*This post has it's own soundtrack! Press play on the youtube video to listen to the song that inspired this post. Just for fun.
One of my favorite songs is called So Many Ways, by the band The Mates of State. I can't remember if I knew this song before I had kids, but one day after I was a mom I remember thinking, Oh I get this song now...it's about having kids. The Mates of State is a band that consists of a husband/wife duo who also happen to have 2 kids. They've been making music for a long time, long before they had kids, and it's been interesting to see the progression of their music over the years. Now I have no idea if So Many Ways is actually about kids, or more specifically about having kids, and in fact the lyrics to most of the song are rather cryptic but it's the chorus that resonates with my parental point of view:
oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
What have you given me?
oh, oh, oh, oh, oh,
Nothing and Everything!
The question is posed, What have you given me? with the answer yelled back in unison, Nothing and Everything! That, I thought, is exactly what my kids have given me.
Sometimes I daydream about having time to myself. Time to sew, paint, read, watch movies...use the bathroom without an audience. Sometimes I just long to be me. To do those things that have always made me me. One day as I was taking this idea of "me time" to the end I thought What if something happened to my kids and I no longer was a mother? What if I could paint, sew and create all day long and have endless amounts of time to myself? I knew the answer almost immediately, You would have nothing. On the flip side, if I never have the time to really be an artist again or a seamstress, if I never had the time to pursue another creative endeavor because of my kids I would still have everything. Of course I hope never to be faced with either scenario, but still... I had this little epiphany some time ago, but it was all in theory. Until about 2 months ago when my first trip to San Antonio to go house hunting fell through. B had planned to take the girls to his sisters house that weekend while I would be in San Antonio. After my trip was cancelled B still wanted to go to his sisters' house. He told me to stay home and enjoy a weekend to myself and he would take the kids with him. Talk about a dream come true! I was giddy. Are you sure? Yes I'm sure, he said. I helped them pack and they were out the door in no time. I decided to run an errand as they were leaving. As I drove behind them, my heart practically ripped itself out of my chest and followed them up the street. I honked and motioned for my husband to pull over. I can't do it! I have to come with you. He smiled and patiently followed my back to the house so I could pack and join the family getaway. Something about watching my little family drive away without me felt horrible. And we had a great weekend.
It's easy to define ourselves by what we do, but those things don't always accurately portray who we really are. As much as I long and still hope to reclaim the artist inside, I think my children have done more to chisel away at my ineffectual exterior revealing a truer and better me, than any amount of artistic exploration ever could. Of course there are many days where it doesn't seem that way, many days where I feel like the worst version of myself and wonder who gave me stewardship over two human lives in the first place...but it's there. The subtle changes, the small and large sacrifices, a little-bit-better me. In one sense those helpless, beautiful creatures have given us absolutely nothing. Instead they have taken almost all our time, energy and mindshare, not to mention a fair amount of our financial resources. And because of that, they have somehow given us everything.
The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day. ~The Collected Works of C.S. Lewis (stolen from my friend Erin)