Before I ever became a mother, I imagined motherhood as a showcase for my lovely qualities and impressive skills.
I’d sew my children outfits and teach them to bake bread from scratch and never, ever, ever lose my temper. My children would smile at me in admiration and dream about growing up to be exactly like me because I would be a paragon of virtue.
I’d wear a white apron with eyelet edges and sing hymns while I paid bills and scrubbed toilets. My children would raise their voices in harmony and do chores without being asked. We’d dress in matching clothes and spend our evenings reading Bible stories and piecing together 10,000 piece puzzles depicting vegetable gardens almost as luscious as the organic one we’d grow in our own back yard.
As it turns out, children are less like accessories and more like chainsaws.
They cut away the facade I’d created and imagined. How rude.
Children have a way of provoking you in a way other people wouldn’t dream of doing. (Perhaps it’s only my own particular children.) When I am terse with them, they feel free to reciprocate. When I am exasperated, they see an opportunity to push harder. When my head is exploding from the noise, they accelerate, crescendo and slam a drawer and then wonder why I am screaming.
If I were childless, I like to think I’d maintain a calm, unruffled existence. I’d never be shrill with strangers or co-workers or the lady that rings up my groceries at the store. I wouldn’t be so aware of my shortcomings, the areas my children have brought into clear focus, the ones that they emphasize and judge. I’d think I was pretty awesome.
As I become more aware of my failings, I alternate between despair and resolving to be better, to do better, to improve. I am the reluctant host to humility. I might never have welcomed humility into my heart, but I have no choice when I come face to face with the reality of who I am.
The children ripped down the curtain hiding the real me and what can I do but acknowledge that this frail me is the real me? I am flawed, no matter how politely I can behave in public.
Newsflash: I’m not that great.
I can only hope that as my children get older, they will see a more complete picture of me as a person. They will grant me grace and forgiveness and understanding. I hope I will remember to extend that same courtesy to everyone I meet. No matter how annoying they are.