“Cooties are just an excuse boys made up in the 80’s to get away from girls.” – Gavin, age 8.
It took me a while to get used to the idea of being a mom to a boy. By that, I mean every single time I had one. Since I am not a boy, it’s all pretty new territory. They are fast. They grow fast. They eat fast. They get mad and hit and forgive fast. They are not dwellers. They have hormones that drive them onward and upward. (Literally up-the-walls-ward. You should see the footprints over my sofa.) And none of mine have even hit adolescence yet. (We’re willing to accept donations for groceries for when they’re all teenagers at the same time.) I love them. But, boy, I don’t understand them.
When you have little boys…
Ice cubes may contain fossilized bugs (real or plastic).
The garbage men and plow truck drivers automatically wave at your windows when they go by.
You know that hooters and honkers refer to tow trucks.
All pockets must be checked for saved mud before washing.
You have yelled, “Don’t climb on the walls!” and meant it.
If the kitchen is filled with the smell of chocolate rather than meat, they’re disappointed.
Your three year old wails “I need more power!”
They go to sleep clutching matchbox cars.
Plastic spiders live in your houseplants.
You’ve never had a tea party.
You’ve never seen Frozen (Really. Never. I can’t even sing the song.)
A power ranger greets you when you open the cabinet over the bathroom sink.
Everything’s a weapon.
Toy boxes are divided into weapons, a guy box, a transformer box, and legos.
Clothing is excessive. Any clothing. Except for boots.
The baby’s favorite chew toy is a nerf bullet.
Camouflage is in. No sparkles in this house.
Dirt is a food group.
If you’re not yelling louder, then you must not mean it.
They set traps in the backyard to catch dinner.
There had better be mud puddles in heaven.
To burp on command is a badge of honor.
“The last shall go first” lesson results in backwards racing.
You know the name of every type of construction vehicle and the common name of most kinds of lizards. And what they eat.
Dad is their hero.
The baby boy can’t talk, but when he hears a motor, he growls.
They know real men eat from pink bowls (it’s a good lesson to learn!)
Your set of train tracks can loop around the house. Twice.
A hole is to dig.
Cleanliness is next to sissyness.
You’ve had serious discussions about reasons they cannot camp out on the roof.
Using forks is too slow.
Your pillowcases are wrecked from stair-sledding races.
You know more about Star Wars now than you did when you were a kid. Not because you want to.
You are automatically cool when you get older because you get more candles, and therefore, fire, on your cake.
Someone found your smartphone and it’s now full of selfies. Of lego men. And pet rocks.
You can make a sweet catapult.
“If God didn’t want us to pick our noses, why did He make our fingers fit in there so well?” -Shiloh, 6.
“I don’t want a hair cut. I just need a short cut!” -Ben, 3.
“I can’t say ‘docile’ but I can say ‘roar!'” -Henry, 5.
That’s just how boys roll. (And run and climb.) Thought you might want to know what you’re missing.
I vaguely remember life before I had to crawl under the table after every meal to scrape up cold mashed banana and sweet potatoes before they hardened into cement. Back in the old days, I had days off and could sleep in if I wanted. I read novels. I went out for coffee on a whim. I could finish a project in a day. Heck, I could finish a sentence without interruption! I didn’t do laundry every day; I didn’t have to wipe the underside of the table after lunch. And I didn’t have other people’s used food all over my shirt.
Understand, I wouldn’t say they’re the good old days. They are just the old days. Different. I wouldn’t trade these laughter-filled, life-spilling-over, achingly sweet and fleeting moments with my young children. Well, most of them. I can look back at the BC years – before children – as a closed chapter in my history. But the book’s not finished yet, so I’m not complaining that we have moved on. If I tried to live in the old days, it would be miserable. Compared to now, I was a selfish, lazy, idealistic, impatient yuppie who thought time mattered and I had to be clean to be happy. I live by a different code now. By necessity. And by choice.
People ask me almost daily – how do you do it with five kids?!? Honestly, I don’t do most of it. I can’t do most of the stuff you do, like always be on time, eat when I want, have a coherent conversation with my peers, wear un-snotted clothes, stand still, not automatically explain big words, or focus. But really, it was the first kid that sunk me. I went from working forty hours a week, having days off and time to clean house and blow dry my hair – to being on-call 24 hours a day, responding to gibberish with an exhausted smile, making quality time for my husband, and learning to love my new life. It was an adjustment for me that I hadn’t truly prepared for. How can you?
If you’ve been a mom around a church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of TP31B. It’s not a vaccine. It’s not a rogue illness or something to scrub off the underside of your table. I’m referring to The Proverbs 31 Babe. The lady described in the latter part of Proverbs chapter 31 is worthy of being emulated. She’s supermom. The chapter is full of advice from a mom to a young king – her son – about what to look for in a wife. Before the lady part though, back in verse four, the king’s mom says, “It is not for kings O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine… Lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted.”
Save the supermom stuff that comes later for another blog. This little line has recently become my mantra. It is not for kings… Obviously, this applies to wine here. Yes, a king could do whatever he wants, technically. But it doesn’t mean he should. A king cannot make good decisions inebriated. I get that. I have been either pregnant or nursing for nine years now. You don’t drink on the job; I have been on the clock for approximately 3,300 continuous hours now. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for intoxication.
If you permit me to stretch this beyond the context, I think it applies to the queen in her castle too. So I take it personally (though my castle is missing key items like turrets, a treasury room, and servants, I can still dream…)
It is not for kings (or queens) to stay up too late when they have official court business early in the morning (albeit in the kitchen hard boiling eggs for the little princes).
It is not for kings to plan a fun trip when their country is at war (though it sounds fun to spend a day with friends, if a little prince is sick or really has to finish his schoolwork, the priority is to stay home).
It is not for kings to wear their coronation attire every day (or even shirts that little hands and cuddly babies will drag shamelessly down at inopportune times in public).
It is not for kings to stare at Pinterest all day while eating something deep fried in chocolate (not that a king would ever do that…)
It isn’t that those things are bad… I don’t mean that staying up sometimes, or fancy clothes, or going on trips, or Pinterest, or certainly anything chocolate, is sinful. But there is a time for everything. And while you’re on the throne – it’s not the time. I even repeat it in my head at the times I’ve wanted to do something very good – like an evening Bible study – but my husband worked late and I couldn’t just leave the kids to run wild alone, reenacting Lord of the Flies (or Angry Birds versus Darth Vadar – in diapers.) No. It was not for kings.
Did the king ever feel this was unfair? Maybe, sometimes. But I doubt he ever felt it to the point of not wanting to be king. There are lots of perks to being king. You are important; your word is law. Everyone looks up to you. You lead the parades, the victory marches, the feast days and celebrations. Your subjects trust you with their lives, their futures. You decide what everyone else is eating, wearing, hearing and seeing, and where they’re going. You kiss babies. You receive adoration. You have got it made, mama – I mean, king.
I’m learning to say it when I’ve been trolling on Facebook too long. It is not for kings to waste their time. Or homeschooling mamas with needy toddlers and a sink full of dirty dishes. Nurse the baby and then get thee off!
When I see a cute dress at the consignment shop I remind myself – I can’t nurse in a sundress. It is not for this season of life. It is not for kings (well, queens. That just sounds weird if I don’t make it feminine.)
My friends plan a fun day at the beach with their older kids, but I have a baby and a toddler who can’t walk. Double strollers don’t do well in sand. It is a playdate not for kings. Not for now.
I really want to answer the call of that pint of good chocolate ice cream beckoning me from the freezer. I’ve earmarked it for a special occasion; lunchtime on a rainy Wednesday qualifies. Right? But the kids are bouncing off the walls, literally, from the marshmallow fight they had in the living room an hour ago (I thought they were doing math while I finally jumped in the shower, honest!) and if they catch me it will make their stale bread and peanut butter that much more of a fight to force down. It is not for kings. I pull out leftovers instead. And duct tape the freezer closed.
Often, mumbling the little catchphrase to myself helps to break the pity party pall immensely. I am a child of the King. I am royalty. I could run around my castle in poofy skirts and eat whatever I want and sleep in and read and take selfies and hang out all day. But that just lands royalty in the tabloids. I dislike standing in the checkout line at Walmart enough already. I certainly don’t want to be there stuffed in a shamless rack to be gawked at! So I will not. I choose not. Well, as long as the duct tape holds on the freezer anyway.
Then I can move on to TP31B. Aim high, daughter of the king. Get on your knees under the table, and aim high.
I spent last weekend in a very unique position. Lying on the couch.
Some mutant germ got into my system and did what few microbes can claim – it got Mamma sick. Not just sniffles or a headache, but too-sick-to-move, skin hurts, pneumonia-kind of sick. I thought about going to the ER to look into getting medicine capable of resurrection, but decided against it. Mostly, because that would have required moving.
My kids realized the gravity of the situation when supper time rolled around and I didn’t budge. Concerned, my eight year old took matters into his own hands. He handed the fussing baby to me to nurse and went into the kitchen and cooked dinner. He made scrambled eggs for the four oldest, which everyone inhaled, along with some yogurt and a bowl of clementines. And then he surveyed the pile of dishes, grubby toddlers, and cluttered floor, and did what any logical child would. He called in grandma.
A few minutes later, grandma floated in, like an angel of mercy in her muddy garden boots. She took the baby from my limp grasp, and single-handedly managed to clean up supper, children, and the floor in preparation for bedtime. I drooled numbly on the sofa cushions, impressed in spite of my dazed self. Once a mom, always.
The rest of the week was equally rugged. Child after miserable child succumbed to high fevers and explosively upset stomachs. On top of it, Ben had surgery on Tuesday to loosen the tendons in his heels. (He had looked like a ballerina constantly pointing his toes. Not very manly.) I had thought it was a minor surgery, and even questioned the need for anesthesia at one point (since he has no functioning nerves in his lower legs, a medically-induced coma seemed rather excessive.) Apparently, it was a bigger process than I had anticipated. It resulted in full-leg casts on both legs. At least they made them red.
Anyway, it was not my favorite of weeks. But it wasn’t just because I spent some of it glued helplessly to the sofa, though I hated that part. And it wasn’t because I had to hand over my child to strangers to be cut and filled with strong drugs, though I hated that part too. And it wasn’t even because I spent a lot of time scrubbing the contents of my children’s stomachs off of the rugs and stairs and blankets and clothes throughout the house, though I hated that part also.
It was because I didn’t pray.
I didn’t completely forget to talk to God. Not totally. I did mumble here and there, “Please heal me, Lord… Please guide the doctor in surgery… Please protect my son… Please, please make these kids stop throwing up and let us all sleep tonight!” But it was that kind of popcorn praying, that filling up with empty calories that are, at best, just a vehicle to get salt into our mouths – or problems voiced and quickly shoved away. My prayers were cheap. Obligatory. Emotionless. I almost didn’t chew; just shoveled the popcorn in quick and took no time to savor.
I should have. I had the time. As I lay lifeless on the couch, necessarily putting down my to-do list and homeschool plans and even every movement but the barest of required ones, I had the time to pray. And as I sat in the waiting room while my son slept in surgery, I had time to pray. And as each of my children’s bodies waged war against the ruthless germs in their bloodstreams, we set aside our regular school work and chores and errands, and life screeched to a halt. All week, we had time to pray.
But I didn’t.
I shut down. I didn’t want to feel or think or be thankful. I felt more like the seven dwarfs than Snow White. I was grumpy, sneezy, dopey and withdrawn (I’m pretty sure that’s one of them.) I wasn’t looking for a great conversation with a handsome prince. I was playing hermit in my own little world, willing to live with cobwebs in the corners and darkness in my soul rather than venture out into the revealing sunshine and gaze into the wishing well where hope swirled fresh.
I identified with the bad guy of Psalm 109. Rather than being “given to prayer” as the writer was, I was the enemy, “clothing himself with cursing.” I wasn’t just sporting old yoga pants and wrinkled tee shirt. I had covered myself in frumpy grumbles. It was decidedly unattractive.
Once I realized it, the week started to turn around. I tried to be a little more thankful. I purposed to praise in the little moments. When the baby woke too early, snuffly and hot with fever, I recognized it as a moment to spend in prayer rather than be grumpy about sleep lost. He snuggled against me as I sat with with my Bible and a warm mug of coffee. And I counted my blessings.
After Ben got casts over his thighs, I was feeling grouchy. It was difficult for him to pull his encased lower body around on the floor, and he was heavy to carry. The wheelchair he had been using was helpful, but he always got it caught on the door jams and it kept him restrained in a cumbersome harness. By coincidence or design, the wheelchair guy called the next morning. Surprise! His new chair was ready! Sleek, well balanced, and with more space for his thick casts, I couldn’t help notice the hand of God. And it was red. The boys were excited too. With two chairs in the house, now they could have wheelchair races.
Even though it rained a lot toward the end of the week, my outlook got brighter. Thankfulness was on my lips. Chicken soup simmered on the stove. The boys played quiet games and worked on lego projects while their bodies healed. I spent less time on Facebook and more time reading real books, my children snuggled around me. Mountains of laundry later, we felt a little less overwhelmed by germs and sickness. A peaceful thankfulness enveloped us instead.
The Lord has been mindful of us, He will bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great… Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. Psalm 115:13, 116:7