Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mothers' tea and community in the real world

Last week I invited a bunch of my mom friends over for lunch so they could all meet each other. I couldn't resist pulling out the nice tea cups I got as a wedding present and borrowing my mom's tea pot for the occasion. I mean, how often in life do you get the chance to host a proper tea party?

The lunch was so much fun. There were five babies between the ages of 2 months and 5 months old, five nursing mamas, and endless topics to cover in new-mom world. We tried to make the babies notice each other and laughed when they cluelessly grabbed each other's shirts or tried to lick each others' hands. Babies, man. They provide endless entertainment.

We held each others' babies and tickled them and bounced them and made them laugh, and then handed them back when they needed their diapers changed. We took turns using my changing table and putting our babies down to nap on our bed and in Frankie's bassinet. It was the best kind of solidarity and fun and support.

One baby is invisible because he was sleeping in the bedroom and his mom didn't want to wake him for the picture
This is something I'm trying so hard to work on—building community offline. It's so tempting to turn exclusively to the online world for community, with a wealth of blogs and Facebook groups and forums to engage. But none of those sources ever present the whole person, in all our messy imperfection, and ultimately they come up short. While I appreciate the online community, especially in a day and age when real-life community is not that easy to find, I am working hard to invest more of my time and effort into building relationships with the real people whom God has put around me, right where I am. This is why I love Auntie Leila's idea of forming "pockets" of supportive friends, and why I joined the "pocket" for Chicago. Are you in the group? If you are local, come join us!

After my friends left, I sank down on the couch to just sit for a while, wondering if motherhood really has made me an introvert, as I suspect it has. I still love socializing as much as I ever did, but it takes more effort than it used to.

Frankie had been awake since 4:30 and it was nearly 7:00, so I knew he was well overdue for a nap (generally he only stays awake an hour or two before getting cranky). I tried to put him to sleep and he melted down. Alright, then. Outside we went to stand for a while, since that always calms him down, and then I put him down to play on a blanket while I cleaned up from the party. Around 8:00 I tried again to put him to sleep. He melted down again at the suggestion. I left him in his bassinet looking at his mobile while I went back out to the kitchen.

I was tired and in no mood to deal with Frankie. I considered texting Frank, who was still at work, that I was on the verge of selling Frankie to the gypsies (my standard nonsensical threat when he starts to drive me crazy). I considered calling my mom: "Frankie hasn't slept in four hours and Frank is still at work and I'm tired! Come save me!" In the end I did neither of those things but instead had the inspired idea to rock Frankie in the rocking chair while praying the rosary. The soothing motion and repetitive words kept him quiet until Frank got home around 9:00.

Oh boy! Dad's home! Frankie is already his dad's biggest fan, and he started kicking and giggling as soon as Frank walked in the door. Luckily Frank was up for some fun and games after a very long day at work, so he took Frankie off to play and before long they were both lying on the floor, facing each other and laughing at each other's silly faces. We joked about our little athlete's mini-push-ups and Frank played the Rocky theme on his phone, which made the baby laugh even harder. I lay on the couch watching them enjoy each other, and all I could think was, "Life holds no moments happier than this." It's incredible the way that bringing a baby into our union multiplies the love a million times over. It makes me think of this darling picture of her kids Grace posted recently—in a loving family, each new addition only adds to the happiness of the others.

These little ups and downs—the lows of cranky babies and long work days, the joyful highs of gathering with friends and watching your son and husband play—that's what makes the good life, isn't it? I love it.

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