Right now as I am writing, my two youngest children are literally painting their bodies. I have told them over and over and over again to only paint the paper, and yet their hands are covered in red, their faces look like filthy rainbows, and their shirts are smeared with "washable paint" that never seems to actually wash out. Am I disappearing?
Sure, I could stop writing and supervise their every streak onto the paper; but at some point, you have to back up and just let it happen. At some point, you just need a break. And if a wild romp of painting gives me a break, I'll take it; even if that means I'll ache with regret later as I'm scraping paint off every crevice of my home.
And that is the truth.
The bare-boned, honest, I can't-give-them-every-second-of-my-life truth.
Do you ever feel like you are disappearing? Do you ever feel as if the only purpose to your existence is for someone else? Do you ever find yourself wondering if anyone can actually see you?
Most days I feel as if I am only there to fix things, answer questions, shuttle teeny people in a crumb-infested minivan, find lost objects, smear peanut butter on bread, twist the cap off the jar of pickles, change to channel, rub backs, administer medicine, wipe bums and tend to others --always.
Recently I have found myself asking, "do I even exist?"
Just after receiving a wonderful writing opportunity the other day and I was expecting the world to stop and congratulate me, one of my children ran into the room in hysterics because he had lost his favorite toy, while another started whining for chocolate milk that she needed right-that-very-moment-no-matter-what. So, rather than basking in my glory, I had to forget about my emails and tend to the needs of my children. In that moment, I could not help but wonder if I existed anymore as a separate entity or if I had become just a continuation of my children?
That afternoon, as I was talking on the phone with a nurse at the doctor's office, one of my children came into the room asking questions and searching for his iPod. Did he not see that I was on the phone?
Shortly before bed, I told my kids to go brush their teeth. Do you know what happened? No one even looked up. Can they even hear me? Am I even here?
That night, as I finally returned to answer emails and do some writing, my daughter stampeded into my room, waking up my son who was asleep in bed next to me, declaring that there were monsters in her room. So I invited her under my arm and closed my laptop once again. With two littles resting on either side of me, my heart felt content; and yet, the urge to be more than this person ached within my mind.
I have dreams, ya know? I have passions. I want to write. I want to take beautiful photographs. I want to touch the lives of others with my words and stories. I want my name to be heard-- to be talked about, to be appreciated, to be noticed. I want a career. I want to write a best selling novel. I want a moment of silence. I want to be able to toast to my successes without interruption for just one second.
Here is the irony of it all: more than all of that I want to be a mother-- their mother. So, I put my junk on the back burner and get to it when I can because my right now is only temporary. These teeny toes and chubba-thighs only last for so long. These cuddles are only free for a bit. Sooner or later, I will have to ask--no, beg-- them to come lay with me in my bed. Sooner or later this king size bed is going to feel fiercely empty.
Maybe mothers were made to feel just a little bit invisible from time to time-- maybe it means we are doing something right. Hopefully it means that we have sacrificed just enough in order to give just enough. You see, our job is to nurture our children from the shadows as they frolick in the sun. Is it not?
And while my children bask in their glory, I will keep trying to remember that being called, "Mama," is the greatest accomplishment of all --even better than writing that novel I long to write. After all, a novel will never love me back.
Dear mother, you are not disappearing. I see you. They see you.