I spent the morning (well the awake parts) laying in bed with my Jonah boy. The house, save the two of us, is so quiet that you can hear the fridge hum. A stroke of bad luck manifesting in the form of stomach flu has left me weak and quiet. I haven't the motivation to deal with the sink full of dishes, nor the mental fortitude to kick myself about it. It is a nice break from the judgemental chatter that stays at volume 9 in my head most days. So while the family is at church, I have spent the morning stroking Jonah's face, trading coos and kisses, protecting him from tumbling off of the edge of the bed, and laughing when his face brushed my squishy belly and, assuming it was time for a mid-morning snack, he tried to latch on to my spare tire. He and I sang to each other, and the minutes and hours blurred into what I may look back on as 'a moment' in my mothering journey. There was effortlessness in loving him, and simplicity as I gave him the only thing he required; me. My time, my touch, my milk, my voice, my rhythm, my smiles.
It is so easy to be his mother.
I will certainly complicate it later.
I picked up a book the other day by Tom Sturges called "Parking Lot Rules & 75 Other Ideas for Raising Amazing Children" for a screamin' $4.95. I love it when booksellers clearance diamonds for the price of costume jewelry. This little book has opened a gentle door in my mind to the room where I keep my Mama Hopes. This is the room where the fabric for pink flowered curtains I will make for the girls is laid beside the books I will read to my darlings. It is the room where a soft chair waits for me to hold a crying child and bikes and picnic baskets wait to be taken on adventures. As you look around this room you will find no dirty dishes or phones, no homework or report cards. In the corner under a bright window there are five empty frames that wait to hold the pictures of five happy, well adjusted adults with smiling faces. Their smiles will say, "I had a blessed and happy childhood".
As I read in this book and picture myself being the kind of mother it asks me to be, I swoop and dodge the judgements that my inner Critic hurls at me. "You have already screwed up too much. There is no going back." "You are not consistent enough to be this kind of mom."
The Critic is not allowed into my room of Mama Hopes. So I hide out there all morning with Jonah, and revel in the idea, the possibility, that I do have it in me to be that mama. Not only that, I can add a few to Mr. Sturges 75 fabulous ideas. I have been a mother for 14 years, and I have picked up a few things along the way. Out of shame I have tucked them into the bureau drawers in my room of Mama Hopes. Shame, because I have been under the misconception that I have to be perfect at everything before I can share the fact that I am pretty good at somethings. What a silly notion! Who is perfect at anything? If that were the criteria, even the experts would be demoted.
So here is one of my ideas, or thoughts, rather. We will call it Thought #1.
One of my saddest moments as a mother was the day I overheard Adam telling Ethan, "Hey, Ethan, do you remember the time we almost got to take Karate lessons? That was cool, huh?" By almost, he was remembering the time his mother was sucked in to one of those "Free Lessons" offered by a Karate studio. It ended up being an hour long commercial that dangled the carrot of a free uniform and earning your first belt by the end of the first week. The kicker came when they said it was $100 a month. Per child. The boys left excited, and I left devastated. There are some things that I cannot offer my children, despite my marvelous intentions.
But on another day, as the boys sat at the table munching on small watermelon chunks, I heard this: "Hey Ethan, do you remember the time that mom was cutting watermelon, and she cut those big giant slices and let us each eat the whole thing?! That was awesome." I had given them each a Norman Rockwell looking slice, bigger than their chests, two-fisters, if you know what I mean. I don't even know why I had done it, accept maybe I thought they would think it was funny. Or maybe I was being sadly-practical and thinking that they would each eat four or five slices anyway, why not get it over with with fewer servings (Oh, Practical Mom. She means well, doesn't she?).
So here it is, Thought #1: When you are serving watermelon, every once in a while (or maybe twice in a while), serve 'em the giant slices. Why not every time? Well, because then it's not special anymore. It's not outrageous and unexpected. Kids love it when mama seems wild and unpredictable, but they don't want unpredictable all of the time (wouldn't that be predictable?). Deep in their hearts they prefer dependable and secure, and when they get plenty of that, it keeps 'wild and unpredictable' in the fun zone and prevents it from stepping over the guardrail into Mommy-Dearest territory. The Watermelon Principle works for other things too, like letting them chose loud paint colors for their rooms, serving donuts for dinner, or suddenly joining them on the trampoline.
Give Practical Mom the night off. It's hard work being that uptight. She looks exhausted.
Watermelon Photo by Adam