My husband and I arrived home from our long weekend away, a break from parenting and motherhood, feeling refreshed and grateful and the smallest part wishing for just one more day away. Long weekends tend to go that way.
Our rag tag crew of four kids met us at the airport. More rag-taggier than ever, their outfits consisted of combinations I had never seen before.
When I asked the youngest girl when she last brushed her hair, she replied with a quick smile, “the last time you were home, mama!”.
Of course. Clearly they had been on a mini vacation of their own.
We cuddled them up in hugs and kisses and headed back to reality.
But I’m now thinking there should really be a decompression time for parents transitioning from vacation to full on motherhood and parenting. You know, a slow re-entry plan of sorts.
Maybe you get one needy child the morning of your last day away. You strengthen those out of shape motherhood muscles by cooking a decent meal or maybe scrubbing a toilet or two and then you pick up another overly tired child at the airport before you catch your flight home. Maybe that would be easier than the full on attack of four excited, four needy, four worn out and tired little people and the pace of real life, reality, Monday, quick on your heels.
Don’t feel sorry for me though. I just spent a long weekend in the Arizona sunshine, laying out by the pool, eating carrot cake ice cream and riding ATVs through the Sonoran desert. I deserve no sympathy. But still re-entry is hard because real life is hard.
Back to reality
As soon as we arrived home Sunday evening I decided my lofty ideals of catching up on missed moments as a family, snuggling on the couch and watching movies past bedtime, wasn’t in anyone’s best interest. Everyone was a bit tired and off balance. We needed to reinstate a bit of normalcy so I issued orders for everyone to bathe/shower and jamify, our Westenberg verb for donning pjs.
And that is where things got messy (er).
Kid #3 couldn’t find any clean underwear.
Step 1: Get started on the laundry.
Kid #2 was thirsty but there were no clean cups.
Step 2: Run the dishwasher immediately.
I could feel my chest tightening because I was back to exactly where I was when I left. The nagging feeling like I can barely keep up with this motherhood gig, like I can’t ever stay on top of it all, didn’t miss a beat. That pretend life in Arizona did not come home with me, reality did.
I proceeded on mission; get everyone snuggled in bed and conquer the world tomorrow. But first, comb the snarls out of the oldest girl’s hair. There are consequences for going days without combing.
I willed my patience to show up and we struggled through the combing when I noticed it – a solid slap of concentrated shampoo left unattended in the back of her hair. Ugh. I don’t want more work right now, I want bedtime!
I moved her to the sink and tried to dilute the damage by sprinkling water on it, but this was only fuel to the fire. The syrupy mass multiplied into foaming bubbles and became a vivid picture of my frustration in the moment, slowly growing.
My children’s neediness joined hands with my frustration and they worked in tandem the moment I stepped off that airplane.
But something stalled here.
Conversations and words from our mini-vacation flooded my mind.
I took Jenni Allen’s new book Nothing to Prove (affiliate link) along with me this weekend (highly recommended by the way!) and her words were sticking with me. “…it’s not my curse that I believe I am not enough; it’s my sin that I keep trying to be.”
Enough to stay on top of dishes and laundry and kids. Enough to be patient and graceful and kind when I’m just not feeling it.
The truth is, I just don’t have it in me; this motherhood thing is beyond me. And every now and then, sometimes daily, life serves me up a very real reminder of that.
But at the very same time, so does His grace. They say you can’t pour from an empty, but I’m not sure that’s even true, because when I get to the end of myself I find some thing, Someone, so much greater.
If I stop and breath, if I notice and see, I can find His grace in the tough and tired moments, because He is there.
I picked up my eight year old and she stretched out long on my bathroom counter. I ran warm water in the sink, grabbed my fancy shampoo and conditioner (remember when I confessed that one?) and we played beauty salon at bedtime. She giggled and smiled as I lathered her long blonde hair, wrapped her up in my softest towel and patiently brushed through any remaining tangles.
It was a washing of feet in the form of little girl hair. It was His grace poured out to me, a tired mama whose stores were empty, so that I could in turn, pour out to my little girl.
Maybe it’s a gift to be beyond ourselves, friend.
I read an article by Beth Moore over the weekend (such a great and challenging read) that discussed personal branding and self-promotion as it pertains to this here blogging world I live in. Through direct and concise narrative she comes to the conclusion that we might not always nail our approach, but we can always pray that God will convict us – or in her words, gross us out – when we don’t.
I love that idea!
Sometimes we like to use heavy words like conviction, but seriously, how about we just ask God to gross us out when we are messing up this motherhood thing, this marriage thing, this whatever-it-is-you-are-struggling-with thing?
Because it’s like that, right?
This is not the mother I want to be, God, help me see, it. Rattle my reflexes to learn to ask for Your help when it’s too much. When I feel the cranky setting in, the temperature of my emotions rising, may it be You that settles me, giving me the strength to hold my tongue and the vision to see the beauty of a hair washing moment, a foot washing moment, right in the middle of my “it’s past your bedtime!” moments. And when I mess it up, gross me out by my own shallow and selfish behavior so I can turn my eyes on You.
I can’t guarantee that we’ll do this motherhood thing perfectly. In fact, I can guarantee that we won’t. But we can pray that He’ll gross us out, that he’ll convict our hearts quickly, so we can see His beauty, pour out His grace, like never before.