(written for myself, and for my dearest dears at GCM.)
Hey There Little Mama,
I saw you beating yourself up today, frowning at the mirror and wondering what on earth others must think of you.
I caught you looking with despair over your house strewn with crayon bits, stray shoes, toys and books. I watched you grind your teeth and breathe deeply in effort to not yell as your preschooler ignored your clear and patient instructions and whizzed through the house laughing that maniacal, nervous "will you come and make me?!!" laugh. I saw your panic when you realized everyone is out of underpants and that, once again, the laundry piled up beyond what you could possibly fix in a day.
I saw the unflushed toilets, the pail of dirty diapers, the flies all over the place because your 2nd grader chronically leaves the door open. I saw the kitchen floor you haven't mopped for weeks. I'll be kind enough to not describe what YOU looked like today.
I heard your 5yo use an interesting word with grandma on the phone. I saw your toddler wipe her bum on the shower curtain. I saw your preschooler lick that bug. I saw you hit the snooze button another time while your children eat corn flakes, of all the things!
I saw your 3yo take a bite out of 3 different kinds of vegetables in the grocery store before you noticed her leaning over and helping herself, and saw the store manager scowl even as you bagged up the forbidden fruit.
I saw you raise your voice as your child absentmindedly and systematically made an enormous mess in the floor for no particular reason. I saw her lip quiver in remorse and apologize and set to cleaning, and watched your shoulders slump with regret over your own sharpness.
Things, by all appearances, have really gone to pot. You appear to have let yourself go. It's all a bit of a mess.
And do you know what? I'm so very proud of you right now. Even more than when everyone's in clean, adorable outfits, more than when your children chose kindness in public, everyone is in an age of equilibrium, more than when you turn heads on the sidewalk, more than when life is easy.
Why? Because I'm smart enough to know that when everything's this rough, you're working your absolute hardest.
I know that you've been up all night relieving a gassy tiny belly, when you'd much rather be sleeping soundly on your own pillow.
I recognize that the mess around you represents busy hands that are exploring the world in the safety of your home, even though you'd prefer it be clean.
I can tell by the kindness in your eyes that you raising your voice is a big deal, that you'll apologize for it, and that you've been modeling remarkable patience and maturity all day long (and that you'll do it all again tomorrow).
I'm glad for you that your children feel safe enough to express their big feelings, and am glad that they are safe enough to be re-directed in a gentle way.
I see that you're rocking and nursing and bonding with that precious little baby in your lap, and that the love you're steeping them in now will warm the fire of their heart for the rest of their lives, even though it's exhausting in the moment for you.
I see your heart torn in so many directions, trying hard to prioritize, constantly checking to make sure every person is honored and heard in your home. It's no small job you're doing, and I see that.
I see you folding underwear for the child still having accidents, taking stains out of shirts of little girls old enough to care, carefully instilling competence and skill in your olders while your body nurtures your youngers. I saw you change no less than 20 diapers in one day. You're learning to juggle, even though it looks like you've done nothing at all today.
You're my HERO. You're their hero. Even if they don't recognize it now, someday, they will. And the kindness that you instill and extend to their hungry hearts and bodies and mouths now won't fly into the void and return to you empty. Love begets love.
You are beautiful. I am proud of you. You are doing a wonderful job, and honoring what your heart is calling you to do, and you're doing it in a way that only you can. I admire you, appreciate you and respect you. Thank you for caring and loving the future generation with such valor and tenderness and wisdom.
Keep your chin up, little mama bird. This is the hard part. All days won't always be like today; some will be harder and some will be infinitely easier. All will be full of love, because YOU are full of love. You bring that to your home, and the universe honors you for it.