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.
And 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.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I was having a rough "Mom" day today and just feeling like I am failing. I totally threw my to do list out the window because I realized my daughter forgot her show and tell and ran it to the school instead. I have torn apart my house trying to find my son's library book that he couldn't find for library day today. These things are important….groceries and laundry can still happen tomorrow but there are only so many more library days and show and tells. Thank you for reminding me!!!

  2. I want you to know that you have helped me appreciate these little moments that you're speaking of. I love being a mom. And your posts the past couple of years (since I've been reading) have touched my heart, and made me thankful for all stages of my 2 babies lives. Getting them ready for church has become my favorite day to get them ready.
    Putting a dress on my girl.
    Snapping that tiny tie around my boy's neck.
    I love it.
    Thank you for helping me appreciate the small, meaningful things in a mommy life. 🙂

  3. Thank you for this sweet reminder that came at the perfect time. As a mother to three squirming little men at church (6, 4, and 1) I am grateful for the reminder that we can always try again, to be better and to be grateful.

  4. I've been reading your blog since before Lucy went to kindergarten (that post is one of the first I remember), and I think this one may have been my favorite ever. I have 3 little boys (6,4,3 months) and this just hit so close to home. I loved every word. And you are so right about all of it. Thank you for this post! ❤️

  5. Well said! Motherhood in all its glory! And it never ends no matter how old your children are. As a Grandmother I can stop and enjoy those "dabs of hair gel" moments because I know they don't last long. They're grown in a flash! Thank you for posting this today.

  6. I won't go into details because it isn't at all necessary, but it's been a rough mothering day with three toddlers and feeling like a total failure. I decided to come to your blog as I tend to do on the hard mothering days. These words felt like manna to my soul today. Thank you.

  7. So beautiful Shawni. I love that you find beauty and meaning in even the smallest moments… it's why your blog is one of my favorites. Thank you❤️

  8. Beautiful! That little dab of hair gel means in the world in sense of a mother's love, determination, and strength. Hope you told her what an awesome job she's doing. That encouragement from a more experienced could make her whole week!

  9. Thank you Shawni, this post really touched me. Lately I have been missing my "little" girls, missing those "in the thick of it years." Thanks for reminding that all stages of Motherhood are wonderful and no matter how old our children become they still need us. 🙂

  10. You make me remember the reasons I love being a mom❤ Thank you so much for all your thoughtful words that fuel so many of us to keep on keepin' on:).

  11. Crying! I truly adore motherhood, as you do. You're such an encouragement to me and have been for YEARS, shawni. Keep being you, it blesses everyone you come into contact with (and online!)

  12. I love all your posts Shawni but have to thank you for this one. Especially on a night when I just reached my wits end (as in I LOST IT!) with one of my kids and need to be reminded that there are second chances. Boy oh boy, I need those second chances often! And as I sat down feeling like a failure tonight and knew I could use a boost from reading your blog I was more than rewarded with just the message I needed to hear. An answer to my prayers, thank you for sharing this!

  13. This is spot on to something I've been thinking about! I once thought to myself in church "these people have no idea the work it took for us to get here!" Then I realized they were just me a few short years ago and I was so grateful to be in my "stage" of mothering because I will be in their stage too soon and missing having babies climbing all over, pulling ties off, screaming, and smashing cheerios.

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