oh, dinner was excellent, and the company was great. But you know how every time you leave the house with two little kids, it is a little like carrying two walking timebombs? Somehow in our joy of preschoolerhood and gettin’-in-a-groove, we had forgotten this very real fact. And our two timebombs tend to go off not only unexpectedly, but in the worst possible place. Which is pretty much wherever there are people around, but especially when there are people that we know?
I won’t go into details. It wasn’t pretty. Oh boy was it ever not pretty. Some of it involved Rowen spilling her dessert all over the floor. Some involved Elliott trucking downstairs at one point (we thought he was watching a movie in their playroom) with someone’s toothbrush in his mouth. Some of it involved loudly refusing to drink out of a green cup when a certain child saw a blue cup in action in another kid’s hands. And then some general mayhem and ruckus thrown in for good measure. We cannot play cards with two toddlers running. This is a fact we know well, and yet could not escape.
Jared and I left after about 3 1/2 hours, feeling like we had been dragged behind a truck. And I really needed a hot bath and a good night’s sleep and perhaps some chocolate. A lot of chocolate.
Kids were bammed in the tub and put in bed and we sat and wondered, “Where did we go wrong? We are terrible parents. When did our children, who are actually reasonably well behaved at home, suddenly turn into little hooligan pee-pee house-wandering toothbrush-stealing, dessert-spilling monsters? And why in someone’s house, where we’re basically trapped and can’t run away and go home and cry in our beds like we (okay I) wanted to?”
Part of it may have been because we were at someone else’s house. And perhaps there’s a full moon or something. I don’t know. This is an old issue for me - this humiliation and embarrassment that reaches near-panic when one or the other of the timebombs goes off (or they both go off repeatedly) - the feeling of helplessness and frustration and lack of any shred of dignity, while everyone is forced to stand around and watch. I am fairly certain I’m not the only person who has been to this town. Have you?
I do think (after the aforementioned hot bath and good night’s sleep and homemade strawberry ice cream instead of chocolate) that every now and then it’s healthy to have Real Life smack you in the face, right? For me, it keeps me humble. In a place where I recognize that I have a few things to figure out still. And this helps me learn that these are not symbols of my own personal failings laid out bare for all to see, but just kids, acting like kids. Being a mama is by far the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. It’s the long-day, long-night, stretched-to-the-limit reality that’s so demanding. But it’s also this idea that we’re being judged personally by the behavior of our kids (whether this is reality or just in our heads), when we’re trying our best to just keep it together.
I spoke in church on Mother’s Day. I prayed and struggled and wrote and rewrote the words I’d say - knowing that this is not a subject that should ever be taken lightly, and also knowing that mamas so rarely hear how magnificently well they are doing.
If you would like to read it, here is a copy of the talk I gave.
One excerpt from that, from Jeffrey R. Holland in a talk he gave to mothers in 1997:
You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you—He who resolutely goes after the lost sheep, sweeps thoroughly to find the lost coin, waits everlastingly for the return of the prodigal son. Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be. (Jeffrey R. Holland, General Conference, April 1996)
I think that last night I was given the opportunity to put my money where my mouth was. I’m grateful for that chance, even though I will freely admit that it was painful. Is painful. I have a great admiration and respect for mothers anywhere, and I say that with an insider’s perspective. I hope you know how awesome you are.