I went to Barnes and Noble a couple of Saturdays ago by myself with the girls just to kill an hour or so in the afternoon after nap time. Mike was working, and sometimes I just get in a stuck kind of mode and can't come up with anything better to do. Walking up and down the aisles in a book store at least feels like a better thing than staying home and watching Kung Fu Panda 3 for the fiftieth time.
It had been a rough day. The age of two has Evie clutched tightly within its very moody clutches, which means even putting on clothes in the morning can be a huge offense and affront to her rights as a human being. And so is cereal for breakfast, apparently. And my face as I open her bedroom door to greet her in the morning. And also her sister crawling too close to her. And not getting to eat yet another fruit snack. And the act of waiting. For anything, really. And also, I must include, not getting to watch Kung Fu Panda (in all its glorious forms, and there are quite a few, thank you Netflix...) as soon as she gets up because we just watched it the day before (and the day before that and the day before that).
"I watch a Po, mommy, pease!! I watch a Po, mommmmmyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!" is something heard many times in our house.
(Po is the panda from Kung Fu Panda, in case you weren't familiar.)
Sometimes I feel like I am just not winning at this being a mom thing.
What complicates things is that Evie and I aren't hashing out life struggles by ourselves. Little Nora is around here somewhere, too. In the background. Crawling by herself or bouncing by herself or often crying by herself in her knock-off Bumbo seat or hopefully not eating another piece of dead leaf by herself (because she could actually choke on that...).
Or, it's Nora who needs a bottle or a diaper change or just wants to be held for a while, and Evie becomes the one who slides into the background, usually neither willingly nor quietly.
I feel so stretched on days like this, when one seems to be constantly throwing a fit about something and the other one needs constant attention, and there is only one of me.
If it's not one thing, it's another thing. And sometimes I want there to be no more things.
I want to sit somewhere by myself in the quiet, or I want to go to sleep. And every once in a while, I'd like to have a good cry because at least then some of this pent-up frustration would ease up a little. But often times the tears don't come. Not sure why, but it just adds to my frustration.
However, on this particular Saturday, all three of us took turns crying.
So we went to Barnes and Noble to roam through the aisles and to inhale the calming smell of new books and coffee mingling and to take some pressure off of me to be the sole source of entertainment for the afternoon.
Surprisingly, it worked out really well. I stuck Nora in the baby carrier and basically just followed Evie around the store for a while. When it was time to go, Evie amazingly put the My Little Pony stuffed pony she was carrying around with her back on the shelf and said "Bye, bye pony" (I was utterly shocked at this) and walked with me to the checkout line with minimal fussing.
But I was still weary and not prepared for the man behind me to say,
"Your kids are really cute."
And it had been a rough day, so I responded with,
"Thank you. They can be a handful sometimes, but at least they're cute, I guess." And I kind of half-heartedly chuckled as I said it.
But his response was not one I was used to, so it struck me, and I'll probably remember it for a very long while.
"Yeah, people would always tell my wife and I we had our hands full, and we would just respond with, 'Yes, delightfully so.'"
He was really kind when he said this, like he was remembering good memories, so I didn't feel like he was in any way trying to make me feel bad. He even went on to say that he also knew how extremely hard it is to raise small children.
But I instantly regretted the words that had just come out of my mouth. I felt ashamed that I had just spoken out of my exhaustion and used words that didn't totally tear my children down but didn't really build them up either.
I felt so disappointed with myself that I hastily agreed, with lots of head nodding that yes, yes, it's definitely really good to have kids. I even added a feeble kiss to Nora's forehead, lest he doubt that I love her.
He's not the first person to compliment me on my kids, but honestly, I'm also used to people making some kind of joke or sassy/sarcastic comment on how full my hands must be because they are so close in age. I guess I felt like I wanted to beat him to the punchline this time.
I was not prepared for him to see my children as a blessing.
His response had me crying, yet again, in the car on the way home. This time because I wanted so badly to be the mom whose first thought is to respond with "Yes, delightfully so."
I wish I would have been a better, more positive example to that stranger in the checkout line who encouraged me and convicted me all at the same time.
I think what devastated me the most with my response is how untruthful it really was. I enjoy my kids so much. They have given my life so much more meaning and purpose. I love watching them learn and grow. I love that I can talk, actually talk, with Evie now. I love Nora's chunky, sweet self and the way the back of her head smells when I kiss it. These daughters of ours have brought so much joy and laughter to our home. They have inspired my creativity in ways I couldn't have predicted. They have opened compartments in my heart I didn't know I had. I love Evie's spirit and her never-ending source of energy. I love hearing her mispronounce words. I love how Nora's little toes dig into the carpet when I stand her up and how her little muffin top spills over her leggings and how she squeals like she's about to spontaneously combust when I tickle her.
But there are many days, too many days, like that day, where I forget to hold close what I love about being a mom. There are too many days where I, instead, keep with me all the ways I feel inconvenienced and tormented and overwhelmed and exhausted and defeated.
And so maybe the root problem resides with the holding and the keeping.
With the quality of the storage piles inside my heart.
"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." -Luke 2:19
I've been thinking about this verse lately. I have a feeling Mary was treasuring and pondering the right sorts of things. I can almost see her with her moments of faith and wonder and beauty, moments that may not have looked that way to someone else.
I can almost see her gathering up her moments like tiny wildflowers among weeds and turning them over and over. Wondering at them, probably giving thanks for them, thinking on their every detail, recalling her favorite parts, amazed at what she's lived through.
I think we all store up things in our hearts whether we realize it or not.
And after a while, we acquire many piles that build up and overflow out of us onto our surroundings. Into our home. Onto our children. Onto a random man at the book store.
It's up to us to decide what our hearts are spilling onto this life we live.
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." -Proverbs 4:23
I haven't been doing a very good job with quality control on my heart piles.
Turns out I'm not that great at guarding.
I've let in a lot of negativity and fear and insecurity and frustrating moments, and I've got piles and piles of them. It's no wonder I'm disappointed with what is flowing out of me.
And I will be really honest and say that I'm still figuring out exactly how to hold in the right moments and feelings so that good actions and words and feelings can flow out of me. I will be even more honest and say that I don't think I'm even a little bit better at this yet.
But one thing I do know is that tiny changes can pile up into much bigger change if we are faithful.
Baby steps are where I live right now.
So I make a conscious effort to notice the small things in my day that I am thankful for, and I stop and ponder them a while, even when maybe I don't feel so thankful for them. I lower the expectations I have on myself just a little bit. I think the words You are loved, You have value, You are forgiven to myself when I feel the exact opposite. I pray just a little bit more. I spend a little more time being goofy with Evie or a few more seconds burrowing my nose into Nora's hair.
And I am trusting that my tiny little changes will soon pile up into a much bigger change in my perspective. A perspective that will spill out of me in ways that I can feel good about, proud of even.
So that next time the occasion arises, I can truthfully say yes.
Yes, my hands are full, indeed.
And delightfully so.