If you’ve ever wondered like me,
I call it “distracted mothering” and I’m really good at it. Too good.
It might be a text, or an e-mail, another child, or a floor that needs sweeping. It might be laundry or lunches or washing my hands. It could be a conversation I’m trying to have with a friend or a table covered in syrup. The circumstances change but the outcome is the same. I am distracted from mothering. I suppose in some ways, these things are a part of being a mother. But in most ways, they are drawing me away from the very thing that makes me a mom: my kids.
It’s summer now and all the kids are home. Messes are a plenty and spirits are high. The very sort of thing that causes me to go into “crazy mom mode,” the mode where I yell and nitpick and become Captain Party Pooper.
I’m too smart to think this is an acceptable way to spend summer vacation. Nobody (including me) has any fun when all I do is nag about wet feet, spilled Cheez-Its, and basic hygiene. This, I know, is part of the whole parenting deal. I get that. But the wiser side of me knows that these days are far too few and will be gone too soon, as everyone is so quick to tell me.
So I am going to have to rewire my brain this summer. Rewire it for craziness. Rewire it for crunchy Cheez-It crumbs ground into the living room rug. All. Day. Long. Rewire it for science experiments, homemade play dough, and cheerfully schlepping all five kids (and their soggy beach towels) to the pool in a van that’s a thousand degrees.
I will try to listen with my eyes, when my kids are telling me about the latest Magic Tree House book they are reading, the rock that they found, or the bird on the fence.
These moments seem so ordinary, so dime-a-dozen, that it doesn’t come naturally to me to pause and remember. But the wiser side of me knows I need to store up these memories for the grey days when I’m older than I want to be and my house is way too quiet.
They are my children–and they won’t be children forever. And they call me mom, not the janitor or the chef. The mess certainly doesn’t bother them, and they could live pretty well on pretzels, so I’m not going to worry so much about what they will eat, or what they will wear. Because isn’t life more than food or clothes?
I know Jesus was talking about much more than that when He said those famous words in Matthew chapter 6. He wasn’t speaking to mothers about their children. But He was speaking to worriers; to those who labor and spin and miss the point of it all. I can absolutely relate to that. Days are replete with so many tasks, so many necessities, that it’s hard to see the lawn for the toys.
So I am going to set down my phone, hang up the dishtowel and hide the broom (for an hour at least). I am going to smile, and cheer, and watch them play baseball in the backyard. Because before I know it, summer will be over and my house won’t be quite so messy or quite so full. And I’d choose full over empty any day.
Let me start this by saying that my husband is a wonderful man. A man who knows me and loves me well. He washes dishes, does the Costco run, plays football with the boys in the backyard, changes dirty diapers, reads bedtime stories, makes pancakes the size of my two year old’s head, and other really fun and helpful things. He tries really really hard to get things right…most of the time. He cares about my sanity, perhaps more than I do. (Which is probably because my lack of sanity affects him more than it does me.)
When the twins were born, in all his amazingness (and what am I saying–out of necessity), he took complete responsibility for morning and nighttime parental duties for the three older boys. He rocked it.
He had those boys dressed, fed, lunches packed, and out the door to school by 7:40 every morning. He even picked up two neighbor kids along the way. He did this all before I had even gotten out of bed. Did they have fruit snacks for breakfast? Sure! Did they go to school in mismatching clothes? Of course! But they were never once late to school, and their little lunches full of every sort of imaginable prepackaged food brought delight to their innocent hearts when they sat down to eat.
At night, he got that bedtime routine from 20 minutes down to about 5. He had those kids in bed before they could say, “bedtime story?” He was the master. He pretty much singlehandedly silenced the whining and endless cups of water. I’m not sure how he did it. To this day, I am almost scared to mess with his routine. It goes so well. There is so little complaining, so few requests. If I enter the room all of the sudden I am playing the bartender fetching three cups of water, at, of course, three different times, whispering prayers, and listening to very important things that they forgot to tell me until just now. Fifteen minutes later I am dragging myself from their room like a hostage escaping the wreckage.
In short, he’s amazing. But there’s one thing the master doesn’t do. One thing that gets to me. One thing he won’t do, despite my continual urging. He will not brush or “check” their teeth.
“I don’t do teeth,” He’s told me several times.
This completely and utterly baffles me. Why? What is so hard about brushing children’s teeth? He will wipe stinky, slippery poop off of a kid’s bottom, but he will not stick a little toothbrush in their mouth and wiggle it around for a few minutes?
I don’t understand. But here’s what I do know.
You cannot pump a two year old full of fruit snacks all day, and give him a toothbrush with a glob of blue fluoride toothpaste on it at the end of the night and call it good. There’s no way those teeth are getting clean. I know. I know because I know two year olds. That toothpaste gets swallowed faster than the time it takes to squeeze it on there. It never even comes in contact with the teeth. It just doesn’t.
And just because a child is say, 6, or maybe 7, doesn’t make him much better. Sure, he may not directly swallow the toothpaste, but he will give his teeth a cursory sweep and then let the toothbrush hang from his mouth like a cigarette while he reads a book forgetting all about the Captain America toothbrush dangling from his lip.
But the man won’t do it. He draws the line at teeth brushing.
The annoyance soon gave way to worry, and I began to see scary visions of our next dental visit in which a very condescending and judgmental dental hygienist (we’ve met before) would give me such looks and say such words that would leave me to feel like the absolute worst mother on the planet because my three boys had a combined total of one hundred and thirty-five cavities.
So I did what any wonderful wife would do: I told my husband he had to take them.
The day of reckoning was going to come and I wasn’t going to be the one getting the stink eye from the dental hygienist because my two year old has seven cavities. I wasn’t going to subject myself to such derision, especially when it would be so wholly undeserved. The “master of everything other than brushing teeth” was going to have to face Ms. Judgy as she explained the importance of diligent flossing.
There was a teensy part of me that thought an upcoming dental appointment might in some way instill a little healthy fear in him, and he may actually start caring about our children’s hygiene. I wasn’t so lucky. I totally underestimated the fact that my husband is a boss and unhappy middle-aged women who want to make you feel like a failure don’t bother him. The stink eye? Bring it. He’s not phased. (And that’s what I love about him.)
He had no qualms then about bringing the boys to the dentist. He put it on his calendar. It was settled. They don’t tell you when you’re newlyweds that 10.5 years into marriage the definition of true love is going to be taking three children to the dentist. But it is. Be still my heart.
Well, wouldn’t you know, sickness and other variables caused us to miss said dentist appointments and it defaulted to me to bring the boys to the dentist, lest another 6 months pass and allow for an additional hundred cavities to develop in their young mouths.
When the day of dread finally arrived, I dressed my best (you know, jeans and a nice cotton shirt) and held my head high. I was ready to defend the fiery arrows those piercing eyes would shoot my way because I hadn’t flossed my toddler’s teeth every morning and night. (Should I mention I have twins? Five kids? Blame my husband?) I didn’t. Like a lamb before the slaughter, I was silent. My big girl underwear were working that day.
And an amazing thing happened. Well, a couple actually. Number one: Ms. Grumpypants wasn’t there. The second is possibly the biggest miracle of them all. We walked away with absolutely no cavities! I smiled a genteel smile when they shared the news. I knew it all along. I mean, we haven’t been that remiss.
So let’s hope it stays that way. But, if it doesn’t, we all know who’s to blame.
Today I brushed my teeth while unloading the dishwasher. My Christmas decorations are still sitting in the middle of my garage and I haven’t showered in two days. It’s 12:45 pm. This is my life. The twins have arrived.
As usual, I’ve had a thousand blog posts swirling in my head for the past four months, but finding the time and the presence of mind to write them down is like trying to keep the living room rug uncluttered with toys. Impossible.
At the precise moment when I was brushing my teeth, stacking cereal bowls in the cabinet and scolding my son for drawing on a piece of furniture, my two precious girls were sleeping. Thank God. That’s something not a lot of us are getting these days.
There are many times when they aren’t sleeping, and many times when I have five crazy kids running around my house. Okay, three kids running and two babies just lying there. But it’s STILL crazy. It seems like each child is progressively louder which is basically like saying my two year old sounds like a leaf blower. Our house is LOUD. And getting babies to nap in it is sorta like…well, keeping the living room rug free of toys.
Tonight, as I sit here, is the first night in four months where I am actually sitting in a comfy chair with a blanket on my legs and a computer on my lap in a quiet house at 8:00 at night. The evenings, my friends, have been my enemies. And tonight, TONIGHT, the girls fell asleep on their own! Okay, they still cried some, but we DID NOT have to go in there! (Excuse the overuse of ALL CAPS, but some things cannot be emphasized enough!!)
So what has happened in these past four months? Oh man, so much. But how do I sum it all up? I can’t possibly go back and remember every emotional meltdown, every time I fell to my knees and begged God for mercy, or every amazing person who brought us a meal and some sanity, every little illness we’ve weathered, or obstacle overcome. I don’t have the memory or the time. And you probably wouldn’t care to hear all the details anyway.
But if I were to tell you a few things about these past four months and how I’ve handled them, I will be honest and tell you that it has been hard. Hard like nothing I have ever experienced before. Once a week I would shuffle into the kitchen in yoga pants and say through tears, “I can’t do this anymore.” And once a week I would be on my knees praying, pleading for mercy! At one point, I truly thought these girls might be the death of me. That I seriously might not survive this. I felt that I would never sleep again, and if I never slept again, I would get so sick that I would not be able to recover and then… I would die. It was that simple.
The day after my doomsday prediction, I found out I had mastitis, which I think, helps to explain my bleak outlook. I was indeed sick, but I did not indeed die. Antibiotics and sleep are amazing things.
And then there’s God.
He is so so good. He is faithful, just like the Bible says He is. He doesn’t lie. Did you know that? He has answered so many of the prayers I prayed on those dark nights as I knelt on the nursery floor. He sent little angels in the forms of neighbors and friends to remind me of His great love and care for me. He sees all my troubles. He doesn’t forget or ignore them. He knows every single thing I go through every single day. And He cares about it! Isn’t that amazing? He knows the piddly stuff, the significant-only-to-me stuff and He cares enough about it to do something about it. He has truly gotten me through. His Word, and His people have encouraged me and kept me going. I am beyond grateful!
So here I am. Still alive and blogging. Amazingly enough.
I don’t expect it to be a cakewalk from here on out. But, we are getting there friends. We are making progress. They are growing, and getting to be fun and interactive. They laugh and smile and are super duper cute. And one day too soon they’ll be sitting in a high chair feeding themselves cheese and I’ll wonder how we got there. I just hope I still won’t be brushing my teeth while I unload the dishwasher, but I could very well be. There’s a good chance the Christmas decorations will be still be there also. I beginning to accept it. 🙂
Hi! I'm Brooke
Brooke lives with her husband and their five energetic children outside of Sacramento, California. She loves Jesus and pizza and has a thing for throw pillows. Her dreams are big, her God is bigger, and her laundry room is a giant mess.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Brooke lives with her husband, five kids, two horses, cat, dog, and ever fluctuating number of chickens (dang bobcat) on a ranch outside of Sacramento, Ca. She writes from her fixer-upper farmhouse (and sometimes Starbucks) about her failures, her motherhood, her adventures in ranching, and the God who sees her through it all. Her dreams are big, her hands are full, and her laundry room is a mess.