My 3 year old is sitting on my lap. She's practicing her counting by kissing my cheek, then telling me what number to say. Kiss, "say 1", I say it, kiss, "say 2", etc. We get to six before she falters at 7, so I lead the count as she kisses me ... 7, 8, 9, 10. Then we get silly and she smothers my face with kisses too fast to count. We both laugh and I tell her to stop kissing Mommy, tickling her as she laughs. She's singing her A,B,Cs as she gets dressed for the day. "A, B, O, Now I know my ABCs, Sing with me" Her 12 year old brother tries to sing them slowly with her, but she stops him and insists it goes her way. She sings it again. "A, B, O, Now I know my ABCs, Sing with me."
My 16 year old daughter and 12 year old son get playfully sassy with me. They say things they know are sassy, but with a smile and a tease. I look at my 12 year old son today, who isn't that far behind me in height and weight. He teases me, I tell him to stop sassing me, and threaten to put him over my knee if he keeps it up. I know he doesn't mean the sassy thing he says. He knows I don't mean it when I threaten to put him over my knee. Neither of us can keep from smiling, though we are trying to look serious. Suddenly I hear my Grandma, in her 70s, 80s, 90s - looking at grown sons as tall as her who are teasingly sassing her - and she is threatening to put them over her knee or kick them out of the house. How many times did I see that played out at family reunions, and how many times will I relive it with my own children?
My 14 year old daughter wants to share a funny thing she saw on facebook or heard on the radio. Her favorite part of a book, a movie she wants to see - she is so excited that she races through her words, sometimes tripping over them. My other teenage daughter texts me with updates on her day as she visits colleges or goes to work. My college daughter calls to think out loud at me, just like she did when she was home. I'm thankful they share their thoughts with me, that we can enjoy each other's presence.
My 5 year old and 9 year old sons are playing together in an imaginary world of transformers, then jedi knights, then hobbits and dwarves and elves. They talk so fast that only they can keep up with each other, half reading each others' minds, half speaking. I don't want to interrupt but I must get them to hear me so they can wash their dishes. Being heard in their make-believe world is hard, and they struggle to leave it behind and come back to the real world of chores.
My 7 year old daughter holds the baby on her lap, she mothers him, trying to do more than she safely should. She carries him to me, and I reach for him quickly, afraid she'll lose her balance and drop her nearly 20 lb. brother. She begs to cut potatoes or carrots with a butter knife, asks to stir supper, wants to try to do everything I am doing. Some days she folds more laundry than I do, sticking with the job when other tasks pull me away. When she isn't following me around, she's joining in her brothers' play, needing reminded to be ladylike.
The 7 month old baby smiles when I walk into the room and cries when I walk out. He turns his head when he hears my voice, and laughs when I kiss his chubby cheeks. He sticks his fingers in my mouth, trying to grab my smile. He lays his head on my chest and snuggles into me, settling into sleep. I type around him sleeping on my lap, then sneak into the bedroom to lay him down. His eyes flutter open for a moment. He smiles sleepily at me, rolls over, and snuggles into the bed instead, quickly falling back to sleep.
5 daughters, 4 sons. Many moments are chaotic, loud, and full of conflict. This son punched this one. This daughter is arguing and whining about dishes. Another one has walked away from their schoolwork for the fourth time today. Sometimes I have to yell "Freeze" to be heard over a race, an argument, a wrestling match. Sometimes I want to hide in my room with a book for awhile ... away from the "Me first", "That's mine!", "Give it to me!", and "Stop it!"
But those little moments scattered through my day bring joy - the counted kisses, teasing banter, shared thoughts, snuggles, and siblings playing happily together. Those moments may be fleeting, but I need to remember them, and not let them be forgotten in the hecticness of each day. They are the good side of mothering that balances out the dirty side where kids say "I hate you", "You're no fun", and "That's not fair!" They are the relationship-building moments that can save a day that where it feels like I accomplished nothing.
Maybe we didn't tackle spelling, maybe I haven't folded all the laundry, maybe the kids fought all day long, and maybe supper was frozen pizza ... but deep down, my kids know I love them. Deep down, I know they love me. I guess we're doing okay.