As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Yes, My Hands are Full

Any parent of more than one child has likely heard countless times the classic line, "you have your hands full!"  It is one of the most commons things I hear out and about with my brood, and it used to drive me crazy!  The first few times I struggled with how to respond, because I never want my family life cast in a negative light (as much for the sake of my kids, who hear every comment sent their way and have started making comments like, "everyone says that!")  Moms of many talk about how to respond lovingly, and I tried one of my favorite lines - "yes, but so is my heart", but it always felt more like a Halmark card than something I would actually say.  And then one day, quite by surprise, I just answered what was on my heart, and it was so freeing.

It was after Mass at a parish we were not accustomed to attending, after the closing hymn, when a lovely middle-aged couple approached us in the back pew.  I was busting with child in my ninth month of my seventh full-term pregnancy, and we had spent the entire Mass wrangling our wild crew. There was a sense of delight as the husband's eyes met mine and he said that line I have heard so very many times - "You've got your hands full!" And I responded, simply and joyfully, "yes, I do!"

He and his wife went on to talk about how they were from big families, how their own children are grown, and how you don't see many big families these days.  They asked the kids ages and were genuinely happy to have seen them.  They were descending into the trenches and telling us, "hey, we know what you're doing isn't easy, but we're so happy you're doing it!"  And I realized that maybe "you've got your hands full" isn't negative.  Maybe it isn't something that needs to be defended or get angry about - maybe it's just an acknowledgement of reality.  I am busy. My hands are very full.  Sometimes it's blissful and happy and joyful.  And sometimes it's horribly tiresome, mentally draining, and exhausting.  Is it wrong for someone to acknowledge that?  Do I need to get angry simply because someone has given me an opportunity to be real?

Since that day I haven't worried about what to say.  We still hear it all the time, and why not?  When you see us plodding through the grocery store, baby strapped to my front, older child pushing our cart, and me shouting after my three- and five-year-old to "stay close to Mommy," and "please put that down," and "if you don't get back here right now we're going to the van!" you'd be very ignorant not to notice that my hands are full.  But that doesn't mean my life is bad.  And when you open the door to that conversation, it gives me an opportunity to show you that I am happy in this life.  With all it's craziness and mental drainage and life and chaos - I'm happy.

Moms, I know it's hard to hear the same things all the time.  But I encourage you to own it, this life of craziness.  This life where your hands are very full. And when people can't help but comment on it (because really, it is something of a sight!), instead of stewing and worrying about how to be positive (or how not to tear a strip off of someone!) just give "yes" a try.  In my experience even (and maybe especially) on the very worst of days, when I say, "yes I am," to a person who has commented on my busyness, it is an incredible relief.  I am met with encouragement and praise, of which I am completely undeserving, but which serves to build me up.  People are genuinely good, and when we receive their comments in the spirit they were intended, when we take down our defenses and let people in, we will find there refuge and solidarity to help us on this journey.  And if we are met with negatively, it is quickly diffused by a smile.

This is what it looks like to have your hands full.  Maybe when people say that, they are affirming a good.  "You have your hands full," people so often say to me.  Yes, yes I do.  And what a joy it is.

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