The challenge of taking on an unfamiliar role, for any period of time, is an opportunity that I don’t always welcome with a warm embrace. Arms crossed, leery of the new adventure being presented to me, I cautiously step out into the unknown. My reward: walking into the life of another and gaining a new perspective.
I recently had the opportunity to step inside ‘shoes’ belonging to a loving mother of eight. A humble woman who makes raising six boys and two girls look effortless. Her and her husband, along with the oldest child and their new baby, went away for the weekend leaving me with five rambunctious boys and one precious girl: a rose among an assortment of wildflowers. Growing up in a household of five did little to prepare me for what it would be like to live in a household among so many, let alone run it properly. There were so many unknown variables that I could not plan for. The only thing for me to do: put one foot in front of the other and venture on.
I entered a home built upon teamwork and love. Not to say there wasn’t the occasional argument between siblings or the need to remind one of the younger boys that books were meant for reading, not hitting your sister. They knew how to help each other and work together to get everything done, even if it meant doing a chore that wasn’t specifically assigned to them. It was hard not to notice the amount of planning ahead that had to be done, not just for a weekend away, but also on a daily basis. It’s seemingly incalculable. I marveled at how a basic schedule kept chaos to a minimum and created a great flow for the day. The servant heart of a mother is inspiring but a mother who teaches a child to serve others is one to be admired. I saw the selflessness that was needed to be a mom, letting go of things I value like sleeping in and alone time. I gained understanding that those things aren’t as important as I made them out to be. Instead, my eyes were opened to priceless experiences that I will always cherish.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-“
“-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
(Quote taken from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
There were times throughout that weekend that seemed so surreal I wondered, “Had this ever happened to their mom?”
For instance had she ever been hit on by yard maintenance workers while taking the kids to the playground?
“Are all these kids yours?” “Are you married?” “Do you have a boyfriend?” “Want one?”
You know…I’m good. Thanks. You just keep leaning against your truck like you’re Joe Cool, smoking your cigarettes while the kids move your lawn equipment off the sidewalk so I can push the wheelchair without any obstructions in the way. Oh, boy!
Had she ever been consumed in conversation and research about a caterpillar one of her boys found, and then suddenly heard screaming and crying from a child capsized in her wheelchair while still being strapped in it? I immediately ran over to get the chair back up again and calmed the upset and frightened child. I’m not going to lie; it was kind of embarrassing to have people witness that. What were they thinking about me and the situation? One thing I can tell you, they sure didn’t want to know what I was thinking when I caught them staring and whispering amongst themselves.
Or did she constantly count the kids to make sure all were accounted for? “…one, two, three, four, five…oh no…where is…?”
How did she feel about a 5am wake-up call? “I had a nightmare.” One munchkin climbed into bed. Half an hour later, “I’m scared. I can’t sleep.” Munchkin number two hopped into bed. I just smiled as the two little bedbugs got situated, hoping to get a little more sleep before all the kiddos were up and ready for the day.
I tend to be a creature of habit and that may be why I enter new experiences with trepidation. No two days are alike with that family. I never knew what to expect but was thankful for the kids stepping up at any given moment to help me out. Oh, and after hearing my name over and over and over again (don’t forget this is happening times six) I wanted to permanently change my name by the end of the weekend. But nothing can replace the little moments that brought such joy in their simplicity, like sitting around the living room chatting while the younger kids built with blocks. Our conversations ranged from movies based on books (which is better, book or movie?) to addictions to worst injuries we’ve ever received. Surprisingly, a three pronged rake through my foot as a child did not win. Then there was the time I went upstairs to investigate the noises I was hearing from a bedroom that was supposed to have two sleeping boys in it. Innocent eyes looked at me and simply explained, “I’m building a fort.” And I cannot forget to mention the talent show that I thought was such a great idea. Some of the kids didn’t share in my enthusiasm. I was so proud of them for participating and showing off their talents which included block and Lego building, piano playing and paper folding. I accumulated quite a few treasured moments throughout my time with those kids.
Exhaustion took over as I drove home. I couldn’t help but smile as I reflected upon the last two days. I walked into their house timid and nervous wondering what had I gotten myself into but left filled with confidence and joy.
I am incredibly thankful that I was given the opportunity to live the life of another and gain understanding about a family I simply observed in the past. I am humbled by and deeply respect the caring mother whose shoes I no longer wear.
I do not tell you to walk a mile in a man’s shoes for then you would know only where he has been.
I tell you to live a moment in his heart, for in his heart lies his true character. –Unknown