ChAoS in MOtiOn
A Reflection of Thanks
In this week of Thanksgiving, I’ve taken the time to reflect on some experiences that I am hugely grateful for, and that have helped shaped the person I have become. At first you may think I’m referring to the glamorous life as a stay at home mom, with my days filled with taping and texturing sheetrock, finding the dog and the toddler splitting a box of Lucky Charms in the middle of the living room floor or investigating if there are teeth on the eldest’s toes, since no one should humanly burn through socks that quickly. No, while grateful for all of that chaos, there are certain things I’ve experienced that forever changed me.
The Good Doctor and I waited for 5 years to have children. It was a conscious choice. There really is never the perfect time to have a baby, but we were aiming for the least worst time, which hopefully would entail some financial stability that would allow us to care for another human being. For this I will always, bitter sweetly, be grateful. The bitter part being losing my mother two weeks after finding out I was expecting our first child, the sweet part was how it solidified our marriage. You see, I really like my husband. I like being with and around him. I’ve always had fun being his wife. We got to be a couple for 5 years. We got to be spontaneous and head out the door in an instant to a destination decided on 3 seconds before. Very unlike the strategic planning, act of Congress, 2 stuffed bears, one blanket and an iPod it takes to get out the door these days. When we moved to a 5 square mile island in the middle of the Caribbean ocean for almost 2 years, we had only each other… and when you have only 5 square miles of terrain with only two ways off the island, you had no choice but to work things out. I am so grateful we had this time to be a couple, before being thrust into the great upheaval that is parenthood. Parenting isn’t for sissies, and I am forever grateful we had that base to build upon. I love being a mother, but I’ve tried to not sacrifice the role of wife in the process. I have always tried to keep in mind that someday the three kids with be gone (and hopefully not move back in) and I want to be able to look at him and say “Hey… you!” and not “Who are you?”
In our time together, my hubby and I have participated in a couple mission trips. There is no way to participate in a mission trip and not come back home unchanged. Early on in our marriage we spent two weeks in India, and witnessed life and health care in that amazing, overwhelming, sensory- overloading country and during our time living in Iowa, the church we attended participated in a project called Mission Jamaica. Mission Jamaica had several different projects, but the one we participated in was helping at a children’s’ orphanage in the hills of Jamaica. My visions of these sweet children at this isolated place still linger in my mind. These were not just orphaned children; they were all disabled orphaned children. Many had Multiple Sclerosis, and if in the US, these kids would function, with help, along side their classmates, as MS strikes the body, not the mind. In this orphanage, these crumpled bodies had been discarded with their minds intact. The one cabin shared one toothbrush amongst 9 kids. This is mainly because poverty is so rampant and the large quantity of supplies given by missionaries are either pilfered by employees or hoarded for fear the donations may cease to continue.
The joy on the children’s faces at our presence was beyond words. They knew what the missionaries did, and that was touch them, hold them, talk to them… They knew that, if only for a few days, we would be present to their alert mind trapped in a tangled mess of limbs. There was no way to not let my experiences there affect they way I interacted with my own children.
I definitely have moments that I wonder if that day was the day that would require a dozen counseling sessions for one of my kids. We all have those days. But what I am so grateful for, in regards to my mission trips, is learning what kids crave, and what they want is not so much stuff, but presence, and time and touch. And I am as guilty as anyone to be caught up with “Just a minute!” and cave at the $1 bins at Target, but then the memory of child without a toothbrush to call his own will slip in from the edges of my mind and we will have a “Staff meeting” with the kids. We will talk about stuff, and how we have a lot of stuff, and how some kids have no stuff, and how picking up the stuff is making Mommy crazy. Yet the crazy thing is, the kids get it. They understand. And given a choice between Legos or going to a museum together, they want the togetherness. One of them may prefer togetherness at the mall, but the understanding is there. I am so thankful for some of the things I have had the chance to see and do. One can’t know, what they don’t know. I would not have known how fortunate I am without seeing first hand the poverty and destitution I have seen. It is my goal that in gentle ways, I can pass on to my children what I have learned and they will embrace gratitude.