Hidden in the Hard

I spent the first year of motherhood muttering the same phrase to myself, over and over: Why didn’t anyone warn me?!

How did I walk into a c-section, into exclusive pumping, into a baby who didn’t sleep through the night for 10 whole months … knowing nothing? And I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that way; I think we all feel like we picked up this mantle called motherhood without knowing the true weight of it. And so we feel compelled to share the knowledge we’ve gleaned with others, so that the next mama to come along won’t walk in our shoes and grumble about how no one warned her that newborns can shoot poo clear across the room if you’re not fast enough with the diaper or how that three month growth spurt is perfectly timed with the week you start back to work at the end of your maternity leave.

But some days, I think perhaps we’ve overshot our noble goal a bit. Because as important as it is to feel like we’re sharing the same struggles and as comforting it is to know that someone else, too, has stayed up all night worrying about the same thing you are, it’s also a little … scary. I remember reading a mom blog or two back when I was pregnant with my first, and I was more than a little terrified. My God this sounds awful, I thought. What have I done?

It’s been said that misery loves company, so it’s always easy to find a grumble group that fits your parenting struggles. Moms of tantruming two year olds over here, moms of colicky newborns over there. And the especially traumatized souls who fall in both groups … well, they’re tucked over there in the corner receiving emergency transfusions of wine, high-quality chocolate and prayers.

Yes, parenting is hard. Bone-crushingly hard sometimes, with fatigue and worry that you never knew possible. But there’s good stuff, too. Things like holding a fresh-from-the-bath, sleepy toddler who takes a break from her normal chaotic activities and rests her head against your neck, giving you a few precious moments to breathe in that heady, clean scent and snuggle her close. Thing like teaching your son how to do a backflip on the trampoline and that the big couch cushions make the best forts. Things like the smiles that light up their whole faces when you arrive to pick them up from preschool and the enthusiastic way they wrap their arms around your neck when they give you a hug.

There are the bigger, deeper things too that are still just as good. Like learning to love the things you once liked least about yourself, because God is clever. He knew that you’d find those knobbly knees you’ve always hidden under pants and long skirts downright adorable when sported by your son. And He knew that as you dig deep each day to find the grace needed for their mistakes, you’d find enough there to cover your own mistakes, too.

I’ve never worried more or slept less than I have since I became a mother. But oh, friend, I’ve never known such joy, either. Every single day has a hidden gem or two of perfection in it. Sometimes it’s hiding between too many episodes of Paw Patrol and pancakes for supper (the unfailing sign in the Batchelor house that Mom has given up for the day), but it’s there.

We all know that this work is hard, and that the particular brand of hard varies from family to family. But celebrating the good that’s hidden in the hard is my new goal, I think. Sometimes babies don’t sleep and toddlers won’t eat and preschoolers won’t wear clothes. But sometimes, too, babies laugh a deep belly laugh that nearly knocks them over. And toddlers surprise you with a big wet kiss right on the mouth. And preschoolers bring home a picture they drew just for you.

And there’s nothing better than that.

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A Good Year

sparklersI am not a New Year’s resolutioner. New Year’s Eve is actually my least favorite holiday by a mile (hordes of people with the expectation of lots of midnight hugs and kisses is basically as bad as it gets for a tried and true introvert like myself). No, the start of a new year doesn’t foster in me a need to commit to planning for bigger, better, greater things … but shouldn’t it? Shouldn’t I list out five goals on a sheet of paper, so I can say that I, too, have big plans for 2016?

I could vow less screen time for our household, but since Nathan already watched an episode or two of Wild Kratts this morning while I thumbed through my Instagram and Facebook feeds … and my daughter is parked in front of the iPad as I type this, that one is already busted. I could strive to eat better or workout more, but then I’d feel guilty about the cheeseburger I had for lunch and probably the pajama pants that I’m still wearing well past noon, too. I could promise to write every day or return texts more quickly or travel more.

But I’m nothing if not honest, and I don’t like to make promises that won’t be kept. Being a better me is a lofty goal … maybe too lofty, for where I’m at right now. I think, for this year, I’ll settle for being MORE me. For embracing myself, with all my flaws. For making peace with my post-kids, post-3o body. For marveling at what I can still do and letting go of what I’ll never do (or wear) again. I think I’ll own my personality too, rather than wishing I was more outgoing, more gentle, more patient. I do quiet and serious quite well, and like to be a safe place for friends who need to talk and confide. My impatience ensures that the slower-moving members of my family aren’t too terribly late when it counts. And I may never be truly gentle and kind, but there’s no better teacher than tender hearts and minds.

The other day I was making pancakes, and Nathan came up and wrapped his arms around my legs and said in all seriousness, “You’re the best Mom I’ve ever had.” I chuckled and reminded him that I was also the only Mom he’s ever had … so didn’t that also make me the worst? But he just shook his head and said, “Nope … just the best.”

I’m under no illusions that I’ll ever be the best mom. I lose my temper and hide in the bathroom sneaking chocolates far too often for that. But maybe this is the year I own being THEIR best mom. Accepting that God gave them to me – and I to them – with a plan and a purpose in mind.

So no, 2016 won’t see a better me. There will be no new and improved; no list of goals to check my way through. But it will, God-willing, see me be myself. I’ll love my people and let myself be loved by them.

It will be a good year.