The relentless creaking of the rocking chair joints adds a layer of texture to my words, sung low and breathy.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the song…”
I sing it Elvis style, then add a Leann Rimes lilt, and finally attempt a gospel version.
This infidel sings Amazing Grace to her tiniest girl almost every day during naptime. It is the song little Indigo chose long ago as her favorite. Believer or not, no mama can argue with that.
The day has been rough with howling fights, broken up with my grunts and pleas. Remnants of breakfast remain glued to the table, bowls upside down on the floor and sticky with almond milk. Twice I have sopped up puddles of pee with a towel, on hands and knees. My shoulders ache and my belly is tight. I remain on the floor longer than normal, willing the strength of my knees to lift the extra 15 pounds on my frame. Under the sofa and entertainment center I spy hair balls, lonely Lego pieces, a sippy cup of old sleepytime tea, and a half-chewed binky, and loose change. I wonder why we ever chose furniture with open, raised legs.
Tantrums have been fierce and most always lead to self-inflicted injury of some sort; the “Don’t hold me! HOLD ME!” screams echo through the house and lead to a comedy of arms outstretched, drawn in, and outstretched again. Over and over.
A grossly overpriced week-old Sigg water bottle already has a broken cap. Kaia comes running to me, an uncapped Sharpie in hand, and leads me to the artwork Indigo has penned on the hallway wall. There is only one diaper left in the house and about three wipes. Fruit molds on the counter, awaiting the spinning blades of the juicer for days. Kaia has already busted into the room twice while attempting to rock Indigo to sleep, whining for more treats and saying she spilled her juice for the second time.
My shoes, jewelry, magazines, chocolate, and sleep have been commandeered. My time has been commandeered. My life has been commandeered.
The creaking chair brings me back to the tousled head of hair in my arms. She is wrapped up to her nostrils in her blanket and her eyelids and limbs grow heavy. My toes push harder, moving the rocker steadily. I plant my nose firmly on the crown of her head and inhale. Over and over I am intoxicated by her smell; a musk of earthy and ancient fragrance. I kiss her cheek, her nose, her forehead; lips forging a trail across her face.
“Motherhood is such an honor. Thank you for choosing me. I am humbled in this very moment.”
This mantra is repeated softly for the next 10 minutes. It embeds deeper in my bones with every breath. It is real and sacred work, motherhood. As I hold my youngest child – only the youngest for another quarter – I think “Someday I will yearn for this moment back.”
I chose this: Motherhood. I choose to be humbled in the commandeering.
She sleeps in the comfort of my arms, the ones that drew her to me in the first moments of her life outside the womb. She must remember.
I must always remember.
When we mother to the past or present, we drive ourselves mad. There is too much at stake, too much we see as permanent and irreplaceable when we know in our center that Love is the only of those. And so I am in the practice – alternately flailing and succeeding – of mothering in single moments.
The catch is that I don’t mother in EVERY moment. The email calls, the $1 bargain book begs for three pages to be read, the water of the bathtub asks for five more minutes of soaking. After all, it is Sunday and I haven’t yet read all the secrets on Postsecret.com. It’s 11 in the morning and I’ve barely eaten and haven’t taken my supplements and my energy is already waning. For christsakes, let me just finish my yogurt and Reader’s Digest article.
But are we wired to mother in EVERY moment?
If they are playing together, pretending the barstools laid end-to-end are a train and feeding a row of crackers to the dog, must I intervene to mother them? Is it negligence to lay my head back on the pillow when I know the sound I’m hearing on the other sound of the wall is colored-chalk hieroglyphics being scrawled?
When they scamper into the office, both naked and covered in marker, can’t I chalk it up to creativity running wild? Is it irresponsible when I notice their smiles have bits of crusty donut icing flaking off? If I step over bits of eggshells more than once (remembering the hard-boiled eggs in the fridge) am I the laziest mother ever?
What about when I look outside of the window and see them holding hands and touching the creosote leaves and lavender blossoms? And how about those moments I peer over the cereal box and watch Indigo rocking Kaia in the chair and hear Kaia whisper “Indigo…I love you” and a sweet voice return “I love you too”? There are those times I catch Indigo pretending to nurse a baby doll, and Kaia singing a lullaby to her stuffed animals. Glitter blankets the kitchen floor and sticks to their butt-cracks but atop the table are hand crafted valentine’s cards.
And so I come back, again and again, to the practice of encasing their bodies in my arms after they fall asleep. Their rose-petal cheeks are soft and plump. Their faces are slack and peaceful. Their breathing is a steady, sleeping river. Their toes are warm and their fingers curl around mine. I capture the image of them next to each other.
My girls. My girls.
How much longer will I be able to say that?
If I birth a boy this summer, what phrase will I use in lieu of that one I yell – every day – “GIRRRRRLS!!!!!….”?
I am deep in mourning the “loss” of MY TWO GIRLS. It’s OK. It feels normal and right and healthy. More than the shock of adding another child, I am processing that I will never have THIS again. These two girls, just us. The semi-normalcy of our un-normal days. This sisterhood, over two years in the making.
It’s hard to imagine and yet I know it: all will unfold perfectly. This new baby, this magical sweet one that awakens me every morning with renewed gratitude, will carve their own place here.
Another rose-petal cheek and applesauce-slathered belly and intoxicating giggle.
And I will write: “What ever was life like with just TWO?”
How do you find the balance of motherhood?
How do you select the times to mother in the moment?