By: Ally Burnette
“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.” -William Martin
A year ago we first heard her heartbeat. Boom, boom, boom. Life, unearthed from the secret place where her small frame began to take form. Today she is here. Her body rests on my body. We are tethered to one another; mother and child. Her heart beat is still with me, as she drifts into a late afternoon slumber. Boom, boom, boom.
In our day of incessant noise—the hustle bustle of the need to achieve, escapism, hedonism—we all too easily strive for the extraordinary for our own lives and the lives of our children. While these things in themselves are not bad, in a high dosage they can be lethal for hearts and minds. I believe we need quiet. I believe we need what is ordinary, much more than we realize.
It is my observation that many mothers today are living in an ongoing tension: how am I succeeding in my own life, how am I utilizing my talents and gifts, how am I learning and growing, juxtaposed with how am I being a present mother, how am I reveling in this short season, pouring myself out for this little one, who will be grown before the blink of an eye? These are the questions that I wrestle with nearly every day, and I am sure I am not alone in this pondering.
When a child is born, a mother is born, so the maxim goes. A baby is brought into existence, from the mystery of the womb, to the unknown world before them. The new person will experience a sea of small things for the first time, and we get to pull back the velvety curtain for them. Who is mother and what is behind the curtain for her?
Parts of me feel the same, others seem lost; some things are altogether new. This small being who grew inside me; I embrace her, my body continues to sustain her. Tiny toes. Rosy cheeks. Bright eyes look up at me, inquisitively. Her skin to my skin. She is my baby, I am her mother. My days are filled with feedings at dawn, my eyes remain closed; my body desires sleep. Morning light always trickles in too soon, yet it is in these quiet moments that I feel fully human. Though I am exhausted, my body gives life. Though I labored, feeling physically broken, I birthed my daughter—a new life.
The days can seem long, unextraordinary, and tiring. However, I am living a new cadence; a rhythm of the ordinary, if you will. I think of Terrance Malick’s film, “Tree of Life” for its portrayal of early childhood. The baby footsteps on the wooden floor boards. The mother coming out from the cream colored curtains to surprise her child. Soft giggles. The siblings running in the lawn. The silent prayers that pass from mother to children in the candlelit night. The film explores a number of themes, however this glory of monotony is what is dearly close to home in this season of my life.
The philosopher, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “the most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children.” What nonsense this is to the world with its beaming sense of endless opportunity, glamour, adventure. What is mother? What is this new identity—this new way of living, moment to moment in an ocean of ordinary? This is what is being born in me, day after day as I cradle my baby. Nursery rhythms. Warm water running down her body in the kitchen sink. First steps to come. Laughter. Flower crowns and fairy tales. Fresh laundry bathed in the scent of frankincense and lavender. Sleepy eyes. Bare feet on warm pavement. Heart beats. Boom, boom, boom.
This is life for us, right now. Some seasons will be full of exciting things; most will probably look more simple. To all of the mothers, who feel that their life suddenly feels mundane—it is often in the mundane where we can notice the glory of it all. I encourage you, as I have been encouraged, to revel in this new normal. Find your rituals, your rhythms, and create something new. You can pursue what makes you come alive, and be a loving mother; sometimes you will find its one and the same.
However, dear one, I urge you to give yourself grace to let these things unfold naturally. Slowly discover what is being born in you; what is life all around revealing to you? What is behind your velvety curtain? I am personally learning how to find balance; how to work and rest, as well as be a present mama when I am with her. Discover what it is that gives your emotions balance, what feeds your soul in this season, wherever you are. Discover, who mother is in you, at your own pace. Many mothers before me, have said, these were the days that mattered most in their lifetime: the ordinary days.