Friday, November 20, 2009
"You Don't Look Like You've Had Ten Children."
I get that all the time -- and I know it's meant to be a compliment, though I expect, more often than not, it's actually an involuntary reaction of astonishment at the double digit number. Regardless, I don't feel offended. It's better than someone saying, "Gosh, you look like you've had ten children!" And, all things being relative, there's no reason to bristle -- but, it does make me wonder... What am I supposed to look like after I've had ten children?
Here's what I imagine the critics think:
1. First of all, we mothers of many children are expected to be fat.
This should not surprise anyone who's hung around with the likes of us. For one thing, there's the exercise; boy, do we get exercise. Mothers of many children rarely get the chance to sit down -- ever. Which leads directly to the real weight control secret of large family moms: Because we never sit down, we never get a chance to eat. Our calories are burnt up almost as soon as we consume them. As soon as I lift the fork to my mouth, someone needs something, spills something, or chokes on something. Remember the dinner scene from A Christmas Story, when Ralphie's Mom never gets to eat because she's always dishing out more red cabbage and meatloaf-beatloaf? Multiply that by five. And, then add eight or ten nursing babies, one after the other, into the mix, and the fact that (unless we hide) we never get a bite of anything sweet without sharing it with a toddler. Any of us with a few extra pounds should be congratulated for our stealth and/or determination.
2. Mothers with big families should be bald.
But, most of all, by the time I had four or five kids, my oldest had started to become workers instead of work. With each new baby added to the family, another worker bee was usually joining the chore-crew. I now have a carefully groomed work force at my beck and call. (Well, I beck and call, anyways, and sometimes they actually do come and do what I tell them....) It's understandable, though, why many women wouldn't expect this happy result of our numbers; most mothers of smaller families remember the early, difficult days and believe that scenario will be multiplied exponentially if other children are added. But, compared to the old days when I had less than a handfull of children, my life is easy now. See me sitting here with my coffee and bonbons? Ecce quam bonum! Life is good! My hair may be going grey, but it's all there.
3. Our arms should be dragging the ground.
Secondly, one would think that our arms would be stretched to the ground due to the fact that: Boy-oh-boy, we "have our hands full!" I can't tell you how many times I've heard this. It's right up there with: "You don't look like you've had ten children." Actually, I've probably heard it even more. And, I don't know exactly whether the "hands full" comment is meant to be derisive or not. Perhaps it's meant as just a statement of fact. I take it that way, anyway,and don't mind the observation. When I feel the need to respond, I just say: Yessiree! Better than empty!
And, I mean it.
How could I ever complain that my hands are full when I know that they're full of blessings? It's all in the perspective. People who don't "get it" look at all my children and in their mind's eye see a big basket full of writhing snakes and snapping wolves. [[Shudder]] But, when I look at all my children, I see a basket full of marbles and jumpropes and little army guys and three-ring binders and sheet music and homemade chocolate chip cookies and mismatched socks -- and feathers, lots of them -- from their Guardian Angels' wings. It's a full basket. Maybe a little awkward to carry at times, but one I wouldn't put down for anything. Thank-you, God.
How Moms of large families really look:
In my middle age -- I'm forty-five now -- I surely do show some of the signs of a busy life. I'm only marginally overweight, I have all my hair, and my arms don't hang down to the floor, but I'm not untouched by the journey I've taken so far. For one thing, there's no denying that bearing ten children has taken a toll on my health. At one time, I would have resented the implications of that statement, but it's true that every pregnancy takes a bit of the life of the mother. That is not to say it shortens our lives if we know to take care of ourselves, but facts are facts: growing babies in the womb is hard work. It's tough on the old body. And raising toddlers and teenagers is mentally and emotionally taxing. Hard work, and no accident. True love involves sacrifice. God knows that no more complete bond can be formed than when a woman literally gives her lifes' blood to the infant growing within her; and the path to independence of our teenagers lies directly over their mothers' hearts. It's all hard. It leaves scars that most people can't see, but they're beautiful scars and blessed stretch marks.
If our children are not around us, you would never guess which mothers have born baseball-team-sized families, but I think we stand out in the crowd through the looking glass of heaven for the strength we've built in our commitment muscles and the marks that criss-cross our hearts.
And in the eyes of God, the scars of our sacrifices don't distort us, they transform us.