To the Woman in the Bathroom

bathroom-signDear friend,

Can I presume to call you that? I hope so. Because that’s how I felt when we met eyes for a second in the women’s bathroom today.

I walked in with a baby in a car seat on one arm, a purse slung across my tired shoulder, and three little girls pushing to get around me. The girls were chattering excitedly, for a minute, I saw them as a stranger might.

I saw the black and white striped pants with the over-sized pink dress that Gabby loves to wear. I saw Ellis’s stained white tank top with the pink sparkly flamingo, and her black stretch pants that have somehow gotten a little too short over the summer. I saw Lucy and her curtain of self-cut bangs, trimmed up by her auntie but still managing to look like a short haired version of Farrah Fawcett. Gabby turned and I noticed I’d forgotten to comb out the bird’s nest in the back of her hair, the one she manages to recreate every night with great skill.

Then the baby started crying, and I whipped back in to the present, racing into the stall so we could get out before he started a full-blown beller of discontent.

I sat there on the toilet, counting the pairs of feet running past my door, and I thought of you, the stranger standing at the counter, watching all of us with a smile on your face and not a hint of judgement in your eyes while you washed your hands.

Friend, I’m so grateful for your kindness. I know most of the time, we are all a hot mess trying to get out the door. Someone’s shoes don’t fit, someone’s pants are dirty, and I’m desperately hoping that the blush I managed to swipe on my cheeks will make me look at least a little bit like I tried.

Heaven knows, I try. I wake up with Ellis at 6:45 most mornings, and haul the baby downstairs with us even though he’s not totally awake yet so that if he cries, he won’t wake up his twin sisters. I attempt semi-health conscious breakfasts and a load of laundry each day so that we have clean clothes. I remind myself to slam a glass of water after my two cups of coffee so I don’t get totally dehydrated and give the baby too much caffeine.

The day keeps going like that – full of tries that sometimes work, sometimes fail, but generally keep the wheels on the bus, and right now, that’s the best I can do.

So us out of the house this morning, dressed, fed, and generally in good moods, is a pretty good accomplishment. We’re definitely not the most stylish, but we’ve managed to get into the world and interact, and that makes life better.

And you, with your warm smile and kind heart? Well, I want to be more like you. I want to smile at people more. I want to not think twice about snarly hair or mismatched clothes, or even looks in general. I want to heap grace upon grace on everyone I come in contact with, knowing that being comfortable in another person’s presence is one of the greatest feelings ever.

Thanks friend-that-I-don’t-know. I needed that.

Maybe we all need a little more of that.

 

 

 

To raise a person

IMG_0326 (800x533)In the unmapped wilderness of raising children, it’s easy to grow short-sighted. I’m guessing it’s the “can’t see the forest for the trees” mentality. Basic needs come first. Snacks, playtime, naps. These become the rhythmic wheel rolling through our days.

Sometimes I forget, in the warm darkness of the twins’ nursery, or the quiet moments before I tuck my toddler into bed, that I’m raising people.

That my children are not going to be babies forever.

That they will continue to tack words into their vocabulary, and memorize skills with their tender hands and feet.

That they will, inevitably, need more lessons than I can teach and will go out into the world, eager to learn more.

***

I’m part of a Facebook group of twin mamas. This group posts their everyday questions, frustrations, and joys of raising twins so that by sharing our own experiences, we can create a collective of knowledge.

A week back, one of the mothers posted a story and prayer request. Her six-year-old son was involved in his first summer activity camp experience this week. Being the awesome mother that she is, she signed him in, pretended to leave, and then came back to observe how he did.

The story was hard. Her little boy bravely walked toward the group of kids already playing, and stood around the edges of the activity. After a while, he walked back over to the front gate and rested his chin on the top bar, waiting for the other three kids he knew to show up. Meanwhile, no one came up to him. No one invited him to play. After twenty minutes of knowing her son was unhappy, the mother quietly approached one of the group coordinators and asked him to introduce her son to some of the other kids his age. At that point her son saw her, so she knew she had to leave.

The mom ended her story with a brief reminder and plea. She told us that twins are special because they always have a built-in playmate – which means they have an extra measure of security in social situations. It also means we as parents should really encourage our twins to be inclusive, and to seek out kids on the outskirts and invite them in.

This all seems so far off. My main concerns of the day are whether or not my twins are ever going to learn how to drink from a sippy cup.

I forget the sippy cup is going to turn into a plastic cup, and eventually, a glass. I forget that the basic skill they need to learn now is going to inform their ability to move to the next.

***

As a parent, baby and toddlerhood are strange stages to navigate. My children don’t yet have the developmental capabilities to remember my lessons. This is frustrating. More than frustrating. Maddening.

But it doesn’t mean I get to stop gently picking the cup back up off the floor, or repeating “wash your hands” after every bathroom session.

Sometimes I look into my daughter’s stubbornness, and see God looking back at me, wanting me to see the same lesson I’m trying to teach her. Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrong.

It seems we are all sculptures in various stages of molding.

One day soon, something will click.  The cup will stay on the tray. The faucet will turn without anyone’s prompting. They will be ready for the next challenge, which after a few years, will move past physical skills and into social and emotional territory.

They will be faced with the playground. The classroom. The group setting. And I will be the parent behind the corner, observing my children not as children, but as the people they’ve become.

Does this mean drinking from a cup turns into eating from a plate? Does eating from a plate make one notice food, and does noticing food turn into helping in the kitchen, learning to cook, making meals, opening the door, feeding the family, serving the hungry, or understanding the complexity of the word nourishment?

I don’t know. But I’m willing to hope.