At church a few weeks ago we sat behind a family with three wriggling young boys.
They made me miss my babies, two sharing my lap at the same time, smashing Cheerios, occasionally letting out a wail. Me helplessly wrestling to keep my skirt down.
But those days for me are now swept away gathering dust.
As we sat there quietly behind that young family, my children relatively still and significantly reduced in numbers from the old days, Claire trying to get up the guts to ask to steal their baby for a little bit, I noticed a little cowlick smoothed over with a little dab of hair gel on the back of one of those boys heads as he rested it on his mother's shoulder.
And for some reason that little dab of gel triggered in my soul the deepest sense of overwhelming gratitude for motherhood.
To think of that mother wrangling all those boys up, out of bed, scooping food into hungry mouths, ironing shirts, finding belts, getting on their eye level straightening ties, perhaps giving a little pep talk about reverence on the way out the door. And yes, not forgetting to try to tame that little unruly cowlick on the back of her oldest's head.
I remember the same kinds of mornings.
Mornings where the hoopla of the "getting ready" ritual had become so common-place that I would forget that what I was doing was almost holy and in a way a kind of love ritual. My mother muscles working like clockwork, a well-oiled machine. A scoop of baby food in one mouth, opened to me like a baby bird. A correction of grammar over my shoulder, a wipe-up of a spill, a wipe-away of tears. And of snot too. Cheering at first steps, fretting over first teeth, at wit's end with tantrums, trying to remember to breathe. The moments of jubilation waking up for the first full night's rest in the newborn sleep-deprived years or the first words sounded out and read, and the moments of sorrow and darkness when I felt completely insignificant, like all my best-laid efforts were in vain.
And the moments of realization that God is a God of second chances.
And there I was again.
I realize that although those holy motions of motherhood faded over the years, they are still there, replaced and transformed with more.
More joy and jubilation: passed tests, college acceptance, jobs done with no asking, kindness exemplified, good choices that ripple, watching wings stretch out and sour.
And more sorrow and worry and hand-wringing as well: the exclusion from friends, not making the team, losses and failures, and ever wiping away tears and pulling up bootstraps.
But as I sat there that morning in church, my eyes fixed on a little dab of hair gel, gratitude spread to the very tips of my toes and fingers for all of it. The old and the new. The mundane, the joyous, the excruciating and the holy. Gratitude that motherhood is real.
And that no matter what part of motherhood we're coming from, biological or adoptive or wishing to mother yet mothering those around us in a way no one else quite could, we can all mother. And we all have been mothered. In so many more ways than one.
And I'm just grateful. That is all.