A few months ago, I read the girls the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We listed all the dwarfs, and assigned a dwarf to each of us. E was Sneezy, J was Sleepy. I asked the girls who I should be. E says, "You should be Grumpy, cuz you're grumpy all the time!"
I was disconcerted by this, and vowed to myself to be better.
Fast forward to today. I am reading the girls a Care Bear book. On one page was Share Bear, Cheer Bear, and Grumpy Bear. Again, I was delegated Grumpy Bear by my eldest.
For some reason, I'm not as sad about this as I was the first time.
I think it's because I've watched other moms. Moms who are fun and entertaining when speaking with adults. Moms who can complete thoughts, ideas and concepts with the intellectual level worthy of listening attentively. And then...they are interrupted by their children. And their faces go from unguarded and animated to focused and stern. They listen and think about what their child is saying to the best of their ability. They pass judgment on the Crisis of The Moment, all the while with their eyebrows furrowed. When the Crisis has passed, they clumsily go back to the adult conversation they were having. I realized they had switched into Mom Mode.
I didn't know there was such a thing until I became a mom.
Mom-Mode is not a bad thing. Not saying that at all. And I am in Full On Mom-Mode. My girls are five and four. I feel like this time is essential in guiding them through every little circumstance, so that they can learn to steer the wheel correctly as they get older. Mom-Mode can feel like Grumpy Bear to the kids. There are so many rules to learn. Really. Who can figure it all out at age five? But I have to try. I am obligated to try.
And I am obligated to give them my full attention when they need it, furrowed brow and all.
But Mom-Mode can have consequences. I have, unfortunately, seen many a mom who has lost her sense of humor over the years. Whose lightness gave way to permanent heaviness in spirit.
Who seriously needs Botox.
The process of motherhood changes you. It highlights your fears and insecurities. Your sins. It presents you with scenarios that may not be worst-case, but seemingly never-ending. I am ashamed to admit how little it takes before Cheer Bear morphs into Grumpy Bear. (I would love to have a visual for that. Highly entertaining to the Incredible Hulk set.) I have to find the joy in the little things, to praise the small accomplishments. And as a task-oriented person, I have to fight to do that for them. I have to value my children much higher than what I am naturally capable of doing.
According to E, I'm not doing that very well.
My hope is as my children get older, my brows are not fixed in a permanent pucker. That I remember how to be as funny and relaxed as I was before kids. (I know, as funny and as relaxed as is possible for me. Because I'm nominal at both.) I want to be funny and relaxed with my kids. Allow them to grow on their own, with my influence appropriately diminishing with their growing independence. I want to interact with them as equals. As sisters in Christ. As highly valued friends.
I want them to remember my love for them as a deeply joyful thing.
In the meantime, I will probably pull out the Care Bear book a couple of times a year, and gauge my progress as we read. I may never get to Cheer Bear status, but hopefully they will see less of Grumpy Bear in the coming years.