Sunday, August 31, 2008

Reflections on motherhood

It's a momentous day when you attend your new ward for the first time. The ward where we will be for the next 4 years - which is a really big deal for us. I have been anticipating it all week: planning what to wear, what the kids would wear, etc. Unfortunately, I realized today that I am judgy of new wards. When I go in, I go fully expecting to judge and be judged. Everything from the people, to the way the bulletin looks, to the speakers...all these things add up to give me an idea of what to expect from the ward. How fast we can expect to get a calling, whether or not I will love Enrichment nights, if my closest friends will be found there...all these things are going through my mind when I walk into a new ward. This is our 5th ward together - how crazy is that!
Anyway, so this morning I was a little stressed preparing for church, in anticipation of everything. After I had finished getting myself ready, I took Leighton out of his carseat and laid him on the floor to change his diaper and get him dressed. That's when I realized that my hand, my shirt, and my son were covered in yellow poo. I freaked out. I didn't really have another outfit ready to go (our clothing options are terribly limited until the movers come), and I was just mad. Leighton has never pooped all over before - why this morning, of all mornings? I started yelling up to Andrew in an angry tone of voice to run down and help me because I just "got crapped on." Just then, I looked down and saw Eva staring up at me with a look on her face that I'll never forget. She was confused and a little scared from my angry yelling, and the emotion in her eyes was strong enough to slap me in the face. I instantly felt overwhelming shame for acting that way - especially in front of Eva. I guess I have just always thought that she didn't really understand what was going on - I told myself that I would start acting like a better example when I felt she could pick up on it. Well, this morning it hit me like a truck - I'm there. She understood that I was mad, but she didn't know why. All morning, I felt so horrible. I couldn't really apologize to her adequately, so I just vowed to myself to do better at controlling my anger and watching my tone of voice from now on.
After that episode, I found myself in the congregation, checking out all the other wives there. Looking for kids the same age as mine, a cute haircut, a friendly smile...anything to tell me that I would find my new best friend. Alas, my unrighteous judging got me nowhere. First impressions are always deceiving anyway, this I know. But it seems like a good ward and I'm really looking forward to getting involved. Pretty sure I'll get the standard music calling, but that's okay. I'm still holding out that someday, somehow, I'll move into a ward where all the music callings are filled and I'll be asked to teach Relief Society once a month. My dream calling. Someday.
I met the Primary president in the hallway, and she told me I was welcome to take Eva to nursery to get her adjusted to it before she turns 18 months in a couple weeks and gets to go on her own. (My, how time flies!!) So, I went. And it was one of the most profound experiences I have had in a long time.
I took her in right as singing time was starting, so I plopped her on the floor and sang "Old McDonald" in her ear. I gradually backed away and stood farther so she could get more involved. She was surprisingly shy and stand-offish; she just sat there staring at all the other kids. Then it was snack time. I sat her on a bench by the other kids and went to the corner to observe where I wouldn't be noticed. They said a prayer on the snack, and I was overwhelmed with pride when I saw her fold her arms and bow her head for a whole 4 seconds or so. Who knew she was paying attention when I asked her to do that so many times before? I laughed when she kept trying to hand her cracker and cup to the little girls next to her and they pushed her hand away. For some reason, Eva never sets things down; she always hands them to me. Obviously I need to work on that with her. I thought it was better than her throwing stuff on the floor, which it is, but I don't want her to always do that.
As I sat watching her eat her graham crackers and raisins and drink out of a little paper cup like a big girl, I came pretty close to crying. I can't even put into words all the emotions I felt: pride, disbelief at how grown-up she was, excitement...everything. I just can't believe that she is just like other kids and can sit at the table eating a snack. Sounds stupid, but I just was so...overcome by her...normalness. My little girl, sitting there just like one of the class.
Following snack time, she threw her bent, chewed-up cup in the trash can and wandered around staring at everyone as playtime started. She had a somber, intense look on her face until she saw some kids running circles around her. She smiled at them, and for some reason it made me sad to see how excited she got by that. (I told you, I was an emotional wreck in there...there's no reason that should have made me sad!) Her favorite was bubbles. She shrieked with delight and giggled as she swatted at the bubbles. The only drawback to that was the over-sized little punk with the snotty nose that kept punching and kicking the bubbles and almost knocking Eva over in the process. Oh, boys. But she didn't seem to mind, even though I wanted to reach out and smack him and say, "Just leave her alone and let her enjoy the bubbles!"
She didn't acknowledge me for a while, but finally came and brought me a few dolls to show me. We ended up leaving a few minutes early because some girl kept taking Eva's coloring page and Eva was having a cow about it. (Oh, tantrums...) But overall, it was a great experience. I have been mulling over in my head all day the thoughts I had while watching her in Nursery. What has she learned from me, and what have I taught her about life and how to treat people? How has her personality been shaped by watching me? Will she be the kid in nursery who shares the toys? Throws screaming fits? Sits quietly by herself? Participates eagerly? Have I taught her anything good yet, or have I just been waiting until she is "old enough"? How can I teach her all the things I want her to learn, when I'm still throwing screaming fits myself?
Just one day experimenting in Nursery taught me a lot. I left there with a resolve to be a better mother and teacher and example to Eva. And as I sat watching her expand her world, I felt mine shrink just a little tighter around her.

4 comments:

Lisa said...

Great post! You are such a good writer. Poor Leighton- what a morning to have an explosion! Clayton used to do that ALL the time- so the morning of his blessing I dressed him in one of his diapers, then one of Brian's (bigger) diapers, then a onesie, then his brand-new, paid-too-much, but-so-stinkin'-cute blessing outfit. We managed to survive three hours without ruining the outfit, whew!

Ali Flegal said...

The "NURSERY" milestone... I just relived my own experience with Eliza as I read your entry. Can you imagine what it's going to be like taking them to pre-school... or even worse, Kindergarten? I still hound her teachers for details when I swing by to pick up Eliza. The hardest part about it, initially, was watching other kids pick on her or steal a toy. I felt like a Mama Bear, ready to pounce. However, now that she is one of the older kids, I am asking the leaders if Eliza is being a bully, acting like a Diva, or being a good girl. So far, so good... Good luck in your new ward. So far, here in the South, I feel like we've lucked out with our ward...Keep us posted.

jandcbate said...

Steph,
Hey long lost cuz. I just discovered your blog and I've been trying to catch up on your life. I'd love to talk with you. What is your e-mail. Phone # or anything so we can chat. You are so cute. I really feel like I understand how you feel. I sometimes think I am just as bad as my 2 yr. old in throwing tantrums-its so embarrassing. I hope I learn soon.
love, Charity

jandcbate said...
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