There is a passage in the Bible that talks about the earth groaning for redemption... Romans 8:22-25. On more than one occasion in my life, I've had a similar experience.... being in that place were articulate words just don't cut it... "in the silences when words are not enough."* The place where one's heart is so overwhelmed with a multitude of longings that only a groan will suffice.
Well, it happened again today. While finishing the arduous task of swapping out the kids' summer clothes with the winter clothes, I got that ache deep in my soul. You know the one - the ache of regret, nostalgia and sadness topped off by the realization that life is happening whether or not one chooses to acknowledge it....
As I looked through Bruce's closet, I actually had myself convinced that some of his 4T shorts will fit him next summer. Oh, denial - you silly thing! Then, the realization hit me that my snuggly little man will in fact be more manly and less snuggly by next Spring. He'll be taller and leaner. I'll be lucky if his 4T shorts fit him in length next spring... even if they fit him in the waist. My baby is growing up!
Putting up the kids' clothes is one of the hardest things for me to do as a mom. I'd almost rather clean up bodily fluids than swap closets! Knowing the sweet little clothes will go in a box in the garage until the next JBF sale just kills me. Never again will Liza wear her sweet sunshine t-shirt that I managed, only by the grace of God, to get 3 summers of wear out of! Liza loved that t-shirt. She lived in it. So many memories in that t-shirt! Ugh! I groan.
I am reminded of the things done and left undone with my kiddos. Time spent distracted by jobs, tasks, chores that need to be done - urgent in their own right, but not my heart's priority.. I groan some more. I start spiraling into the pit of regret. Asking all the questions every mom asks.... have I trained them up in the way they should go? Did I make the right choices for them, for me, for our family? Should I have thrown my computer out the window long ago, or did my computer somehow save me from the darker waves of despair as I stayed-at-home with my kids? Too often bored out of my mind, did I do right by them?
I hear moms talk about how fast it this time goes by and how much I'll miss these days of little ones running around. I struggle with this - the toddler years haven't been particularly good to me. I haven't enjoyed this time. Oh, I treasure this time, but I haven't really enjoyed it. It hasn't been life-giving to me. Perhaps there are so many other issues that have played out in this stage of our common life as a family that I haven't been able to enjoy this time... or maybe its just that this season really shows my weaknesses.. and hey, who of us really wants to spend time in that place, day in and day out?
I'm not a toddler kind of gal. With years of experience working with kids - mostly middle school on up, I thought I was prepared for motherhood. Little did I know that once we got through the first year, the monotony, impatience and boredom would set in for me. I don't do crafts. I'm too impatient and perfectionistic to let the kids help me in the kitchen much. I don't sing. I'm not creative in all the ways a mom to young kids needs to be. Secretly, I've harbored this longing for the days when pointing at pictures of skid-steers and back-hoes in a board book were long gone and we could discuss the plots to the Narnia series; and the ad-nauseum replaying of the 12 Dancing Princesses would cease and we could talk about logical life lessons and other rational, real things. I don't do this play-imagine-create stage of life well. Frankly, its shown me that I don't play well, period. I have this overwhelming need to keep moving, be productive, to have a purpose, to have something to prove my worth at the end of the day - as if I need to justify the oxygen I use and the space I take up.... to be valuable.
So, today I felt valuable, productive, even accomplished as I got my closet-swapping task completed. But, I also felt emotionally off-kilter... that a cruel joke was being played on me. That in my need to be "valuable" I missed the whole point. Have I been present enough with my kids? Have I loved them enough? Have I been a good enough mom to them? I groaned some more.... crying out to God with my anxiety.... trusting Him to show me the way. I reminded myself that the past is the past. God can redeem it, but I can't. I can only control the present and my choices within it. So, I finished putting the clothes up, snuggled my kids up close, and had meaningful interactions with them. Then, after they were sufficiently tucked in bed, I read The Dilemma of Every Mother by Amanda at OhAmanda.com. Turn out the lights... the groaning is now accompanied by tears....
I read somewhere not long ago that God designed each of us moms to parent our specific children.. that they were designed for us to be the best parent for them and that we are uniquely designed to have them as our children..... for God to use them and us and our interaction for His glory. So with that being said, I'm taking my groaning, teary-eyed self to bed and trusting that God will redeem and restore whatever I've managed to screw up as a parent; reminding myself that His grace is sufficient and that I'm not alone in this journey. My groans and anxiety are timeless and ultimately not in vain.