In the middle of the field, I stopped a running Micah, knelt down in front of him and tucked in his football shirt before replacing the flag belt around his waist. In that split second of not even thinking about it, I said “I love you.”
Sometimes I wonder if the boys know how much is packed into those 3 little words.
If they know that the “I” is me, a woman who has given up so much of what I used to know and do in order to become someone so completely new and different that sometimes I don’t even recognize myself. Do they know that responding to the word “Mommy” is second nature now, but at one point I actually struggled with having a new name….and a new identity. That I could tell them everything they ate today and the last time they brushed their teeth, but wouldn’t be able to answer many questions about myself.
Do they know that the “love” is so complete and so total – that when I say “forever, for always and no matter what” every night as I tuck them in bed…. that I actually mean that? And it doesn’t mean that I’m happy all the time or that I am at all pleased with them in those moments when they pee on the floor because they don’t want to clean up the toys….and yet I still love them. Sometimes Noah knows it – for when I was “displeased” with his behaviors at bedtime tonight and kept a frown on, he finally asked “are you ready to smile yet?” He knows the love is there….right there.
Can they understand that the “you” refers to the entire beautiful, delightful, energetic and winsome little boy that they are? That they are each unique and fantastic. That it is not based on anything except the fact that they are my Micah, Noah and Seth and that I love them.
So when I look into Micah’s eyes and whisper “I love you,” I hold within me so much — he can’t even imagine the depth of the phrase. He doesn’t know that in the same moment, my brain is also saying “wow – this is hard.” That I’m wondering whether I’m doing the right thing. Even in the small things – do I have him in the right sports at this time? Is he getting out of it what he needs to? How can I get him to stop fiddling with the mouth piece the entire time he’s on the field and maybe look up for a minute and see if he should be catching a ball.
And in the big things when I worry about what school they will go to? When I wonder if I’m balancing work and mothering at the right level? When I silently thank God that my children are so healthy as I walk through the hospital hallway ?
Yesterday was the party for Micah’s 7th birthday. A friend who has four boys all around the same age and I sat on the side of the sandbox and talked for a bit in between dodging flying scoops of sand and settling property-rights disputes. She said “sometimes I wonder if I had to do it all over again, would I?” I know those words and those thoughts. I know that mothering is my greatest challenge. I know the struggle of trying to do what’s right for the boys and yet not knowing really what that is. I know the weariness. I have also started to remind myself – shortly around the time that I’m reminding myself to be jello – that it should get better in another couple years – once they can all use words instead of intonation to get their points across, are able to handle personal hygiene without my assistance physically or in repetitive verbal prompts, and when 5 minutes of quiet within the house does not herald a serious sense of foreboding and impending doom.
Yes, I know the weariness.
Sometimes in my work in setting up a crisis nursery as a break for stressed families, I use an analogy that I recently heard – families in stressful situations are trying to get a sip of water out of a gushing fire hydrant. They want a simple drink, but life is coming at them so fast and so hard that there’s no chance of stabilizing, making a good decision, or reflecting on how to make the right changes and do the right thing.
Then I look up and see the fire hydrant right in front of me.