It’s yet again a battle to get the kids into pjs, teeth brushed, and have them safely tucked into bed (and willing to stay there). I’ve been cranky again, and I know it doesn’t help the process, but they seem to make it difficult every. single. night. As a mother who’s been out all day, trying to further my own dreams at the expense of time with them, the guilt of not being around after school makes me stay a bit longer by their bedsides, makes me answer one more question when I know they should be shutting their mouths and eyes for sleep, makes me sing yet one more song, not quite ready to leave them.
“She’s asleep, Mum,” whispers the eldest, leaning out of bed towards me to point at her sister. I know, I felt her fingers relax in mine even as I watched her eyes finally flutter closed and still. But I can’t resist the beauty of this moment, the preciousness of the child I birthed in my own bathtub, the peace that is this whirlwind-of-a-child finally still.
This peace sinks into me, too, washing away the anger and frustration, the guilt of not even enjoying these few moments with them, the burning shame of wanting to escape from my own children, and the sick dread that it will all just repeat itself again tomorrow.
I never know how long it’s going to take, this falling asleep business. Some days I barely finish one song and the youngest is asleep, letting me leave the elder in peace to read a while. Other days I’ve sung all my songs and am wondering which one they won’t notice I’m repeating, or maybe I should try something new that I’m not quite sure of all the words, or will that just make them more alert, catching me in my vulnerability?
I’m still not convinced I’m actually in this motherhood thing, even after eight years of it. Some days I can’t believe these wonderful beings belong to me. Other days it shames me to wish them anywhere else, because I just can’t cope with one more question, one more grizzle (surely I didn’t volunteer for this madness?).
I took such pride in early childhood friends labelling me as my daughter’s mother, it felt good and true. But over the years I’ve wondered if I really deserve such a label. Am I really a mother if I’m not around to hear about school days, if I don’t want to answer yet another question about whatever the hot topic is today? Can I just be left alone for two minutes?! I just walked in the door. And I shame their delight in seeing me, their absent mother. My refusal to answer their curiosity tells them they aren’t worth my time, that their interests don’t matter. That losing myself in my book, hiding from them in it, is more important to me.
Oh my daughters, forgive your broken mama. I do not feel good enough for the wonders that you are. You astound me at every turn. And yet my actions work to shame you, to shut your beauty down. Forgive me.
Just let me rest in this sacred space of your bedroom as you sleep. Let me remind myself of the remarkable creatures that you are. Let me refresh my spirit with your beauty and the love you so easily and willingly pour over me. And may we greet each other tomorrow with smiles, and delight in each other in the snippets of time we have. For you are mine, and I am so wholly yours. We are bound with more than blood. I don’t think I could ever undo the stitches that hold you in my heart, it feels as though the muscle has grown right over them and you are now part of what makes it beat, part of what makes my life continue on.
Even while you rest, the depths of your being sing out, drawing forth the beauty and wonder that lie buried deep in me. You spur me towards being a better and fuller me than I ever have been, ever thought I could be. And that’s the me you deserve, you beautiful, wonderful creatures. Even while you sleep, you make me want to be a better mother. How much more should I want that when you are awake? And it doesn’t work at all how they say: that parents shape the child. No, you are shaping me. And it is a wondrous forging. I am left trembling in awe at how your love is remaking me, how your pure delight is opening my eyes to see again.
Kathy Hastelow is a wife, mother, and PhD candidate, writing in order to explore and wholeheartedly live her faith and life with mental illness and chronic pain. You can read more of her work at http://rekhast.wordpress.com/