I realized for the first time this year that Noah was born on the feast of the Annunciation. What a lovely day to be born into the world, the day where we celebrate the joy of a "yes" that changed human history. In the BIG scheme of things, Mary said yes to the invitation of an angel and the world has never been the same. In our little world, Noah entered as the fourth brother and our family changed forever. What joy, what light, what love he brings to our hearts. Is he perfect? No. None of us are. But he's perfectly Noah. Phil may be even more polite and more inquisitive, Daniel even more sweet and good-humored, Josh even more independent and gentle of spirit. But Noah brings something that is 100% Noah to the scene: an enthusiasm, a generosity, a spunk and a friendliness all his own. And upon his entrance to our family as the "last baby", he also brought with him an invitation. An invitation to slow down. An invitation to say yes. An invitation to not take ourselves too seriously. An invitation to joy.
To be fair, all of my children came with that invitation, but I'm a slow learner. It took me until #4 to realize that the invitation to live life to the fullest was in fact addressed to ME. The first few times I think that the invitation got buried in the pile of diapers and the to-do list and the tiny laundry and sleepless nights and my closet full of ill-fitting clothing in four sizes and the endless cracker crumbs everywhere. Was it under there, like a leaking sippy cup long lost under the couch? I certainly didn't see it. I had the misguided notion that just because things were hard, it must mean I was doing them wrong, and if my children weren't "perfect", or I fell short of my own self-imposed vision of what a mother should be, I was failing. I thought I needed to change myself. I felt like a million voices were shouting at me- be better, do better, do more, get it right, you only have one chance. But then, deep within, a still small voice. . ."God made you. He loves you just the way you are, and that love is the same yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever." Maybe I don't need to be different, I just need to be me, only more free? Could it be? These past four years have been an adventure into that invitation to freedom.
Of course my Facebook memories on Saturday were full of treasured moments- the day Noah was born, meeting his brothers for the first time, his first birthday where we dressed him like Corduroy, his second birthday where he sang "Happy Birthday" to himself with such enthusiasm I'm sure the neighbors heard. . .
When I clicked on that "see your memories" link, I expected myself to be sad, to feel the tug of wishing I could go back, just for one moment, to live Noah's babyhood again. But for some reason, this super sentimental gal who cries on a daily basis about anything from a soap commercial to a picture of a senior citizen and a puppy to a song on the radio. . .didn't shed a tear? Whoa. I needed to unpack this lack of emotion just to make sure my feelers were still operational. After some reflection, I realized that, just like Glennon says, as much as I love having parented, the actual parenting itself is pretty hard work. I wouldn't trade the hard earned wisdom gained through my mistakes along the way. Did I do it perfectly? No. Nothing is perfect this side of heaven. Did I "enjoy every moment because they are just growing so fast?" No. There were some moments where I really wished that life was a VHS and I could hit that fast forward button right through the hard parts, or a DVD and I could just go to the next scene, or maybe some Netflix and I could just fall asleep on the couch and wake up when it's over. But more often than not in the last four years, I have been taking the invitation to the joy right in front of me. It's much easier to say "yes" when you know it is your last time on the merry-go-round. And in taking Noah's invitation, I began to see so many others as well.
I can't go back and re-parent Joshy and Phil and Daniel when they were three-going-on-four. If I could, I'd take myself less seriously. I'd hug more and lecture less, I'd laugh more and worry less. I'd have more reasonable expectations for Phil: Just because he is three and the oldest of three brothers doesn't mean he isn't still THREE. I'd appreciate Daniel more: Just because he's so well behaved and sweet doesn't mean I can just ignore him until he needs me. I'd get less frustrated with Joshy: His mischief is the other side of his coin of independence. While, by nature of him being my "last chance", I was able to see Noah's interruptions as invitations to connect, I saw most of my older children's interruptions as, well, annoyances. What did I miss? I'll never know. I can only see those things now in hindsight. I was talking to a wise friend about these regrets and she said something about our kids that I will never forget:
We still have them right now.
Now that's some truth. I think we all have regrets, but we can't dwell in Regret Town. It's a sad, dusty place to live. Regrets only find their value in the way we use them to inform our actions moving forward. I can't go back, I can't even go ahead, all I have is this moment. These boys, 9 and 8 and 6 and 4. I was there for them all these years, I'll be there for them tomorrow, but the only moment that I'm guaranteed is this one. I can't go back and fix my perceived mistakes, I can't look forward to know everything that will happen and plan how to handle it. I can just take the invitation to live and love. . .today.
And they still need me now, in ways that are different and specific and unique yet no less important than the ways they needed me before. The other day we were cleaning up the LEGO area in the basement. This is an activity that I try to stay far, far away from, as the only thing more painful than stepping on LEGO is trying to get your kids to clean it up. But Daniel invited me down to help them clean and there I was, sitting with a bowl on the floor, sorting while they chatted my ear off and peppered me with questions about this, that and the other.
Daniel grinned at me at one point and said, "Thanks for helping, Mommy! This is just what we needed."
"No problem, Daniel. I'm just trying to be the mom you need today."
He pondered that for a moment.
"You're always the mom we need, Mommy."
He put his arm around me, and in that moment, in the midst of the mess, I felt a spark of the divine.
God interrupted our messy world when he showed up at the Annunciation with an invitation in a big way, but he's there with smaller invitations every moment of our own messy day, interruptions that bring us invitations to growth and freedom and joy. In a tiny, outstretched hand. In an unexpected hug. In naptime. In a couch full of pillows waiting to be cuddled into. Even in the burnt dinner and the broken toilet and the school project and the unexpected sick day and the mountain of laundry untouched for a week. The invitation is there to laugh at ourselves, to ask for and receive grace, to not take ourselves too seriously, to say YES. I tell myself if Mary could say "yes" to becoming the unwed virgin mother of God, I could probably say "yes" to, say, a blanket fort, y'all. If she could have a baby in a barn, I could probably, like, clean the toilet in the boys' bathroom. And if Jesus could die on the cross for us, I could PROBABLY find the strength to wash the dishes or read another bedtime story.
God, please give me the eyes to see you as you appear.
The wisdom to take the invitation as it arrives.
The grace and peace and strength to be the mom they need today.
|Not babies. . .but always my babies. :)|