I take care of my children because I'm their mother. I want the best for them. When the baby is hungry, I nurse him or give him some age-appropriate food. When his diaper is dirty, I change it. When my 2-year-old is done with his business on the toilet, I wipe him. When his older brother picks on him, I intervene. When my 4-year-old finishes brushing his teeth in 5.6 seconds flat and rinses out his toothbrush, even though I have told him repeatedly not to do this, I put more toothpaste on it and painstakingly coach him (for the 82nd time) on how to brush all the surfaces of his teeth. (Sometimes I do this patiently . . . and sometimes not.) When the same 4-year-old asks me a question, and then another, and then another, and then another . . . I answer each and every one of them as thoughtfully as I can. I am Mommy. This is my job. I do it out of love for my children, not for reward or recognition. (And it's a good thing too, because some days there doesn't seem to be much of either!)
So it still takes me by surprise when my children do something that lets me know they reciprocate my love. Recently I picked up my 13-month-old, a happy, lazy child who still isn't crawling (never mind walking) because he has found that he can get everywhere by scooting around on his bottom. I picked him up and held him close, as I've done thousands of times, but this time was different. This time he snuggled against me, put his chubby little arm around my neck, and squeezed! As I basked in the warmth of his baby hug, I knew that nothing prior to motherhood could have prepared me for the exquisite yet piercing joy I was feeling as we held each other.
Sometimes the constant demands of mothering three small children and homemaking can seem overwhelming, and they can skew my perspective. I would like a clean, clutter-free home. I would like to cook three hot, delicious, nutritious meals a day. I would like to wash my hair on a regular basis. But more than all these things, I want to be a good mommy. I want my kids to remember their childhood as a happy time of wonder, discovery, and love. So I'm learning to let those other priorities take a backseat to what is truly important these days. I'm praying that God will help me to be the mommy that He wants me to be, not the mommy that I or other people might try to pressure me to be.
Today is Thanksgiving, and we're hosting a gathering of 23 people—10 adults and 13 children—in our spacious new apartment. I have not yet finished unpacking from our move a month ago, and I just hope that the smaller kids don't decide to finish the job for me. People will begin arriving in just under two hours, and I have not yet mopped the floors or cleared off the kitchen counters (or gotten dressed, for that matter). I didn't find the time to make a pretty centerpiece or cut out colorful leaf-shaped cards that people could use to write down the things they're thankful for. But somehow none of that seems all that important. The things that really matter, the friends and family whom God has put nearby who fill my life with joy, will all be here, and we will enjoy a beautiful, chaotic time of love, laughter, and friendship. This year, that sounds like the recipe for a perfect day.
Happy Thanksgiving, from us in Ukraine, to all of you in the U.S. (and to all you American expats, wherever you happen to be)!
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