A couple of weeks ago, I took our Pilot in for its regularly scheduled maintenance. It worked out that my mother-in-law offered to have the boys that morning so, it was just me and the little girl. I was going to get a ride home but then through a certain turn of events, I ended up waiting for the car. Elliana and I did our share of walking around and we smiled at other customers waiting too. And then we met Ursula.
Ursula. She was a soft-spoken, gentle, older woman with bright blue eyes and sandy blonde hair. When she opened her mouth, I knew she was not American, as she had just a slight accent. But I couldn't quite place her ethnicity beyond European.
Then after a bit of chatting, I mentioned that Elliana was my youngest of four and only girl. She then smiled, eyes twinkling, that she was the seventh girl in her family and that the last one was a boy. She definitely had me beat. And I burst out laughing.
She then went on to explain that she'd grown up in Germany during World War 2 and that her father had fought in the German army. The more she talked, the more fascinated I became with this living relic of history. How incredible to meet someone who lived through that time. But as the time ticked by and she told me about her family, what stuck with me even more than an eye witness to an incredibly horrific time in history, was what she had to say about her family.
Don't get me wrong. She was respectful. But she talked about how her mother did her best but was very strict and didn't show much love. When you're number seven out of eight, that can't be a good thing. I can imagine her mother had quite a bit to carry at the time. And she even said that. She said she understood where her mother came from now with a husband away at war, terrifying things going on in the government and lots of children underfoot. But regardless, I could see, in the recesses of her eyes, that those younger years still stuck by her into her old age.
Not in bitterness, but in memories.
I didn't have very long with Ursula but the time I did have was really rich. We talked of her son, her grandchildren and how long she had been in the United States (50 years). And what I took from that conversation really resonated with me.
Here's what I was reminded of-my children are individuals. They don't understand that I have a handful of them. They all want me to be excited about their train track, cheer on their first steps and cuddle them to sleep. I can't simply treat them as a group. I have to remember that they are each little souls with hopes, dreams and a need for love.
Having a lot of children makes this slightly more difficult but definitely NOT impossible. I don't think that having a lot of children is a bad thing. Or that the only way to combat this problem is to have very few. On the contrary! I think having a bunch of kids is great (if I didn't, I'd be in trouble!). But, I must be balanced. I must remember. They won't always get the attention they want when they want it but I'm responsible, as their mommy, to see that they're ALL cared for. If they come at me en masse, it's my job to sort it out. They're individuals. They don't need to do it. It's my problem-not theirs. Rachel Jankovic talks about this in her book, Loving the Little Years. I would quote it but...I've given away all my copies and need to order more!! This conversation made her thoughts on the subject more real for me.
I think this is one of the major pitfalls I face as a mother to a lot of littles...forgetting that they're individuals. I see them as one huge blob coming to put their pudgy little hands all over me at once. And my "touching quotient" can be superseded long before they've had their fill!! But they just see themselves, coming up to their mommy who they love, merely trying to give her a hug or a head butt (ha ha-boys).
I've got to have the capacity to deal with it gracefully.
And that can only come through God's grace to me.
Unfortunately, I'll probably never see Ursula again. I would've loved to just chat with her for a time. But her story and her life, left an unforgettable impression on my heart. So much so that I'm thankful I ended up waiting a few extra hours at the dealership for the car.
It's amazing what God can teach you through others. Now I can only pray to keep that lesson in mind when they're all coming at me with muddy hands and feet, wet clothes from "watering" and sloppy kisses.
Take a deep breath...embrace the madness, kiss them all and then let it go.