A few years ago a friend who was expecting her first child asked me if I had written a poem about mothering. I could only laugh in response. How could anyone write a poem about mothering?
Since she wanted me to read a poem, though, at her baby shower, I decided that I’d give it a go and see what came of it. I closed my eyes and thought about the many challenges of being a mother and whether I had grown. The poem below was the result.
“Have you written a poem about motherhood?” you asked
in your email today.
I answer in mind, “No, because it is beyond my abilities,
to capture all motherhood encompasses
in any satisfying, articulate way.”
The mothering journey begins with a physical pregnancy
which you feel and know.
Little does it prepare you, though, for the emotional and spiritual ties
which will slowly grow.
From your child’s birth until your death, that you are a mother,
now your identity will always forego.
Before a woman gives birth, she frets about
the event to come:
Will she be able to handle the pain? Will the birth be
Will she be a good mother? What if the baby is
missing a thumb?
Trepidation mingles with joy and anticipation
from the very onset,
already revealing the complexities of trying to explain motherhood
for few other roles in life arouse as much intensity as
mothering will beget.
Time stands still as you hold your baby for the first time and
look into his tiny eyes.
Your very breath and heartbeat cease at the sound of
her first anguished cries.
What powerful language has the ability to bring scenes
such as these alive?
As a mother your eyes will open to how you’re selfish and cruel
and in need of a Savior;
but you’ll also perform those surprising selfless acts, revealing that
God’s love can truly soar.
Are mere words enough to show all the work upon your soul
motherhood has in store?
Can I adequately explain that both the best and worst of you
you’ll as a mother dispense?
Or even comprehend myself the disparity between my most brilliant moments
of compassion and defense
being revealed to the same children who have quailed at
my wrath over an irrelevant offense?
As a mother you’ll experience depths of self-doubt, uncertainty,
but you’ll also reach peaks filled with joy and satisfaction,
a most true confession.
Speech alone seems so inadequate to express the affect
of such a lesson.
How can I convey the visceral agony you will feel as you pray
for your child in pain?
Or the intense desire to trade places, so for your child only
peace would remain?
Or the swelling tide of rejoicing when the ordeal finally
ceases to be a bane?
What words can paint a picture of mothers timelessly seeking
God’s wisdom as their own?
Of mothers on their knees, praying for their children again and again
before His throne,
persevering through years of both good and bad, until their children
are fully grown?
Would I dare to write a poem, my insufficient words to you,
my dear friend,
would be that motherhood is a joyous, difficult, life-long journey
which I highly recommend.
You will not regret the giving of this gift to you when finally
to heaven you ascend.
That I could not more adequately bestow what motherhood is,
I can only end by saying that I myself have come
that God has used the lessons of motherhood to help me become
more gracious, Godly, and wise.
One’s children can be both a source of joy and exasperation at the same time. I know, I have three.
Recently I was slated to read a piece at Writer’s Read-Aloud, and since most of the other authors were reading narratives, I thought I’d do a poem.
Since my children had been uppermost in my thoughts that week for a variety of reasons, I decided I’d write about what I’d learned from them. The poem below was the result.
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM MY CHILDREN
What I have learned from my children through their years in my care
Is that days are but minutes that they long to share;
That quantity of time is what they most seek
Over the quality of task I so often bespeak;
That it’s through the struggles that patience is learned
And experience brings wisdom discerned;
That mix-matched clothing is quite okay,
And wearing pajamas to school is not risqué;
That one giggle can brighten even the worst of days,
Bringing a hopeful perspective that laughter conveys;
That kindness must be taught
Through my words, actions and thought;
That splashing in puddles is actually quite fun,
As my children and I dance to the Charleston;
That playdough is therapeutic to the mind,
And ice cream sundaes for dinner is quite refined;
That reading the same story 2,389,416 times in a lifetime won’t actually harm me,
But singing the same song 2,389,416 times in one day is just crazy;
That the box really is the best toy of all time,
And even the littlest of children can learn how to climb;
That being able to play in life is really the best
For learning how to work well and get good rest;
That it’s not whether we color in or out of the lines
but the variety of color we add to the designs;
That a child’s “I love you” is the sweetest sound I’ll ever hear,
While “I hate you” is like the piercing wound of a spear;
That one harsh word will stay with my child for years,
While one well-timed hug ends all the tears;
That gentle words do turn away wrath
And surprise me with a new relational path;
That dancing in the rain is a most necessary of rites
For teaching my children about life’s delights;
That my children desire my presence more than they say,
Even as they grow older and desire their own way;
That they can bring out my worst,
But fortunately also my best will be dispersed;
That they require more than just my care,
For raising them is a communal affair;
That they help me to see how I am flawed
And in need of the help of others and God;
That they are for my benefit,
For they teach me how to submit;
For what I have learned from my children I now know
Is that they are God’s gift to me so I can continue to grow.
Being a mother is one of the most difficult roles I’ve ever had. There have been great moments of joy, but I’ve also experienced moments of pain. When my oldest was about five, I learned for the first time how a child’s words can hurt, even when you rationally know that she doesn’t mean what she says. The short story below was the resulting story of that particular moment.
A Mommy’s Heart
As parents, we give much to our children: our love, our time, our very selves. Our reward is the love our children give back to us. For some parents, though, a time comes when one of our children may voice the one thought that pierces our hearts. For myself, that time came when my oldest was five. Maybe some of you parents can empathize with what happened . . . .
“I don’t want you to live here anymore; I only want daddy!”
The words echoed into the silence that followed my five year old’s outburst. Seconds became minutes, and still, neither of us spoke. She simply stood. Feet apart. Arms folded onto her hips. Her jaw jutting out. Every muscle vibrating with defiance.
As I stared at her, a merciful numbness overtook my heart. To feel nothing seemed the best defense I had. Her words could not pierce a shielded heart. The walls of a cold heart could keep out the tidal wave of both the anger and sadness that threatened to overtake me.
I racked my brain for something to say. Anything. Five years old, and she knew the very words with which to wound me. Thirty, and I had no response. Finally . . . .
“Fine,” I said, “I hope you’ll be very happy with daddy.” What was I saying?
“Good. Daddy will let me go to bed late. I’ll play computer games all the time. I’ll go to daddy’s work. Daddy’s not mean like you.”
“I’ll leave as soon as daddy comes home.” I continued, “You’ll have no more mommy. No more hugs and kisses. No one to cook for you and do your laundry. No mommy to take care of you.” Had I lost my senses? Obviously.
“I can take care of myself,” she responded. “Maybe I’ll find a new mommy.”
“Great,” I said, “I hope you enjoy your new life.” Good grief. I’ve definitely gone off the deep end.
“I hope you have a good life, too, mommy,” she said.
I stared at her. The cruelty of her words stung me. I could feel my shield cracking. To say one word would bring the walls tumbling down around me. So, I chose silence. Again seconds became minutes. Eternity seemed to have begun in my kitchen. Would the anguish drown me?
She turned and walked into her playroom. I could hear her moving some toys around. I slowly walked to the closet and took out the broom. With deliberate movements I began the familiar routine of sweeping the kitchen floor. The kaleidoscope of anger and sadness became black again.
Swish. Swish. The crack in my shield was mending. Swish. Swish. The walls were being rebuilt.
She came running back into the kitchen. “Did you hear what I said, Mommy?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied. Swish. Swish. Swish.
“Oh, because you didn’t say anything, and I wanted to make sure you heard me,” she said as she ran back into the playroom.
I put the broom away and turned the kitchen faucet on. Clink. Clink. Clink. The sympathy of the dishes was comforting.
She ran back into the kitchen. “Mommy?”
“Yes,” I said. Clink. Clink. Clink.
“I want a hug.”
“I thought you didn’t want a mommy,” I replied. “Why would you need a hug from me?” Clink. Clink. Clink.
“Well, I don’t want a mommy,” she said, “but I want a hug so I can remember you.”
Slowly I turned the faucet off. I dried my hands and turned to her. She gave me a hug and ran off into the playroom once again.
I picked up the toys from the family room and thread my way through the maze of tupperware and cups my twenty month old had strewn on the floor. I walked into the playroom.
There she sat. Legs crossed. A book in her lap. Her head bent. Her sister sitting next to her, watching as the pages turned. She looked up.
“Will you read to me, Mommy?” she asked. Was that a thaw I felt?
“First I want to talk with you,” I said. “I’ve decided I’m not going to leave you. I love you too much to let you grow up without a mommy to take care of you. But I want you to know that you hurt mommy’s feelings by saying you didn’t want me as a mommy anymore.” That’s definitely a trickle.
I looked at her staring at me with wide eyes. “Do you understand why mommy was hurt?” I asked.
“Because I was mean to you. I’m sorry I said I didn’t want you as my mommy.”
“I forgive you. You know I love you very much.” Watch out! The walls are cracking!
“I love you, too, Mommy. Can you read to me now?” she asked.
“Yes, I can read to you,” I replied.
I sat on the floor and crossed my legs. She settled herself on one knee while I pulled my youngest onto the other knee. With my arms around them both, I began to read the story.
Flip. Flip. Flip. As the pages turned the flood began. Slap. Slap. Slap.
One drop fell to the floor. Then another. Slap. Slap. The pages kept turning. Flip. Flip. The tears kept flowing. Slap. Slap.
She turned to look at me. “What’s wrong, Mommy?” she asked.
I snuggle her and her sister closer to me. “You won’t understand now, sweetie, but you will someday.”
Someday. Someday I’ll show this to you, my sweet.
Maybe when you have a five year old of your own.