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When I reach the melt-down point boiling point with one of the kids — and one in particular — my brain starts to spin out of control. My body starts to fall into itself, the physical crash after an adrenaline rush, but my soul — because I don’t know what else it could be — swirls around like a tornado faster and faster

anger fear frustration inadequacy powerlessness

whipping around, rising

Until it stops. If I am still long enough, the emotions are stopped by that ever useful boiling-blood – brain barrier. The cyclone that tried to blast out through my arms and legs and mouth is contained in my head.

why how what why why why where have i failed?

Then my brain flings out frantic search beams into the cloud of memories, anecdotes, stories, books, advice, hearsay, logic, illogic; begging these diverse bits of information and theory to fall into some kind of semblance of direction.

It doesn’t. They don’t. I still don’t know what to do, and am too tired to search. But the whole hot mess subsides and I start to breathe again. Nothing is resolved, but we have survived another crash. We have made it one step further. We recover. I gather my strength. I know that whirlwind of negative emotions is indeed my soul, the core of my being, because there is neverending love at the collective root.

And it hits me that this whole wavelike thing feels familiar. I’ve done this before. This is labor. This is giving birth. This is maintaining and pushing through the peaks of pain of frustration. This is gathering strength in the moments between contractions. This is knowing that they are going to keep coming,

the contractions are going to keep coming,

until they stop.

They started when he was ready to leave the safe space of my womb, and they stopped when he achieved it.

Pain and doubt and anger and fear are then literally flooded out by love and pride. I can still feel the rush of that flood through my veins.

I can do this. I have to do this. No one else can do this. Each contraction pushed him farther from my womb, into my arms, always in my heart.

Where are these contractions pushing him?

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I had no idea how profoundly motherhood would change my interpretation of the world.

I can look back and pinpoint each perception shift. As a young nurse: collecting and assimilating individual bits of data into a comprehensive whole. As an aid worker: breaking down the comprehensive whole into its individual parts. As a well cared for, well supported, economically stable young woman: realizing for the first time that I could be treated unequally just because of my gender.

But motherhood? Shoot.

About a year after Karel was born, Bjørn and I and some good friends ran a half-marathon. I remember thinking I wished I had a t-shirt saying: ‘You think this is hard? Try birthing a baby.’ I felt stronger than ever. More connected to women throughout the ages. Your vision becomes simultaneously broader and more concentrated. I talk all the time about the constant ticker-line of risk analysis running through my head. (‘how much damage would a fall from that height do? how likely is it that he’s going to fall? How have similar situations turned out? He’s got pretty good balance i mean he’s been hopping on one foot since he was two ohmygoodness i can’t take it ‘GET DOWN FROM THERE!!!”)

Now the motherview manifests itself in ridiculous ways. Most ridiculously in the compulsion to pinch cheeks and smotheringly embrace half-grown men.

For example, one evening before Christmas Bjørn and I were sitting in a bar in Trondheim. Seriously, every time a group of nervous looking 18 year old boys walked into the bar with their button up shirts and huge scarves, I felt my maternal spirit actually leave my body in order to hold their hands and ask them about their lives. What are you really interested in?  I thought-stared at each of them. Besides wondering if you smell okay? Eye roll. Ridiculous, right? Do not even get me started on the young men we know here in Steinkjer, that live continents away from their mothers. Every time they bust out a silly grin my heart melts like it does for naughty toddlers, and in my head these men who have survived the worst of the world suddenly look like 2-year-olds. I want to pinch their stubbly cheeks.

Deep breath. Let’s say it together, now: RIDICULOUS.

I have to remind myself that I’m not nearly as big as I feel. That what I intend as a matronly, bosomy, comforting Greek grandmother hug would probably actually feel like being accosted by a crazy chicken.

But is it so ridiculous, really? Seeing random strangers through their mothers’ eyes? I mean, the effect of sending one’s flesh and blood into the world is fairly profound. For the past year I’ve worked part time at a nursing home. Many of the residents had some degree of dementia. The majority of them are women. When I was new, they’d tell me about their families. Again and again. About their children, how many they had and — before anything else — how many had died. Sixty five years later, the memory of the baby son that couldn’t be saved because the doctor couldn’t get through the snow storm lives strong. Or forty years later, the daughter who died of cancer in her twenties. One woman had two sons, both of whom were alive and well and lived nearby. She’s aphasic, and I’d never understood anything she said, until her grown son came to visit one day. She attached herself to his arm, beamed to everyone around her and said, ‘MOR‘ (Mother), clear as day.

I just about cried.

When it all falls away — all the things we’ve done, seen said, won, lost — the red thread stringing our hearts together in a line, or web, of human connection shines through in its beautiful simplicity. Not a new story. A story intended from the beginning of time, intended with the impression of His image stamped upon us.

 

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So these conversations happened today:

#1 (Me, three boys, and the kitten sitting in a ring on the rug around a bucket of LEGOs)

Me: So, Karel, I hear that you’re starting to sound like me lately. I mean, yelling at Emil to stop doing things. I’m going to try to stop shouting. Because here’s the thing: it never works.

(Thought but not verbalized: UNLESS you have the element of surprise on your side, in which case it DOES work.)

Karel: Yeah… EMIL STOP TAKING MY LEGOS!!!!!

#2: (In the car on the way home from little-kid-gymnastics, with all three kids, during which the middle child was a screaming hyper nightmare blatantly doing the opposite of all I asked, including but not limited too: running away from me while laughing like a hyena and exerting that maddening magnetic pull he has on his younger brother.)

Karel: Mama, I was wondering if you could do something.

Me: What, honey? (just lightly tinged with dread, hopefully unnoticeable)

Karel: Well, I was wondering if you could be a little more like me. Like maybe not being so angry at Emil and scaring him by saying you are going to leave him.

Me (sighing at the sweet injustice of being lectured on parenting by a 7-year-old) I know sweetie. I don’t like to get angry. I don’t want to scare Emil. I would never leave you behind. But you are seven and Emil is five, and you know what the right thing to do is… etc. etc….listen to your parents… keeping you safe… What AM I Supposed To Do?? when Emil runs away? I can’t leave Cai Ruben, because he’s only two. He could run off and I wouldn’t be able to find him…

Karel: Because he’s so small.

Me: Yes. (And because he is a lightning fast fearless maniac). So sometimes I just have to walk away to show you (ahem) the right way to go.

It’s so frustrating.

Karel: Oh Mama. I understand.

My boys are highly distractable, highly independent, incredibly difficult to motivate unless it’s something they themselves want (read: practically unbribeable), and are deaf to all sounds in parental-voice decibel range.

BUT it seems, friends, that if nothing else we at least have an empathetic listener on our hands . If only you could have heard the tone with that ”I understand, Mama. I really do.” Seven going on seventy.

Please excuse me while I finish my scotch.

p.s. The kitten is a real thing. Also a boy. I would write about it now except I need to eat some ice cream.

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Today I’m 35.

Thirty-five! I had to check with my Mom to hear if that is middle-aged or not. Evidently it’s not. Yet. Getting rougher around the edges with every year… and also accumulating nicer clothing. I suspect the two are related.

Anyway, today the sun was shining, Cai Ruben was the only boy home, and I was the only one sick. So after *our* nap, we spent the afternoon outside.

Honestly, after the past month of revolving door sickdom, having a few moments of walking down the road hand-in-hand with CR (in between the moments he was running towards any available incline) was one of those flashes of perfection God slips us every so often. The bright spots your soul stores up to keep you from hitting rock bottom when things are not so harmonious. The beauty of having made it to this lovely non-middle-age of 35 is knowing that when you get a moment like that, you enjoy it right then and there. I don’t expect it to last. He’s gonna run up someone’s driveway in about 5 seconds. And laugh and run faster when I call him back.

Or like when your four-year-old falls asleep on top of you in a way that is lovely and sweet and flashes you back to when his toes hit your belly button instead of your knees. Just. Enjoy it.  He’s going to wake up and start pounding his brother on the head (WHERE DID HE LEARN THAT??).

Or when our 6 year old knew that I meant it when I said that all I wanted for my birthday was hugs from my boys, and gave them to me all day long. He’s going to air-guitar with a chair  when he’s supposed to be brushing his teeth (no, I don’t have a photo, and no, I can’t describe it any better than that) and ”forget” that we put on pajamas every single night. But before that, for some reason, he’s going to suddenly think he needs to make me a present, and get the scissors and ask for glue and make this:

bilde (8)

which I love so much I can hardly stand it. From the bilingual phonetics to the self-cut hearts, to the scrap of paper is was wrapped up in. My mother-in-law told me I was allowed to cry.

I don’t know how he would react if he knew I pasted this heart-gift all over the internet out of maternal pride. But somehow, despite starting out my 35th year with bouts of sneezing and running eyes. Karel has set the tone for the next 12 months, and I think it’s going to be pretty allright.

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Here are the things I need to remember from the past weeks/months/year before they change:

  • That Emil Birk says ”godteri” instead of ”batteri” (that’s candy instead of battery) and ”bandasje” instead of ”massasje” (which is bandage for massage). This leads to very sweet sentences about the toy train needing more candy and asking me to bandage his back at bedtime
  • That my oldest son has calmed my anxious mothering spirit. We were sitting at the table talking together after Bjørn had come back from a business trip of several days. It had been a rather loud and fractious several days for those of us at home. So I said as much — ”This time when Pappa was gone wasn’t so greit (okay)” Karel: ”Really? I thought it was greit.”  (eyebrows raised) Kim: ”Well, Mama was pretty crabby.” Which was true. And maybe an understatment. Karel, dismissively: ”Yeah, but moms are just like that sometimes.” A simple statement, but it felt like absolution.
  • That Cai joins in the morning franticness of getting out the door by diving in and pulling out his boots from the massive pile of footwear in the entryway to try to get himself ready, but then reaches both arms up with an urgent ”Uh! Uh!” for goodbye hugs to the departing when I tell him he’s not going with today.
  • That Emil and Karel MUST hug before Karel goes to school even if they’d been antagonizing each other seconds before.
  • That Emil plans what he’s going to make with Perler beads at barnehage the night before. It’s his new obsession. I love it and am very happy to keep it a barnehage-only activity.
  • That Cai Ruben, almost 20 months, does stunts like this: 

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