My mother and I were talking on the phone last night, and I moved from room to room doing my “end-of-the-evening” tidy up. As it was time for my son’s bedtime, I went in to his room to say goodnight and tuck him in, all while I had the phone neatly perched in between my shoulder and my ear. I leaned in to kiss him on the forehead, as is our nightly routine, and he dramatically moved his body back away from me, as if I had suddenly grown five eyes out of the side of my head and had warts covering my mouth. I removed the phone and pointedly asked him what was the matter.
“Who are you talking to?” he demanded.
“Grammie,” I answered exasperated with this exchange already.
“Oh,” he replied, “All right then.”
When did my sweet boy change into an adolescent marvel who now finds his mother a servant by day and disgusting life form by night?
I give up.
But of course, I cannot. Rather I plunge on into the murky waters known more commonly as puberty.
Mothering is hard work, and I am only just beginning. I consider myself to be a young mother, by the following standard: I like to think of myself as not quite over the hill (#tryingtobetrendy), as well as the fact that my youngest has not yet started school. Those two criteria are enough to keep me young, are they not? And if not, the mere fact that I am chasing kids 24/7 (both at home and at work) should be enough to keep me young, due in part to the sheer force of willpower necessary to keep this body going forward at 90 miles an hour. I am nearing the halfway mark of in-home parenting with one, however, and it scares the living daylights out of me. I know I am in for some interesting scenarios, much like the above, and more of them to boot.
I was talking to a mom the other day, and she and I were discussing life experiences and how we are handling current crises in our life. She remarked that although she has many people around her to call on for help or friendship, she often feels alone. She further added that she is able to talk about her real feelings and insecurities only so much as she keeps things positive and up-beat. For instance, if she was dealing with a frustration at home, she could talk about it so long as she focused on the positives and found a way to always find a happy note to end her story on. She felt to do otherwise would make her look, in the eyes of her friends, ungrateful and like she was complaining.
I can relate somewhat. When I write about a bad day, I try to make everything sound funny. No one really wants to read a diary entry that chronicles my endless frustrations and grievances about the day. No matter how many times you hear someone casually say, “How are you doing?” it is exceptional to hear someone empathically say, “How are you really doing?” We often do not want to hear the answer to that question, myself included here, because it might require more from us: more time, more thought, more effort, more love and more understanding on our part than if the person just answered, “Fine.”
It is hard hearing someone share gut-wrenching stories about their life, that bare their heart and soul to the willing confidant. But if we don’t take the risk to confide our deepest fears and feelings, no matter how messy they be in the telling, do we not risk losing the opportunity to be all that is real and gloriously human? We are made of messy stuff- blood, guts and gore. Do not our feelings reflect that same constitution? We are neatly packaged on the outside, but inside we are a mess of organs, circuitry, tissue and tubing. So much the more, inside our soul. A tumble of conflicting emotions, moods, feelings, beliefs, convictions, biases and truths that we hold to or change depending on the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We are gloriously messy. And so very complicated by our very design.
So then, let us free ourselves to be all that we know we really are and not expect any less from ourselves or of others than this: perfect chaos. Messy as that may be in the revealing.