“Oh my! How many of them are there?” the gray-haired woman asked. She leaned onto her cane and grinned at us as we stood watching our kids run — I mean, walk briskly — up and down the escalator in a screaming mass of chaos.
“Nine,” my sister replied. She cringed, looking at me for help.
“All cousins. Ages 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1 and 6 months,” I chimed in, hoping my confident smile would make me look a little less frazzled than I felt.
“And all together,” the woman said, smiling wider. “What a joyous adventure!”
Joyous? I looked at her, sure the shock I felt must be registering on my face.
More like a desperate adventure. No one brings nine kids under age 8 to the shopping center unless she is either crazy or desperate. Or both.
Our desperately crazy plan had been birthed out of what I call the “blue-paint incident.” My 2-year-old son, Will, had swiped a bottle of metallic blue acrylic paint from the counter, removed the lid and squirted a swirling stream of paint across the kitchen floor, living room walls and carpet. Did I mention that blue metallic acrylic paint is permanent? No matter how much you scrub and rinse, it doesn’t come out. The next morning, as I stumbled out of bed into a blue living room, I heard thunder boom. Rain tapped against the window panes. Great. Just great. Now I’d be cooped up inside all day with three kids — in a blue-painted house.
Calling for Backup
My sister, Alisa, mom to a 4-year-old, 1-year-old and 6-month-old, was in the midst of her own incident involving fire, an electrical cord and a just-crawling baby (don’t ask), and she was more than ready to get out of the house. And Stevi, my sister-in-law, decided to pre-empt any rainy-day mayhem her three cherubs might get into and join us.
We loaded the cars. Twenty minutes later, we made our grand entrance in a flurry of umbrella folding and stroller unfolding to a chorus of “I-don’t-want-to-go-in-the-stroller” and “I-want-to-hold-hands-with-Joey-not-Mom.” Yep, we were crazy.
But this kind woman at the mall seemed to be OK with the craziness. In fact, she seemed to be enjoying it. She watched our kids for a few more minutes before turning to us and smiling wistfully. “A blessing you girls have. A real blessing.”
“A blessing?” I whispered to my sister, who returned my look of confusion.
We weren’t exactly feeling blessed that day. Tired and overwhelmed, yes. But blessed? I was working so hard to keep my life sane that I was allowing the mundane and burdensome parts of motherhood to push aside the joy. Truth is, it’s difficult to recognize the blessings in those blue-paint moments or too-little-sleep moments or kids-running-amok-in-a-crowded-mall moments. Sometimes, we need a reminder.
A New Perspective
As the kind woman walked away, I looked at my children — faces smudged with peanut butter — and saw kids who were talking a little too loudly and running a little too fast, being rowdy and disobedient. But I also saw something else. I saw my 7-year-old son reach out to help his 1-year-old cousin Elsie down the escalator, leaning in to kiss her head before taking off to join his older cousins. I saw my daughter link arms with her best friend and cousin, Haddie, and laugh uproariously at a joke that only the two of them shared. Most of all, I saw — for the first time in weeks — the incredible opportunity I have to guide my precious kids through days where everything seems to go wrong. Days where I get to kiss skinned knees, to hug trembling shoulders, to laugh along with the cacophony of giggles and to show them the world in all of its beautifully messy glory.
And that’s what motherhood is all about, right? Readily offering hugs and smiles, understanding and instruction as I nurture these precious children entrusted to me; seizing daily opportunities to cultivate character and values and, ultimately, nurture my children to loving responsible individuals. When I think about it, my heart is flooded with gratitude.
Yes, motherhood is hard — especially on those blue-paint mornings — but the woman at the mall was right: I am on a joyous adventure, and I am incredibly blessed to be on it.
Copyright © 2014 Erin MacPherson. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com