I know motherhood. It begs me to wake at dawn and shoves me toward sleep at bedtime but keeps me up some nights, too.
It negotiates the vegetables onto melamine plates and scares the children out of the street.
My motherhood shows when I count to three, and you know I mean it. I’m not going to tell you again.
I’m the one who hid the ice cream when I noticed Atticus was getting strong enough to open the freezer by himself, the one who relocated the plastic cups to the bottom shelf the day he decided to start getting ice on his own.
I’m a master detangler, the Skinned Knee Whisperer. I can find the second shoe, and I memorized the baby Tylenol dosages years ago. I know what Disney FastPlay really means and know that selecting it is a rookie mistake.
I know motherhood well enough not to talk smack about other good-enough mothers.
Because motherhood and I are so very tight these days, I can say with confidence that our Christmas Carols rival political conspiracy theories. Seriously. That “stable” is basically the Area 51 of the Gospels.
As a mother of human babies, I wager to say that writers have whitewashed Jesus’s infancy. Just say no to “Silent Night.” Sleep in heavenly—nope! There’s no Similac in Bethlehem. I don’t recall a single passage where Mary is dousing her tired things in cocoa butter while Joseph is wearing out his sandal leather trying to get Christ to sleep for the fifth time in two hours.
It’s just not there. I have so looked.
You know the songs I’m talking about and how close they are to recreating the soap opera babies that pop out in delivery scenes, all bathed and four-years-old. You’ve seen the Little People plastic nativity smile.
“Away in a Manger” prompts us to sing, “But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes,” but unless Mary roofied him with ancient Benadryl, I’ll say that’s about as accurate as Ricky Bobby’s creative account:
Dear Lord baby Jesus, lyin’ there in your ghost manger, just lookin’ at your Baby Einstein developmental videos, learnin’ ’bout shapes and colors.
It tickles me to think of the wise men coming a couple years later when the infant we see in nativity scenes is just getting to his two-year-old prime. Can you imagine? I mean, I just know how my kids pull out all the stops when we have company over. Son of God or not, Jesus threw a fit or two for Goldfish crackers.
You know he did.
So, when candlelight services get all “radiant beams from thy holy face,” that smacks of grandparent-speak and a land of sugared oranges and all-you-can-eat Blue Bell Ice Cream.
No grown man flips a table in a temple without a couple practice rounds in his early years.
Which means you know Mary had her sweet-Mother-of-God moments, too, or what I like to call leaving the house or 4:30.
We’re human. We fray. This is our proof of life.
It’s well known from my social media posts that I am least Christian on the way to church in the morning. When our children arrive, one in an iffy John Green t-shirt, another in rain boots, and the hanger-on with an insisted-upon tie worn backwards to simulate a tiny cape, and all three covered in donut dust, we still get high fives from the Guest Services team, and these saints just smile, helping us count heads to make sure everyone made it in from the parking lot. We’re seldom late, but they all run like the McAllisters in an airport trying to board a French plane.
Mother Mary had Tuesdays and 4:30’s, I bet.
See, aside from a raging case of love for one another, toddlers and mothers have one more thing in common: We melt down.
It’s the I give up, but I won’t, so I’ll just stand here and cry in the kitchen until you stop acting like a lunatic and I stop feeling like a failure.
It’s the I’ve had enough, but I’m staying anyway because we’ll both be worse off without each other than with, and we’re the best thing each other’s got.
It’s the I just can’t even, which translates, I’m sure, in every language and spans every century that’s ever been.
It’s the worn edges, the lines that finish out our faces, those scars that mark where love has been.
And, hand to the heavens, it’s this very fray, the wear and the unravel, that’s proof we’re all doing it right.