Yesterday, in a melancholy sort of mood, I intended to write a tribute to motherhood. It was going to be poignant and insightful with just the right touch of humor - Not enough to make to make you laugh out loud, but enough to make the corners of your mouth turn up just as you finished the moving final paragraph and a tear leaked out the corner of your right eye.
But the only words that were running through my head in regard to motherhood were those from this gem of a conversation stolen directly from our Family Home Evening last week:
David: What does Dad do for our family?
Michael: He goes to work and makes money.
David: And does he share his money with you?
David: What does Mom do for our family?
Michael: She yells and everyone cries.
And then, I realized, it's impossible to be poignant when you have to admit your own anger management problem.
It's funny how things change. Eight years ago, convinced I was going to be handing David a positive pregnancy test about 14 days after we started trying to have a baby, I walked up and down the aisles at Target, smiling inwardly at our secret of soon-to-be parenthood as I gazed at baby shoes and pacifiers and tiny little bows meant for tiny little heads. I bought a bib that said, "I love Daddy" on it, intending to use it as my "announcement" a few weeks later.
Four years ago, after a slew of doctors, invasive testing, and failed fertility treatments, we welcomed our first little bundle of joy. And joy he was. A miniature piece of heaven wrapped in blue and tucked so securely in our hearts that it was like we'd had him forever. We spent days staring at him. We took thousands of pictures. Our gratitude was overflowing for our perfect little miracle.
"We will never get angry at him," we said. "We will never raise our voices."
And then suddenly he wasn't a baby, but a defiant little toddler with an eye for mischief and a penchant for destruction. He drew on the walls and the carpet. He played in the toilet. He stuffed a pretzel in an electrical socket. He hid my car keys, turned the oven on broil when I was making dinner for a friend, and deliberately tossed a full sippy cup out of our then 19th-story window.
I yelled sometimes. And I spanked him.
And I often felt like a failure.
Here I was with my prayed-for, longed-for, heaven-sent miracle, and I was frequently angry and frustrated. Sometimes I wanted to lock him in his room till the end of eternity.
And then, one night I looked in on him as he peacefully slept. I brushed a stray lock of hair off his forehead and gave him a kiss. I told him I was sorry and that I loved him very much. And that tomorrow, well... tomorrow would be better.
Sometimes it was, and sometimes it wasn't. But there was always a chance to forgive and to be forgiven, to love and be loved in return.
Before I had children I thought myself worthy, even deserving of them. When they didn't come as quickly or easily as I had planned, I was angry and hurt. But now I see that, in my waiting, my Father in Heaven was trying to teach me some of the greatest lessons I would need as a mother: patience, humility, and reliance on God.
I still need those lessons every day. But in all my shortcomings, one thing never changes - how much I love my children and how grateful I am to be their mother.
A Happy Mother's Day, indeed.