They’re Just Moments
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about moments.
The essence of motherhood is packaged in them. You know, the moments when you observe your child doing something wonderful and you realize that perhaps, you ARE doing something right after all. Or the moments (like this one) when you walk around the corner and are stopped dead in your tracks by the sweetness and wonder of your children, and by tears suddenly stinging your eyes. Yes, they are precious moments. Payoff moments.
But the kind of moments I’ve had on my mind are the OTHER kind. The moments when they look like this.
I’ve been thinking about how often my children all explode in the same moment. Rarely is it just one of them at a time. Usually the stressful moments are stressful because they’re compounded by multiple things.
Take yesterday, for example. The two year old picked up a pull toy and, without thinking, swung it around. The toy smacked the baby, who was standing a few feet away, in the head. Baby started screaming and needed an ice pack on her head. The two year old, realizing she hurt her little sister, began to scream (and just trust me when I say that she has the loudest scream of all my kids; it often reminds me of Boo in Monsters, Inc.). Because the kids all love her and hate to hear her scream, a sudden argument broke out among them over how to calm the two year old down. As this was going on, as I was now holding two screaming little ones while trying to keep an ice pack on one head, the carpool arrived for my oldest daughter who had gymnastics. Panic ensued as she realized that one, she was running late, and then two, she couldn’t find her leotard. So, with screaming babies and an argument going on, I reminded her that she left it in her soccer bag last week when she went directly from the gym to a game. The stress built as everyone chimed in to remind her that her ride was outside waiting for her. In the middle of this, a neighbor arrived with a plate of beautiful peaches from her mother’s tree. The chaos now moved to the front porch as I greeted my neighbor and went to explain the delay to the waiting mom. My seven year old asked to hold the still whimpering baby as I gratefully accepted the plate of peaches. As I stood there holding them, the seven year hold bounced a little to pull the baby back up onto her hip and hit her head on the bottom of the plate in my hand, sending peaches flying. Right at this moment my oldest son started our little motorcycle for a spin around the yard, adding a new dimension to the noise as we all had to yell to communicate.
Those are the kinds of moments I’ve been pondering. I have them all the time. One minute it’s relatively calm and 30 seconds later I have 4 children in tears. I’ve blogged about a few of them here, here, here, here and here. I might have more of them because my children are so close in age and because there are 8 of them, but I’m pretty sure that moms everywhere experience moments of intense stress or craziness.
I’ve learned a thing or two about these moments. This is my conclusion.
They are crazy. They are stressful. They’re made up of lots of little things, all minor in their scope and relatively simple to fix, but they happen at the same time. They all converge to occupy the same 5 minutes of my life. The time frame affects my ability to respond to each individual thing, making it easy to feel frazzled or overwhelmed. THAT is what makes it hard.
And then it’s over. The peaches are picked up, the leotard is found. The baby’s bump on her head looks ok, the two year old quits screaming. The roar of the motorcycle moves to the backyard as I finish my conversation with the neighbor and watch the ride to gymnastics depart. I carry everyone inside and look at the clock. Wow. Eight minutes, start to finish.
Sometimes moments leave me with a headache. Sometimes they leave me wondering what I’m doing wrong. And sometimes they leave me shaking my head and laughing. I’ve experienced enough of them that the smile usually tugs at the corners of my mouth in the middle of the fray because I’m thinking “It’s just a moment. It will pass.” Another one will come, and likely sooner than I hope, but they always pass.
Wendy Ulrich wrote, “Patience teaches us that this precise moment is tolerable. As we respond to what this moment requires of us, the future will take care of itself.”
I guess that’s what I’ve realized. The moments are tolerable. They do more than illustrate the immediate needs of our little ones; they reveal who we are. They teach us about ourselves. Experiencing a “moment” with my young children doesn’t need to make me question what I’m doing wrong unless I fail to handle it well. If I can get through it with a smile in my eyes and a firm but cheerful voice, then I’m doing just fine.
So, next time you’re dealing with a moment of your own say to yourself, “It’s just a moment. It is tolerable and it will pass.” Remember that you’re not alone.
You’ll be right. And you just might find something to chuckle about in the midst of it.