Friday, August 05, 2005

More on Day Care

While thinking about Day Care last night, it occurred to me that Day Care is what many modern people believe motherhood to be. What I mean is that motherhood is reduced, like a machine to it's parts. Day Care, then, is a mechanistic model for motherhood.

What do mothers do? They change diapers. (Day Cares do that, too.) They feed children. (Day Cares do that too.) They read books. (Day Cares do that too.) They hold crying babies. (Day Cares sometimes do that too.) They clean up over and over again. (Day Cares do that most of the time.)

On a mom's worst day, doing these tasks with the detachment of a robot is an Olympic accomplishment. On her best days, though, the aforementioned job description barely scratches the surface. It's like saying Renee Fleming sings or Jeff Gordon drives a car. While it is strictly true it doesn't quite capture the nuance of their activities or how they accomplish them.

A mother, a mom, a mum, a mama comforts, feeds a kid when he's hungry even if it does modify the schedule and expresses delight over confusing pieces of modern art. A mom loves her child and wants her to be happy not just functional. A mom intercedes--giving lessons about why it is not a good idea to beat your sister in the head with a metal matchbox car, not just "it's against the rule and you get to sit in time out"--although sometimes that's all the lesson that can be mustered.

Motherhood while comprising lots of work that can be rightly called drudgery is not defined by that work. In fact, some of the best moms I know are ill-acquainted with the kitchen, haven't cleaned the playroom since the house was built and send their kids out in public in wrinkly clothes the kid picked himself. So what?

I also know moms whose houses are paragons of perfection and their children ghosts who move around the very important furnishings on the way out the door to vanish into the mist like aimless mini-draculas. Ever heard of Goth? Some neat-freak moms (and I know lots more of these) provide a perfect canvas for the kids to grow and create on. They create an atmosphere clean and ready for anything.

And then there are some moms who do the loving thing by getting a job and finding good Day Care because their mental health depends on it. In fact, one friend who suffers severe mental disorders would probably help her children if she got out of the house and worked so she could come back tired but more together.

Most moms are somewhere along the imperfect spectrum of parenting. Good days, bad days and in-between days making up weeks, months and years of investment into some one else's life. A mother's gift is her presence--a constant while the world swirls around.

A child knows when a mom is doing the best for her child. My nephew knows his mom has to work to take care of him--that she is doing the most loving thing for him. He may not like it sometimes, but he's okay with it.

My kids know that my goal is to help people have happier lives, but they have a limit to my "work". They know, even when I'm wrapped up, that I could cut back or spend more time with them.

What I have found, especially with a special needs child, is that while working is actually a break for me, it is hard on them. My kids prefer me being around--even if they are watching a video or playing on their own. They know Mom's here. They can relax.

Some days, my body tired, my mind fried, my clothes smelling, my eyes bleary, my business self longs to be paid for the hardest work I've ever done. No boss giving me positive feedback for teaching my kids to read, no bonuses for making dinner twice that week when the year-long objective was one good meal, no attaboys for rocking the baby all day when he's sick, no "congrats you made it" when stuck in the house for a week because a virus hits gets tiring and lonely.

Motherhood means for most people "sacrifice"--as in, I'm sacrificing my peak money-making years, or I'm sacrificing my chief creative potential, or I'm sacrificing time that could be spent doing something I really want. For me, though, motherhood is a trade-off where I unexpectedly come out the winner.

Ten years as a monk trying to find transcendence will not teach the lessons in self-management, finding joy in the moment and bliss that one year of motherhood will, or, for that matter, one month, or one day, or one travail to get that child into the world to begin with.

It reminds me of a Quote from "A League of their Own" (no not the classic,"THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!") when the manager chides the star of the team after she says, "It just got too hard." He says, "It's the hard that makes it great."

That's motherhood. Messy, challenging, aggravating, transcendent. It is a holistic interaction between imperfect people. Learning the real meaning of love. Knowing that God must exist because no creature is so beautiful as the one He gave to you. Lucky, blessed, little-old you.

Day Care might have the mechanics down, but the ART of childcare can only be given by a Mom.
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