This picture has absolutely nothing to do with this post - just made me laugh.
Mommyhood should be accompanied with a 12 week course (every 12 weeks). At least a detailed manual or something (I'm thinking along the lines of when they cover the dog in peanut butter do this ____ or when they pee on their sister say this ____). Though my Mommy experience has been lacking in formal training, yesterday I had a very poignant lesson I don't want to forget.
It was Leisl's first birthday. Don't ask me why first birthdays are hard for me. Probably because in my heart I think they should be special, but because the birthday baby is oblivious I don't go out of my way to do anything exceptionally celebratory and so I feel lame. I'm also an emotional mess because it marks a very real passage of my baby from infanthood to toddlerhood and I'm never ready for this milestone. Ever. Kabe's first birthday was a terrible day too, one I'll always remember.
Needless to say it had been a LONG day, full of yelling, fighting, whining, crying, and MESSES! From get up till get down I had been cleaning up messes, yelling at the kids to clean up messes, begging the kids to put away messes and in general, hiding from messes. Everyone was cranky (most of all me). The guilt of being a bad mom escalated into pretending not to care I was a bad mom, into going out of my way to do the witchy thing because I was already a 'bad mom'.
Tyler called about 6 O'clock. "Hi Hon, how are you?"
"Yes, except (insert inner moan from my husband who's about to be unloaded on) I feel like a slave, no-one around here cares that I spend every minute of my day cleaning up their crap and I feel like we are living in a pig-sty and I just can't feel happy in a dirty house which means I'm ornery and I've been yelling and doing the mommy-freak-out all day and I don't like myself when I'm mean to the kids and they certainly don't like me and I'm sure they wish they could have a different mother who had time to do fun things with them but this one doesn't because she is always cleaning up their crap and I'm just sick of it and they won't stop fighting and I'm not helping because my attitude sucks today and I want to run away and it's not fair and it's all my fault!!!" (all said in one horrendous breathe).
"Well, there need to be natural consequences and you do not need to pick up their messes."
"Thanks, maybe you should talk to them about it at family night tonight (classic Mommy passing the buck), I've got to go, something is burning in the oven."
The rest of the evening continued much this way. There was a mountain of laundry to fold. I tried putting on some church music thinking it would help. It sort of kind of almost did for a minute, then I needed the computer (our only source of media in the house these days) for something so the music got turned off. Daddy was an hour late for dinner. Dinner was burned and gross. I was emotionally spent and feeling like an utter failure. It was bedtime and we hadn't even cleaned up dinner yet.
Time for family home evening. On nights like this why do we even try? Oh yeah, so we don't have to try and fit it in later in our crazy week. We sit down. I sit on the opposite end of the room from where I usually do. I want to distance myself from family night. The birthday baby is crying. I want to cry with her. Deep breathe.
Daddy conducts for me because I'm not in the mood even though it's my turn. As we go through the opening song, prayer, article of faith, testimony, family business, my heart is not in it. I'm irritated with everything. I go into the other room to make a bottle so Leisl will be quiet. I realize it's Darla's turn to teach the lesson. That's code for Mommy's turn. I don't have anything prepared but a lecture/whine-fest. I grab my scriptures because last week when it was Leisl's turn I challenged our family to open the scriptures at every family night.
I turn to the topical guide. I see the word Home. I hear the words to the song, "Home can be a heaven on earth" in my head.
I inwardly scoff.
It's Darla's turn. She brings her cute little chubby self over to me. She knows I'll help her "teach her wesson". I say the words in her ear and she repeats them in her cute 2-year-old voice.
"In ow house we feew wots of fings. We feew mad, we feew sad, we feew tie-owed (yes this is how Mommy is feeling) we feew happy and 'cited (wishful thinking), and sometimes we can feew duh spiwit (my heart starts to soften)."
I tell the kids that Pres. Hinkley told us that there are two places on earth we can feel the spirit stronger than anywhere else . . . where do you think those two places are"
Darla calls on Kabe, "the temple and the church".
We talk about the temple, "it is Heavenly Father's house, it is clean and quiet and beautiful. We always use our most reverent voice in the temple and always think the best of others.
The other place is not the church. It's a place where we should always feel loved, and safe, and accepted. A place where we can be ourselves and bear our hearts and do the things we love to do."
Brigham has a blank look on his face - today has been particularly hard for him. "Where is this other place?"
The room is quiet. The big kids know the answer but today has made them question the description I just gave. From my lap Darla interrupts without any prompting from me, "Ows Home".
This is when I start to cry.
I talk about how our home didn't feel like heaven today. I tell them how sorry I am for the way I behaved, how I drove the spirit out of our home. I promise them that I'll do better, try harder to invite the spirit. I tell them how badly I WANT the spirit to be here, how much I want our home to be like heaven.
Then I ask a question, "Can I make our home a heaven?"
They all nod their heads vigorously. A happy Mom means a happy home. I have that much power here, they trust me that much.
"No I can't. Daddy and I can't, Ksenya and Brigham can't, Kabe and Ayvri can't. We ALL have to work to invite the Spirit to make our home a heaven. It only takes one person to drive him out, but it takes ALL of us to invite him in".
Suddenly I realize, our house feels different. Gone are the feelings of anger and frustration and resentment. I don't want to run away and hide, I just want to sit there and stare into their amazing faces. They forgive me. My Heavenly Father forgives me. He knew I'd have this day. He knew I needed this lesson.
There may not be a manual for Mommyhood, but the Savior, through His infinite atonement has given us the answers we need to every problem. They are in the principles of the gospel, they are in the words of the prophets, they are in the counsel and support of a loving husband and they are given to us in our hour of need when we finally humble ourselves and ask for direction from the Spirit.
Today will be better. It may not be perfect. It may not be heaven. But it will be better as we diligently focus on inviting the spirit into our home.