I am a recovering agoraphobic.
Ok, this is not a clinical diagnosis, but since Rachael was born I have often been afraid to go out. I am a moving wriggling spectacle – or at least others seem to think so when they see my family of three kids aged 4 and under. It is as if they are looking at the 8th wonder of the world live and in person. The wide-eyed awe or smile of pity usually sounds like this:
“You must be so tired!”
“Better you than me!”
“Wow…you’ve got your hands full!”
I leave these interactions feeling like I’ve got Dengue Fever rather than three beautiful , active, smart, exciting little girls aged 4,2 and 7 months. I never know what to say!
“Better me than you.”?
“Thank you.” ?
So I dread having to run out pick up toilet paper at Albertsons (aside from the fact that with three under 4 you don’t just “run out” for anything. Every trip is a major undertaking. Has everyone gone potty? Ack! That bottle from 3 days ago is still in my bag! What? You want a snack now? We just had breakfast! Put your shoes back on! Yikes! Look at my hair! Sniff sniff … OK … Who pooed?).
I just got back from a weekend away with some friends and their kids. The ranch where we stayed was simultaneously hosting a conference with a group that holds as one of their main philosophies of life that Christian families are to have as many children as possible. Naturally, most of the families there had an average of 6-8 children or more. All weekend long people smiled at us, excited to see that we were well on our way to a wonderful family of 12 beautiful children. Maybe we’ll even be blessed with a boy in there somewhere.
We aren’t on our way to 12 children, in case you were wondering. But it felt good to have our family nurtured and encouraged rather than gawked at.
Granted, I am not naïve. My hands ARE full. And I AM tired. And I am fully aware that they are each only 18 months apart – and that is considered to be spaced very close together. But honestly, it doesn’t help me to hear the dumbfounded amazement of every other person at Costco.
With every comment I can just feel the last little bit of verve and energy I might have had seeping out of me like water out of a baby tub. There is power in our words, and I feel that power every time I go out.
I begin thinking about all of my friends with no kids, or grown kids. Darlene gets to travel to Europe with her husband on a whim. And Gina can go to Safeway for eggs and only have to buckle one seatbelt and put on one jacket. And Linda can wear a beautiful white sweater and have it still be white at noon. And Susan can see the results of the years of prayer, discipline, and love as her grown children now call her “blessed” rather than “bath-giver.”
But then I see Kathryn discover something new and look at me with those wide brown eyes and a “Look mom!”
And then Stephanie will make me laugh out loud with one of her newest fashion statements (usually out of my closet).
And baby Rachael will squint her eyes, giggle, and squeal with her wide gummy grin.
I love being mommy to these three. They are amazing and I discover the world again along with them. At the same time I am often exhausted, sometimes impatient, would give a large sum for a full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and terribly miss my beautiful designer dry-clean-only skinny clothes.
Because of this, there are days that I need all the encouragement I can get from words. Although the Lord is gracious in reminding me of my true value, I often run low.
Here is a good example: The other morning, I was out at Wal-Mart picking up shampoo and other randomness that we were about to run out of and I caught the eye of an older woman who was looking at me and smiling. I braced myself for the inevitable comment. She said:
“Look at those girls. You are a lucky woman to have such a full life.” And she smiled again, touched Stephanie’s hand, and walked away.
The comment took all of 3 seconds, but I carried her words with me for the rest of the week. I now try really hard to see the good in those around me, no matter how strange things seem, and encourage with my words. I know those “up words” made my week.
So, to all those who notice a different hairdo, a huge family, a severe handicap, singleness late into life, a couple who do not have children, a parent with fully rebellious children, a four headed flying pig, or whatever it is that you just can’t imagine dealing with yourself, I beg you to find some “up words” if you are going to stop and comment.
My hands ARE full. To that wonderful lady at Wal-Mart…thank you from this grateful mom whose hands are blessedly, yet temporarily full of three little treasures from the Lord. I know they will be empty all too soon…