The other day I was trudging through Fred Meyer with my five youngest under ten and pregnant. I promised them a treat and while they wanted some creamy goodness from the corner drive-thru coffee stand, I thought it would be cheaper to find something at the store.
Truth is I rarely take the youngest out all by myself. One thing about having teenagers who don’t like to leave the house is there is generally someone there to watch the younger crowd. But not this day.
Overwhelmed, I was charging up and down, desperate to find where they hid the juice and then wondering if the reason they would house all the candy in the store right across the aisle from the Juicy Juice was to torture poor mothers like me. Grabbing the Capri Sun, because it was on sale, I turned around and started heading to the check out line.
I saw out of the corner of my eye an elderly woman with short curly white hair. She was tall, thin, and dressed in hot pink capris and a white top. I saw her counting the kids and all I could think was, “Not now, please not now.” I was not in the mood. I felt frantic and I had to go pick up the older kids from singing lessons. I just wanted to get out of that store and back in the 12-passenger van we “lovingly” call the Silver Beast.
I saw her open her mouth, heard the word, “Wow…” and I booked it. I didn’t want to smile and act sweet and say, “Yes, I do know what causes that and guess what? I have three more that aren’t even here.” I felt cranky and snide and I did NOT want to hear it right then.
As we neared the front of the store, my ten year old said, “Mom, did you hear what that lady said?”
I grumbled a no.
He answered, “She said, wow, what a beautiful family.”
I literally stopped and turned and looked at him. I stood there in the front of Fred Meyer with my mouth opening and closing like a fish. A million thoughts ran through my mind in that moment and I chocked out, “Really? That was so nice.”
We got in the car and I passed out the juice and bananas. We made it back to the lessons with time to spare and I gave them all another juice and another banana.
I thought back to the store. You see, my kids, they were being good. Ok, someone probably mentioned the candy across the aisle. Probably a somewhat innocent comment about what kind of candy is that, in hopes that I would grab it and say something like, “Let us buy this red colored goo and find out!”
The baby and the three year old were in the cart, the five and seven year old were dutifully holding on to the cart, and the ten year old was following behind me and helping me every step of the way. They were being good.
I was not.
I was pouting. I was the one waiting for something bad to happen. I was the one tearing through the store like a raging she-boar.
Yes, we all make mistakes, but as a mom to almost nine, I know better than anyone else that I maybe the only representative people will ever meet of a Catholic family open to life. Do I want people to see me as a frazzled maniac? Well, maybe I am sometimes, but it was a good reminder that sometimes the problem isn’t your noisy kid at church.
Truth is when I hear a baby cry anywhere, whether it is in the grocery store or at mass, I am compelled to smile with sympathy and love. I have been there many, many times. I also know how quickly those interruptions at mass grow up.
Sometimes, I hate to admit, the problem is me. Sometimes, it is me waiting for the other shoe to drop. And if you are too busy waiting for disaster you miss out on the fact that life is actually a gift.
Simply, you miss out on the joys.
I guess we all need a reminder once in awhile to stop and bear in mind that the vocation of motherhood is not an easy one, but there is no point in making it harder than it really is. The blessings far out weigh any challenges.
So yesterday when a sweet woman asked me how many kids I had and after I answered almost nine, I was still able to smile and laugh when she asked if I knew what caused that and if I was done yet. (I also want to mention it was 105 degrees out and my feet were swelling beyond the capacity of my Birkenstocks. Yes, I wear Jesus shoes, especially when pregnant!) I answered her that yes, we do know what causes that and actually we are pretty good at it… obviously. *wink*