Last week my 3 year-old son tapped me on my shoulder at 2:00 in the morning and said he wasn’t feeling well. I asked if he was going to puke. He said no, he just needed a snuggle. I picked him up and set him next to me. I then laid my head down so I could revisit Mr. Sandman and hopefully clock in some sleep. 2 seconds later I had puke all over my sleepy face. In my hair. Eyelashes. On my pillow. Everywhere.
And then I tried to figure out what had just happened. I couldn’t see anything. I could hear it though. He wasn’t done. So Brian took over and I went running to clean my face and grab a bowl. And then I said “Adios” to Mr. Sandman and told him to remember me later and come back sometime in the near future. I would miss him.
Showers and laundry then commenced. I threw my pillow in the garbage along with our down comforter (which to be honest expired a long time ago, so hooray, we get to buy a new one!) And so has been the last two weeks. Husband, both sons, my daughter and myself caught the flu bug and my calendar got wiped clean.
A little over a month ago I woke up early, packed myself some snacks and my camera and left a quiet house to go spend some quality “me” time with a long time admirer and photographer in a workshop Chris Burkard was teaching. I drove in the car alone and contemplated the question I knew I was going to be asked. “Who are you and why are you here.” I wanted so badly to say that I was an accomplished artist. That I was super important. I wanted to spout off that I was an author and photographer. I wanted to be that person, but I wasn’t. So I rehearsed who I was. And to be honest, it didn’t sound as exciting as “World-famous travel photographer.” I allowed myself to get distracted briefly from who I really was and for a moment I wanted to be someone else. I felt very unimportant.
I didn’t like that feeling. I’m typically very happy with who I am and what I’ve become. But throw me into a setting and a classroom full of accomplished artists and well, my vision apparently gets foggy.
I sat in the front of the classroom, and when it was my turn to talk about myself, I thankfully remembered who I was.
“I’m a mother of 4 young kids. I love art and all things beautiful. I am here because when I see your photos, I feel something, and I hope to one day capture the beauty of this earth the way you do.” And that was that. A completely satisfactory and honest response. I was right, there were some pretty impressive people in that room. But I guarantee, some of them wouldn’t have known how to clean up puke in record time or go days without sleep or be in 4 places at the same time. So, I guess I’m pretty impressive too.
While at the workshop, I asked questions, I fed the tiger within me that hungers for knowledge and I felt like an adult. An adult with a brain. It was a great day and awesome to get to learn from someone so talented and rub shoulders with other like-minded artists. I enjoyed it. But something, more like someone was missing. Actually 4 little people were missing from that day.
When I got home and walked in the kitchen after having spent 12 hours away, I felt the rush of joy that had been absent all day. I was home. I was with the people who know me. I was their most important person in the entire world. They missed me, they love me unconditionally and they accept me for who I am. They don’t care about any of the things in which the world places value. They care about me loving them and making their home a safe place.
Now which of these two days brought me more joy? I mean the kind where I feel whole and at peace and right?
You guessed it, the puke day. Well, not actually the puking but the part of the day where I snuggle my sick child and watch The Letter Factory and Dora the Explorer over and over and over again while he sips on Gatorade and we hang out in our p.j’s all day long. Yeah, that day. The mom day. The day where I don’t think about myself but I think about others. That’s where happiness lives. Serving and loving others. Taking care of my little people.
Being a mother is where I belong right now. I have dreams. Lots of dreams, but none of them will fill my tank the way my four little people do. They complete the pieces of my heart. And why is that? Why isn’t fulfilling my dreams the path to true and lasting joy? Why couldn’t I feel whole while being gone doing what “I” wanted to do?
I believe Robert D. Hales said it best, “Trials give us the development of spirituality that we probably never would get if we didn’t have the experience where the very jaws of hell gape open their mouth wide after us. Not only must we survive, but we must develop the ability to have a concern for others while we are suffering. It is a key element in our spiritual growth. As we lose our lives in the service of our fellowmen, we find ourselves.”
As we lose our lives serving our family and children, we find ourselves.
Yep. That’s why. Give me jaws of hell or puke or fevers or messes or principal’s office or child drama or tantrums or bedtime routine a million times. Because this is what creation is all about. In creating my children, they create me. It comes back full circle.
I love them. More than anything.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there.