Church Nursery and the Lunatic Lottery

May 14, 2014

I have to confess that even in motherhood I’m not terribly sentimental.

It just occurred to me that Molly’s baby book still sits completely blank on the bookshelf, waiting to be curated with stories of her entrance into this world. To be honest, my birth story was wonderful only in the ways it delivered me a daughter. The other details don’t seem to matter as much much now.  I keep forgetting to write them down.

I do photograph Molly’s daily life, but I’m not very good at that either. Some people have an eye for photographic light and composition. I have an eye for an object… then I point my phone towards it and shoot.  Most of the time I end up capturing the baby in mid motion, with eyes half open, and a vague look of agony on her perfect baby face. I take great delight in sending these awkward, unflattering photos to my brother with the caption “meow meow beans” or with no caption at all.

If this isn’t the antithesis of sentimentality, I don’t know what is.

When Mother’s Day arrived, I didn’t expect to feel incredibly sentimental.  I love being a mom, but even the word “mom” feels new and undeserved, like when you get married and spend the entire first year practicing the word “husband” while staring at your wedding ring. I’m still practicing the word “mom,” trying to grow into it and find a variation that fits me well.

I think I expected the role of mom to come with a complete identity change, a wrecking ball renovation that altered all components of a grown up life. But the thing is, I basically feel like the same person, a slightly more tired and easily distracted version of the same person. Motherhood changes you, but not always at once.  The process is mostly gentle in the way it stretches you but only one day at a time.

I did a few things for the first time this Sunday, experienced some tiny renovations. First, I woke up to a Mother’s Day that positioned me as a guest of honor. There was a card waiting for me in the bathroom created by either by Mike or an underachieving Hallmark intern.  The card talked a lot about poop, so I’m pretty sure Mike created it.

At church that morning, I dropped Molly off in the children’s nursery, and when I did I got one of those numbered badges that track parent to child. They do this so that if your child starts acting like a lunatic, a number flashes on the sanctuary screen and all the God-fearing parents check their numbers to see if they won the lunatic lottery. One lucky parent exits the sanctuary early to claim their prize.

This Sunday, I got to enter Molly into the lunatic lottery, and it was a big deal.

Someone else held her for the whole service, which means I didn’t know what to do with two free hands or an outfit that stayed perfectly situated for 90 whole minutes.  I felt a little empty and a little free and couldn’t decide which emotion was an honest equilibrium. Someone else fed her a bottle and kept her entertained, while I kept twirling my lottery ticket between my fingers, holding on and letting go and realizing that this is what motherhood is.

So many friends wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, and for every gentleman that said “Happy Mother’s Day!” I enthusiastically replied “You too!”

I still stand by that.

We celebrated as a family and with friends. We took pictures. We went on a picnic.  I marveled at how such a small person could generate so much love, so much joy. She brings a fuller life that swells with surprise.

Then later, while magnificent friends watched Molly for a little awhile, Mike and I went on a shcooter ride. Yes, we celebrated part of Mother’s Day on a shcooter with our baby safely in a carseat in the vehicle behind. Mike drove the shcooter, I held on, and we both got a little sunburned.



It was my first shcooter ride since pregnancy. Another first. Another reason for celebration. The day was full of firsts, a thousand little memories that my brain will eventually filter, organize, and archive as our family history.

But the things I will remember about this Mother’s Day aren’t the overtly sentimental ones: the flowers, the card, or the beautiful meal prepared for me. I appreciated those, but they aren’t the captivating memories of the day. It seems that the sweetest memories are the ones that can’t be forced or planned or even structured by a writing prompt. They happen incidentally; they are steeped in emotional authenticity.

I will remember the smell of Molly’s head as I pulled her out of her crib and onto my shoulder that morning, the moment she exhaled deeply and nuzzled her head into my chest as if rest was buried there. I will remember the wind on my face and the feeling of freedom as we shcooted through Point Loma, not feeling like parents at all but like the reckless adventurers we are.

Most of all, I will remember the feel of that lottery ticket, spinning it round and round through my fingers for the expanse of 90 whole minutes with free hands and clean clothes. I will remember the great tension of holding on and letting go, the invisible dance between old and new, the growing pains of stretching into a whole new role.

Motherhood changes you only one day at a time, but Mother’s Day is one of the days I will remember. I write it down to be sure. Maybe that makes me a little sentimental after all.

  • Jsmi

    You have a remarkable gift of painting a story with words. Brilliant.

  • Mike

    I think I would make a great Hallmark intern! That card was genius!

%d bloggers like this: