When I imagined being a mother, I imagined a woman full of grace and serenity. What a patient mother I would be, and so loving. My children would never doubt for a moment what they meant to me. Full of wisdom and strength, I would be a pillar in this fallen world. I guess I didn't realize at the time I'd be 21 when I'd fill that role. I don't know, maybe I thought I'd have a thousand years to live and learn before I had kids or something. The future me is always much more impressive than the present. Perhaps if I lived in reality I wouldn't have set the standards so high for myself. Perhaps if reality didn't involve so much poop.
Today I am tired. I have had a killer headache for a week now. It's the kind that doesn't go away, but rather get's more and less intense so that at the less intense times you may be fooled into thinking it's going away only for it to come back with a vengeance. Coffee and Tylenol can numb the pain for a little while, but when you're pregnant there's only so much of that you can take. After my small daily dose wears off, I take the pain like a mother. Maybe not with grace, but with the knowledge that crying like a baby won't change the fact that I still have to take care of my actual baby.
Today was my day to watch Oliver, my friend's son and Aiden's best friend. We exchange childcare so that we don't have to pay for babysitters. The boys are potty training and have been doing pretty well, until today. Oliver arrived in soaking pants, his mother apologizing, telling me she'd just put a diaper on him for the rest of the morning, mentioning he hadn't yet pooped for the day. About 20 minutes later I see him grunting as he races a car around with Aiden. Oh, did I mention I was feeling wonderfully nauseous already at this point? I braced myself, held my breath as long as I could and started the process of changing his diaper. The thing about changing a toddler is, playtime is all the time. They roll this way and that way, and if you can finish wiping (not to mention getting a clean diaper on them) before they're running away, you're doing pretty damn well for yourself. Well I made it through the mushy mess with out more than a little gag here and there and was happy to be done.
After 45 minutes of playing toy referee and 20 minutes of trying to get them both dressed with shoes and putting the car seats in the car, we headed out to visit my friend Katie and her daughter Anna for a walk to the park. When we arrived I pulled Oliver out of his seat and noticed a wet sensation on my arm. I sighed. A deep and rather pitiful sigh. Lovely. And I don't have any extra pants. I thought regrettably to myself, wishing I had just put another diaper on him instead of trusting my abilities to get him to the toilet. Luckily Katie owned a pair of androgynous pants his size. After a quick change and loading up the strollers we were on our way to the park. Walks are the perfect remedy for bad days. Especially if they're with a friend. Somehow, no matter your situation, you find yourself laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.
We walked a couple laps around the lake, trying the limits of our 2-year-old's abilities to sit still, then stopped at the playground to let them run around. In mid-sentence, I looked up to see Aiden on his way up the slide with a very concentrated look on his face. "No. No! Aiden, wait baby!" There wasn't a bathroom close enough to the playground to get to in time in a situation like that. So I ran up the steps, picked Aiden up, and basically flew to the edge of the play ground. Pants down, squat. Not good enough. Pee all over his pants. Poop. Poop. Poop. Thought he was done. No. More poop. I sat there holding him up by his armpits so that he wouldn't fall and land in the pile he was dropping. Did I mention I was still nauseous at this point? Yeah, there was no holding your breath for that poop. Breathe through your mouth and you'd taste it. So I took it. Like a mom. Letting him finish, despite the stares. Cleaned him up the best I could. Picked up the poop and put it in the trash. Poop on my hand, poop on my pants, pee from earlier still on my arm. It was time to go home.
Oliver headed home around noon and as Aiden and I sat eating lunch, I got a call from Katie. She needed to go to the doctor unexpectedly and asked if I could watch Anna. Of course I said yes. When they arrived, Aiden was ecstatic to find play time was not over yet. I had already put a diaper on Aiden for nap, so when I went to lift him up, I felt an extra squishy diaper. I had been smelling something not great, but had pushed it aside in denial, now to realize that Aiden had pooped yet again! Then as Katie began to leave, she said, "Oh yeah, Anna hasn't pooped yet today, so..." Oh boy.
Mothers, the kind I dream of being, are not born but made. Patience is learned through many trying times. Love may be natural, but the skill of sharing it is often learned through painful failures. Strength takes time to build. Grace and serenity require self-restraint and sacrifice. And wisdom is a gift from God. It's not just the headaches, the messes, the sleepless nights, and whining children that shape a woman into a mother, but the love that leads her through to the end of the day. And the end of a day, is a beautiful thing.