Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Big Yellow Boots

After story hour, we sat with our knees above the little table in the children’s section, one young mother and I, surrounded by our broods. The children pounded salt dough flat and squashed cookie cutters into it to produce lumpy vehicles. They dangled their creations inches from our faces so we could admire their work. Charlie squashed and tasted. “Yuck! Charlie! Don’t do that!” He peeled off another tiny piece of dough and tasted again.

“How many children do you have?” the young mother asked.

“Five.” I said it the way I always do. Nonchalantly.

She answered with a typical response. “Five! How do you do it?! You seem so calm. You look too thin, too young to have five children. Five?!

I puffed up, just a little, though she couldn’t see, and responded truthfully, “We are having the time of our lives. The children are at the best age. I am treasuring every moment.”

We said goodbye a few minutes later at the library desk. Her children checked out a handful of books and I stood behind her with a full laundry basket. “It was so nice to meet you. I hope we see you here again.” I meant it.

On the way home, Charlie kicked the back of my seat, trying to keep his big yellow rain boots on. It was a beautiful sunny morning. We couldn’t find his sneakers, his only pair of shoes, and so he had to wear oversized galoshes... in public. I squirmed away from the bumps in the back of my seat and thought about that momentary puff of pride at the playdough table.

Why do I always do that? Why do I always think I must appear to be a great mother because I have all these kids? I thought more about my new acquaintance and her children. She took the time to take her kids to story hour. She let them take home the Berenstein Bears. She didn’t tell them, “Please make another choice. I’ll go crazy if I have to read that to you six times this week,” the way I always do. None of her children ate the play dough.

I looked in the rear view mirror to see Faith bent over her book. Her curls jammed every which way into a pony tail that she had hastily arranged the night before. Faith. On the way to the library, I had encouraged, “Lauren! (Strike one.)…Claire! (Strike two)…You! Girl in the pink shirt! Get your jacket on! The woman at the library called her children by the right name. Her children were beautifully dressed. She took the time to brush and braid their hair.

I am a good mother, but the reasons aren’t related to my number of offspring. I am a good mother for the same reasons that all good mothers are. I delight in my children. I listen to them. I hold them accountable. I hold myself accountable. I apologize for my mistakes and start over again after bad moments. I offer guidance and direction and give them space to learn on their own. This Friday morning, it took a sweet mother and a big pair of boots to drive that point home...again.


Janelle said...

Kate! I was so excited to see your name on Bloglines.

I am so glad you said this. I have felt that prideful feeling come on only to be humbled in the next moment.

That was a great last paragraph for all moms, no matter the size of our families.

Hope you are doing well.

Melissa @ Breath of Life said...

Glad you're back!

I never feel puffed up about being a parent. Other things, yes. But not my parenting skills. I'm not that delusional ;-)

kittyhox said...

So great to "read" you again!

I rarely have a "proud" moment because I just have the one and also because the two of us are such messes, most of the time!

I greatly admire mothers with larger families. Not because they are necessarily wonderful mothers (although most seem to be), but because their children were such a delight to them that they couldn't help but have a few more! :) I get that.

Someday I would like to join your ranks...

Angela @ Refresh My Soul Blog said...

OH Kate! Great to see you again in blogland! Great post. I can relate to the puffed up feeling. But I am learning to just delight in my kids as we take this homeschooling journey and have much time together. They are so much fun.
Much love,

Stephanie (Ocean Mommy) said...

I hear you with the puffed up feeling!

You are a great mom and all of us who know you will agree! I love the yellow boots! Kind of like Emma yesterday in her red ballet crocs...didn't match, but it's what she wanted to wear....

I'm so glad you're back!


Alana said...

Hello there! So glad to see a new post from you. And a great one at that. One I can certainly relate to!

Jennifer@DoingTheNextThing said...

Kate! Good to see you, new/old friend! Missed your insights and humor lately. Good post - we all have those moments. I find that most people, when they discover I'm a mom of five, either look up to or pity me. I respond either with pride (unfounded) or defensiveness. Thanks for keeping it real!

Faith said...

Kate! Great to have you back.
Thanks for your wisdom in this post. I am learning a lot from my blog-sisters as I (hopefully) move soon into the world of motherhood!

Meg said...

Hi Kate. Nice to see you back again. I can relate...mothering is a challenge that refines us every step of the way, isn't it?!? But what a joy as well. I'm off to check some math problems...gotta love the re naming lessons! Have a great day. Meg

Christy said...

Glad to see you again! this was a great post. My kids often leave the hose with their hair (and teeth) unbrushed!

Christine said...

Ahhh, Kate. I love this post...


Mary@notbefore7 said...

Glad to see you back Kate! This post is exactly what I have missed - beautiful encouragement from a mom "down the path a bit farther". Thank you. I hope I can continue to remember what makes a "good mother".