(Thought I’d share an older piece I wrote when my kids were small and still eating deodorant. The picture above is my mom in 1979. Love you, Mom!)
I was such a perfect mother until I had children! It’s easier to be an expert when you don’t know what in the world you’re talking about. I read all the James Dobson books and other equally suitable resource materials, but nothing really equipped me for the entrance of these four little Green men into my life! The pain of labor was insignificant compared to the tyrannical twos, troublesome threes, and fearsome fours.
I remember when my first son was ready for preschool. My heart swelled with emotion as we approached this landmark parenting experience. After peeling him from my leg and depositing him kicking and screaming at the feet of the teacher, I quietly slinked away. He had a very exciting morning (after he stopped crying convulsively) of music, art, dodging rabbit turds, and seeing how long he could go avoiding the head lice epidemic. I guess it was about then I realized motherhood was not going to be easy, and it was going to last a lifetime.
As more children came along, we found it necessary to designate chores in an attempt to bring some organization to the chaos. Some may have accused us of violating child labor laws, but our children took their jobs so seriously, it was hard to deny them the inner reward of a task well done.
Some of their regular duties included sharpening paintbrushes in the pencil sharpener, unfolding and pitching folded laundry, draining the Culligan water unit, emptying bookcases, unraveling tape cassettes, and testing the current in the electrical outlets. We kept them pretty busy with these chores, but quite often they would finish early, so we always provided them excellent recreational activities to keep body and mind fit. They could climb to the top of the bunk and fall on their heads, they could jump barbed wire and break their arms, or they could mug the dog for a few stitches. Sticking bubblegum up the nose was also perfectly acceptable for a hasty run to the emergency room.
Snack time has always been fun at our house. Sometimes they have gotten their own by climbing up on the bathtub and eating their father’s deodorant from the medicine cabinet. Garden compost was another quick and easy alternative for a family on the go. Our regular favorite, of course, was dog food—preferably ant infested.
Making cookies with the kids has always been good for a few tarnished memories. My children, however, have never looked quite like the clean and coiffed cherubic youths in plaid shirts and ruffled pinafores in those irritating women’s magazines. Neither have our cookies looked quite like the perfectly formed masterpieces the cherubs hover over in the diffused light and soft edges of the photographs. (It is amazing the degree of genuine warmth that is generated by the simple application of Vaseline to the camera lens!) My children bump, push, argue, step on toes, and still manage to concoct an almost palatable mixture of flour, shortening, sugar, and backyard grit. It has seldom been a long-endured trial, though, since perseverance has never been one of their highly prized virtues.
Some days I climb the walls. Some days I really believe God gave children to parents only because nobody else would take them. But other days, I look with wonder at the lives left in my care, and I thank God for the chance to participate in forming a heart that’s turned towards God. I have one chance to do this parenting thing. I’m not an expert, but I am in daily contact with the One who is. Someday when I’m old, I’ll look back on these frenetic years and realize they were the best years of my life—but of course, I’ll be senile!