Motherhood isn’t one life-altering experience; it’s thousands. It’s a lighting bolt that strikes in the same place again and again. It keeps demanding that you right-size your expectations, your future plans, and your pants size. And it never, ever stops.
Like my pantry, my perspective of motherhood needs occasional reshuffling. The stuff I place in the back needs to be dusted off and brought to the front to remind myself it’s been there all along. I forget about all of those inner qualities that direct and inspire each and every thing I do for my children – the love, the patience, the gentleness, the honesty, the forgiveness, the generosity, the encouragement…these things are the big things, the important things.
I took to walking down stairs sideways, clinging to walls and railings and whatever other supports I could find. I studied the ground as I walked, looking for patches of snow and rougher ice to provide traction. I even stopped trusting cement that appeared to be clear of ice – been there, fell on that, got the knee brace. Both literally and figuratively, I’ve been staring down at my feet, looking for the safest next step – rather than letting myself dream and take healthy risks (my usual signature move).
The decorating and the music and the baking and the giving – we do it for ourselves and our families and friends first, of course. And we do it because we want to (I hope) and it makes us feel good (I hope). But it’s good to remember that others – especially other children – are watching. They’re oooohhing and ahhhing at the candles in our windows and the lights on our houses. They’re pointing when we drive home with a tree strapped to the roof. They’re asking to drive around the block to get another look at the blow-up Santa on the lawn.
For two months I dreaded this walk. I fought it. I huffed and rolled my eyes and apologized to strangers for my dawdling children. I let the tension rise with every door we took 47 years to get through and every person we nearly bumped with the stroller. I wore the mantle of a mother burdened by her lot. And you know what? It worked. People felt sorry for me. They said things like “wow, you’ve got your hands full!”. They accepted my apologies and tossed scraps of grace and patience my way. But the thing is, my attitude was more habit and less a reflection of how my day was actually going. I got it in my head that this whole ordeal was annoying and frustrating and I let my emotional auto-pilot to take over. And once I did, the people around me responded in kind. I acted like a stressed-out mom and they treated me like one.