Some things cannot be explained. Such as, how has it been two months since I’ve written? I know I’ve wanted to write. My mind is brimful with ideas. But I have despaired of ever writing a sentence ripe with personal meaning again.
Mid-October my husband was away on business for four days. On day one, my evening was more open once the kids were in bed, so I dug out my old spiral-bound journal to catch up a little bit. I hadn’t written in it since my first pregnancy. That was over nine years ago! How do you explain that? “Hmmm….I had kids. That is all.”
On the three following nights, I washed my mouth out with soap. “Maybe I’m lost“, I thought. “I don’t even have time to write about all the mistakes I made today, let alone the successes.”
Fortunately, I have kept a journal sporadically on my computer. And then there are all those blog posts where I shine up some momming moments from the recent past and present them as proof that I am enjoying the ride. But I can’t fool everyone all the time.
In a moment of unusual humility a few weeks ago, my children listened as I once again explained that I knew what it was like to have to do something I didn’t want to. My son didn’t like going to school [at the time], and I didn’t like washing dishes. But as I arrived at the words “washing dishes,” I paused because I wondered if I could see from my vantage point whether there were any smelly pots and pans lurking in the sink.
“Being our Mom?” my nine-year-old suggested.
I blinked at her. “What?”
“You don’t like being our Mom sometimes,” she said matter-of-factly.
Oh, crap. She knew!
I laughed, trying to play it off as a common observation among well-cared for children and replied, “That’s probably true every once in a while, but most of the time I love it. It’s all the dishes…and the laundry…and the fighting….and the whining….” I wasn’t making a very good case for loving the mom thing.
Life has been even tougher lately, and I won’t go into all the reasons for that, but I turned to my husband the other night with a question that I didn’t know was there until the words dropped into the air and hung there.
“Am I going to make it?”
Fortunately, he knew I was talking about the short-term. He assured me that the baby shows plenty of promise in the Sleeping through the Night department and that I would get decent sleep again. How soon? It’s been a year since I slept “normally,” which for me isn’t exactly great to begin with. I have cried out so many times in my mind lately “I need sleep! I need sleep! I need sleep!” I don’t even have the energy to cry out loud anymore.
My friend offered an out for me when I was cranky to her yesterday. She said with her two kids and my four kids, I had to be doing at least four times the work she was doing. The math didn’t make sense, she admitted, but simply doubling the work seemed insufficient.
I couldn’t sleep for a bit, and so I formulated the following.
Let the number 2 be the constant representing the idea of “relationship.” Then raise that 2 to an exponential power representing “significant other and children.”
While single, 2^0= 1 The product, one, shows the number of vital relationships that exist because of you. One equals your relationship with yourself.
Once married, 2^1=2, the relationship with spouse is added on to your relationship with yourself.
First child, 2^2=4 so that you have a relationship with self, spouse, child, and that group comprised now of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
Second child, 2^3=8 You now have the four previous relationships plus your relationship with the second child, first child to second child, the potty and first child, yourself and a therapist
Third child 2^4=16 Now you have the eight previous relationships plus teacher(s) and first child, potty and second child, first child and third, second child and third, sports coach and first, you and sports coach, first and friends, and you and first’s friends’ parents. (And now you realize you had a relationship with the potty only because you two miss your alone time.)
Fourth child, 2^5=32 And for proof that four kids results in four times the work (32) created by two children (8) with work being defined as “complex struggles to communicate with another human being:” All previous 16 relationships plus: self to four, one to four, two to four, three to four, teacher(s) to two, sports coach to you, sports coach to two, friends and two, you and two’s friend’s parents, you and the father of one (he’s different with each kid), you and the father of two, you and the father of three, you and the father of four, the potty and three, you in a relationship with your past self, and you in a relationship with your future self.
Not quite Abbott and Costello, but fictitious mathematics nonetheless.
I let the words “raised to the power of” tumble around in my mind this afternoon. Raised to the power of. Am I raised to the power of my spouse and children? Are they raised to my power? Am I raised to my own power? And this is where I revisited the idea of a base number.
I set my constant, my base number as 2. It represents the idea of a relationship. I didn’t start with 1 because, duh, 1 raised to the zillionth power is still 1.
I chose the number 2 because it fit my odd reasoning in the mathematics of raising kids, but I like to think that I also chose it because, deep down, I figure that expansion of creation is impossible without a partner. Seeking a relationship with myself, with a spouse, with children requires an impetus. Growing into these relationships, even though I don’t always like the role I’m in, is happening because I am loved. Always.
For some people that kind of love comes through their parents, but not everyone has the privilege of at least one parent to love them. And no parent loves their child(ren) perfectly. So from where do we get this desire to grow if not from our parent(s) and not simply from ourselves?
I believe we are made of more than just physical ingredients. The desire to grow, to learn, to do more than survive comes from our heritage as God’s children. He told us, “This is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). In other words, God’s goal is to help us continue exponentially. Through his son, whose birth we celebrate during this season, we can take the beautiful, the heartbreaking, the energizing, and the challenging experiences of this life and be raised by His power to be more than the “enough” that we are right now.
My kids get to sift through a lot of bad examples from me while they find out what a well-intended mom is all about. But that isn’t the part that lasts forever. The part that lasts, the part I hope I am awakening, or at least nurturing in them, is this joyful attainment of truth, knowledge, and love. I hope they want to learn and grow and develop forever because they watched me, their tired mom, continue even when I didn’t think I could make it through another endless day.