I walked home from dropping my kids off at school yesterday with a purple and orange turtle in my hand -- a child's forgotten artwork from the day before. As I walked, I reflected on just how much my life has changed in the past nearly 11 years since I became a mom. I really never thought I'd be walking down a public street with a dog leash in one hand and a purple and orange paper-mache turtle in the other. Here are a few of the things I discovered:
Before I had kids, I judged the success of my day by how much I got done. Now, I judge it by how patient I've been, how much I've taught my kids and how much laughter has filled my home.
Before I had kids, my house was usually clean. Now, my house is clean but not always picked up. If you arrive unexpectedly, you might find shoes in the family room, school papers on the counter and toys in my girls' rooms.
Before I had kids, dinner out meant a sit-down restaurant. Now, a sit-down restaurant is a rare treat. Counter service is quick and painless.
Before I had kids, I didn't appreciate silence. Now, I savor the rare quiet moment.
Before I had kids, I thought traveling was easy. Now, I know that a car trip with any child under the age of 5 is an adventure that requires a lot of planning. I also know that having a toddler kick your seat on an airplane is not the mom's fault.
Before I had kids, I had new clothes every season. Now, my kids have new clothes, and I wear mine until they fall apart.
Before I had kids, my purse contained a wallet, a pen, lipstick and a notepad. Now, my purse is like the Mary Poppins bag, containing everything from toys to gum to Band-Aids.
Before I had kids, I had plenty of free time in which to read a book uninterrupted or spend a quiet evening at home. Now, one of my primary jobs is chauffeur. Soccer practice, hockey practice and music lessons dominate our time.
Before I had kids, I would never have thought of splashing in the puddles, dancing in the rain, making mudpies, turning the living room into a pirate ship or having a Silly String war. Now, my imagination runs wild, thinking up new, fun things to do.
Before I had kids, I didn't know what it felt like to have my heart walk out the door every morning. Now, I know that while I love my kids, I can't shelter them from every hurt or unkind word. I can only offer comfort and love when they walk back through that door every afternoon.
Before I had kids, I thought I understood God's sacrifice of His Son. Now, I know that giving up His Son was the hardest thing He could have done. Allowing His only child to suffer when He had the power to step in and stop the suffering is a sign of how much He loves us. When John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world," I now have a better understanding of just what that means.
My life has changed a lot in the past 11 years. I now walk home with paper-mache turtles in my hand. Our schedule is often dictated by the activities of the two little people that live in our home. Time alone is a precious commodity. Time alone with my husband is even rarer.
But all of that is OK. Because this is a season, and it's all too short. In another 10 years, there will be no children in my home. Oh, I'll still be a mom, but this day-to-day involvement in their lives will end. They won't need me to direct their lives. They won't need me to make mud-pies. They won't need me to drive them places.
So, for now, I'll take the less-than-perfect home. I'll enjoy the rare moments of quiet. I'll eat at the counter service restaurants. I'll wear the old clothes. Because I've been given two daughters to love, guide and cherish. I don't want to spend time yearning for the pre-mommyhood life I left behind because what I've been given is so much more precious.