Tis the Season for Mommys to be recognized Ė even if it's only by our own children.
By Amy Steele
Suddenly, I am a statistic. I am a domestic engineer with two children - a boy and a girl. I drive a mini van and live in a modest three bedroom, two bath house in a quiet neighborhood. I own two cats and a lot of clothes that used to fit. I took a few years off from my job to be the mama after the birth of my second child. My teaching career might officially resume after my children are bigger. I have brown eyes, brown hair and am of average weight and size. I am the most average person on the planet. I am a mommy, anonymous.
Let me tell you who I used to be: dry clean only clothing was a wardrobe staple. I used to jog every night for a few miles. I took judo for about a year and enjoyed flipping larger people over my head. As a teacher, I taught in a very interesting school where graffiti, vandalism, and social workers were the rule, not the exception.
At the age of 20, yours truly spent three weeks lying on a beach in Spain working on a tan and another language. I used to remember why I walked into a room. I used to charm my way out of traffic tickets and speeding violations. Jeans in my closet were single digit in size. Voice lessons and recitals in beautiful dresses were a seasonal event. I was a fairly smart gal with a bright future.
Who did I used to be? I used to worry incessantly about what the rest of the world thought of me. Dating was from Hades Ė how in the world do you find the right person? My hopes were always hung on the man of the moment, who as often as not was fairly hopeless. A single pound gained would send me into a fit of diets and exercise. I rarely considered how my actions affected others, yet took every slight, real or imagined, to the depths of self-pity. Seldom did I emerge from my selfishness to view the world from othersí eyes, yet I had many lofty goals to save somebody from something. I was young, ambitious, and foolish.
Now my days are filled with various tasks of a domestic nature. I spend an inordinate amount of time wiping off things and wiping things off children! I donít recognize that woman I see in the mirror. I hear my voice sometimes and I sound like my mother; although that isnít a bad thing, it shocks the heck out of me.
My body feels alien. I have joints that feel like cereal Ė snap, crackle, pop! Attempting a jog will make things shake that shouldnít shake in public, so sticking to a brisk walk will have to do. My dramatically short hair requires chemical attention to make it look presentable on the days when I actually try to pull it all together.
These days, my wardrobe consists of the following: jeans in sizes that I always considered to be the ages of a good babysitter; overalls that are great for stowing pacifiers, keys, and toddler gunk; my husbandís old shirts; and absolutely nothing that has to be dry cleaned, ironed, or hand washed.
My ambitions now include actually making it to the grocery store before noon. It's a banner day when I manage to get everything on the shopping list before one of the short people with me decides they are finished shopping and have a meltdown that could peel paint off walls.
Who would I rather be? Some days when the potty patrol has made no stops at our house and the ear infection fairy has come, I might waiver a little bit on that question. But I know in my heart of hearts that I would be me, right now, right here. Everything that came before was just prep work. Dating helped me know that my sweet husband was the perfect man for me. All those voice lessons are great for singing with the marvelous purple tape of childrenís songs which is embedded permanently in my tape deck. Teaching in the roughest school around was excellent practice for toddler parenting. Beautiful dresses are waiting to be princess gowns and "wedding" attire for little girls. Spanish is a great language for ranting at your kids in the nicest tone of voice when you need to vent. Judo is made for stopping wrestling matches as well as three-year-old boys from running into the street. And I pray fervently that all that girl nastiness I endured and inflicted as a preteen should help me mother the Princess better.
When the hugs and kisses from little people come unsolicited, when the only one your baby needs is you...itís hard to remember that anything else was ever important or that I worried about the opinions of others. When your husband stays with you in spite of your many flaws and hangups, itís hard to imagine that anyone else ever had a spot anywhere remotely near your heart. When you see your tiny ones growing and changing before your very eyes, itís a race to do all the things, to see all the sights, to play all the games before these moments are gone.
What happened? Only the best of all possible things. I have become a mommy, perhaps anonymous to the world around me, but I know the whole truth. The most satisfaction comes from the delight of small, sacred secrets: what makes small boys belly-laugh, or what a little girl wants when she meows like a kitten.
The days are few, and so I think this anonymity is a gift to treasure. One day too soon, my two kids will be off and on their own, and I will long for all the mess and chaos of their childhood. I am thankful for the blessing of being their mom, and to them, I am not anonymous. I matter to them. And that's enough for me.
Amy Steele lives in rural Minnesota where she happily juggles family life, camp ministry, and substitute teaching. You may contact Amy through the Letters page of this Magazine.
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