When I became a mother, I wasn't prepared for the tedious monotony--
around the clock feedings,
diaper changes (for the record, I'm on a ten year streak)
the insurmountable Vesuvius of laundry,
the chronically dirty dishes and the never empty dishwasher.
The care and feeding of little people was important but I couldn't (and still can't) always feel the gravity. Bathing children and dressing them--sometimes more than once because the toddler pooped in the first outfit and poured ketchup down his front in the second--felt redundant and time consuming...and boring.
In addition to the tedium, I had to learn to deal with all the annoying things little kids do, albeit unintentionally (most of the time), but annoying all the same. Actually, I'm still learning this one and find myself stretched every day by my children's innocent antics. For example, a few weeks ago I was taking a bath and Camille got the ingenious idea to take fistfuls of toilet paper and drown them in my bath water. Every time I told her no it was like I issued her an engraved invitation torun over the tp dispenser, grab more toilet paper, and wash the the wads into the water. For the remainder of my tub time, I pulled wet, floating white globs off my wet body.
It was annoying.
Or how about the fact I can't find the off/off nob for the white noise machine I use during Camille's naptime? The only way to turn it on is to plug it into the electrical outlet because in her attempt to "help" me one day, Camille "accidentally" pulled it off. And where is it? Who knows, but the missing nob perturbs me every day around 1 pm.
These types of small vexations bulldozed me during my first years as a mother. So did the monotony; I often thought if I didn't die from boredom, I would gouge my eyes out from it. Over time, however, I've become more accustomed to the boring and monotonous and now, I even see it's importance.
(Quit rolling your eyes and let me explain.)
One morning, not long ago, I heaved my tired body down on the throw rug in my bed room. I had just finished running and I was sweating and groaning and trying to sum up the energy to drag myself to the bath when Millie appeared in front of me carrying a pack of cards in one hand and her Dora The Explorer Doll in the other.
She laid down right on my stomach, propping her head with her elbows, and she kicked her feet up and down.
"You tired, Mama?" she asked me.
Yeah, I'm tired," I said.
"You want some water?" she said.
"Yeah, I want some water, I answered.
"How about some orange juice?
"Sure," I agreed.
"Apple juice instead?"
"Sure," I said.
I was tempted to move her body off of mine, to end the conversation so as to get on with other business. I was wet with perspiration and physically exhausted and Camille, as always, was way in my personal space. But I let her lay on my stomach, talking and kicking her feet, and that's when she said it:
"I love you, Mama"
She touched my face, tilted her head, and grinned at me and I realized then that it's in the monotony of motherhood that we mothers plant seeds we won't reap for years. Yes, the daily grind of motherhood is tedious and boring and sometimes downright annoying. But every once in awhile, amidst toddler fist fights and spilled yogurt and arguments over toys, I'm reminded that my presence alone is worthwhile to my children.
These kids need me to be present.
They need me to wipe their bottoms and prepare their meals and love them in a thousand small ways.
The mundane is fertile and hollowed ground and the work, though at times mortifying and boring, is the most important I'll ever have.
To my children, my presence and my work is priceless.
"Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to one who has nothing. Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could."
-St. Gregory Nazianzen