When you have a bunch of small kids, the idea of a relaxing Mother’s Day is pretty much a joke, especially if you need to get to church. No matter how capable the daddy involved is (and I’d say ours ranks pretty high in that category), waking, feeding, cleaning, diapering/pottying, dressing, and otherwise wrangling small children into church-ready departure status by 8:45 a.m. is a two-person job. That’s why we’ve done our Mother’s Day morning on Saturday for the past few years. At least it gives me a fighting chance for a few minutes of breakfast in bed enjoyment before coming out to see what kind of mess my little “helpers” left in the kitchen.
Just like moms don’t get sick days, we really don’t get days off, either. There’s always something to be done; always someone dirtying a dish, needing to be fed, or creating more laundry. We can escape for a few hours here and there, but usually it’s all waiting for us when we get back. That’s not a complaint, just a statement. When I take time off to go shopping, read a book, do a project for myself, etc., it means playing catch up later.
This year, we tried something different, and it just might be the beginning of a beautiful tradition. The kids kidnapped me and took me camping at our favorite campground. We have a travel trailer, and it was the first time we took it out this year. We went to a great campground in Ohio’s Amish country; it’s close to awesome restaurants (so no cooking for mommy!) and has an indoor pool, which was great fun for all of us. It was our first time camping with all four kids, and Zachary did great. We set up his pack ‘n play in the camper, and he loved swimming for the first time and snuggling by the campfire in the evening.
It’s not rocket science that four small kids require a lot of attention, and it seems like lately, in order to get anything accomplished around the house, my husband and I tend to divide and conquer: one’s on kid-herding duty, and the other one can get their thing done. Whether it’s grocery shopping, cooking dinner, or finishing the basement, this seems to be most effective. We frequently have the kids “help” us with things, but there’s a reason that word ends up in quotation marks: it takes twice as long to accomplish half as much. And while teaching the kids how to do stuff and having them work with us is important, sometimes we just need to get done.
The divide and conquer strategy works, but it means we don’t always have time just to relax and hang out as a family. The weekend in the camper was a long-overdue and much-needed time for all of us to just focus on having fun together and forget about everything else.
Gracie was pretty geeked out about Mother’s Day this year, and she informed me as soon as she woke up that I’d need to go for a walk for a while so they could do something important. She was all about the surprise aspect of the day, so she tried to sneak my Mother’s Day surprises into the camper. This included saying, “Don’t look! Forget you see me!” as she packed my gifts, and making up a wild story about horse-riding in a barn when they went into an Amish bakery to buy some sweet rolls for Sunday morning breakfast. She’s about as good at fibbing as I am (absolutely terrible), so that was funny to watch.
When I got the all-clear signal that I could return from my walk, I found four very proud kids (OK, three proud kids, and one small drooly one) ready to show off my sweet roll and their homemade Mother’s Day treasures. This included a book written by Gracie, and a Mother’s Day bonnet made out of paper during her free time at school. Because everyone needs a paper-and-yarn Mother’s Day bonnet, right? I also had a beautiful hand-painted flower pot and several other little treasures, but the best gift was having a whole weekend to relax and enjoy my kids.
I’m frequently guilty of focusing on all the have-tos and shoulds of the “Mom” job description: I have to make a good dinner. I should mop the kitchen floor more than once a season. Stuff like that. But a weekend like this reminds me that the most important thing a mom can do is set aside all that other stuff and love her kids. Give them her undivided attention and let them know that they are the most important things in the whole world.
Because before we know it, the decision will be made for us: they’ll grow up, and we won’t have to do the balancing act any more. We’ll have plenty of time for the chores, but we’ll miss those grubby little fingerprint-makers messing the place up. So I’ll be cutting myself a little more slack and soaking up the littleness while I still can. It’s already going too fast!