I always wanted to have a lot of kids. Babies are so delicious and wonderful that I kept wanting one more. When I had four kids, I was constantly looking around to see if we had them all, as if one was missing even when all four were there. And so we ended up with five kids. Not a huge family, but pretty big. And I love it, most of the time. After all, this is what I always wanted.
The thing is, though, I like calm and neat. Peace and quiet. Order. Moments alone with a book and a cup of coffee. Which is pretty impossible with five kids, even when they are good kids. Five kids make a lot of messes. Five kids in a smallish house are hard to keep organized. They make a lot of noise. They have a lot going on, and it's hard to keep track of all that they are supposed to do and all the places they are supposed to be. The mess and the schedule and the pace of life are overwhelming.
And I have to say that a lot of days I don't handle it very well. I go to the kitchen, see the dishes of five kids all out on the counter, and start to clean them up. I can handle this. And then I notice the grimy mess someone left under their chair. So I start to clean that up, slightly less cheerful than when I came into the kitchen. And then I notice that there is peanut butter smeared on the chair leg about two inches from the floor. How in the world did they get that there? And so I clean that up too, and by this point I'm seething inside. Why doesn't anyone dean up after themselves, just a little bit? Do they honestly not see the trail of stuff they leave in their wake, or do they just not care that they are leaving it for me to clean up?
I've just come from the bedroom the three girls share, and even with my supervision they have managed to turn five minutes' worth of cleaning into half an hour of my nagging and their seeming blindness to the things that are out of place.
Sometimes I despair of their learning basic responsibility, let alone ever being able to manage a household of their own.
But I think the bigger issue here is my own sinfulness. Why do I get so impatient? Why do I yell at them, so angry at the childishness of these children? Why is my agenda more important to me than their feelings? Why can I not slow down just a bit and offer them more understanding, more compassion?
These are the questions I ask myself numerous times each year. I have weeks where everything is going pretty well and I am cheerful and reasonable even in the face of chaos and mess and being pulled in a million different directions. And then I have several weeks in a row of utter frustration. Days when I call my husband and ask if he can please come home now before I kill one of the children. Moments when I realize that I am probably capable of injuring my children if I don't get away from them right now. Nights when I vow in the silent hours after bedtime that tomorrow will be better, and then I wake up the next morning and blow up at the first frustration I face. Quiet conversations where my husband tells me (in the nicest possible way) that I really need to get a grip. Dark hours when I realize that I'm simply not up to the task of mothering these children. I cannot take one more tantrum, one more mess, one more forgotten homework assignment, one more obstinate piano practice session.
And at those helpless moments, I think God is saying to himself, "Oh good, she's finally realized she needs me." I am a desperate, broken sinner in need of saving every moment. The truth is, I can't do this mothering thing. It's not my imagination: the demands of life are impossible. But with God all things are possible.
Those weeks where everything is going pretty well and I'm mostly cheerful? Those are the weeks I've been praying. Praying for my children, praying for myself, simply crying out "Daddy, Daddy" to my heavenly father in those moments when I can't go on. I only wish that it didn't take desperate moments for me to remember to climb back into my heavenly Father's lap.