I took my son to his first funeral yesterday. We honored a family member of a family member -- someone not related to me but close to several people I love. I wasn't sure exactly how a 6yo would do, but I wanted him to be able to meet some extended relatives who were traveling in for the service.
Since it was a Sunday and he'd already sat through Sunday school and church, I was really hoping he'd be able to sit quietly for another service. Thankfully, he did great! I was wondering if he'd have questions about anything, and he did not--partially, I think, because the gentleman was cremated so there wasn't a viewing or a casket. Also, maybe because we were in a new place and he had plenty of new scenery to look at (including the occasional uncle in the crowd making a funny face at him).
I got to thinking that my kids are both something to be protected and my strongest armor. The protection part is obvious -- my job as their mom is to keep them alive and help them thrive. But the armor aspect is a new experience for me. I realized, I wanted him to come so I wasn't alone. He's his own little person now, and frankly, my friend.
Without my kids in tow, I'm exposed to the world. They are an energetic little hive that surrounds this queen bee, always giving me a socially acceptable excuse or a side-splitting story. It's not that they never frustrate me, it's just that balance of having fun with them and bringing discipline to them is my normal. Without them, I'm wondering about more than where I left the diaper bag... I'm wondering what to do with my hands, how to get out of this tedious conversation, and how to eat all this cake without people wondering what is wrong with me.
(Kids are the best cover for eating nasty food. People always assume you are dipping the french fries in chocolate milkshake for them instead of the truth which is that that you're gross because you think it's freaking delicious.)
My kids are my armor against awkwardness -- because they would pick a booger and wipe it in my hand were I ever speaking to the Pope. You really can't feel awkward about yourself when there's a 3yo nearby who has his undershirt sticking out the wide-open zipper of his pants, can you? It's like you have a built-in Jerry Gergich (Park 'n' Rec) following you around to always make you look polished. These jeans may not fit my mama figure so well anymore, but at least I look better than THAT GUY with the nutella smeared up to his ears, am I right?
My kids are my armor against boredom. I don't mean just the endlessness of the laundry, dishes, and toy clean-up... I mean the endlessness of the laughter and new discoveries. Following a series of unfortunate events, my kid bit into a mayonnaise and jelly sandwich the other day. That's both new and hilarious. They get excited over everything: the dead stink bug in the corner, whatever that thing is the dog is poking, new packaging for their favorite cereal, the way my lotion smells. My 3yo son will literally look out the window and come running to tell me that he saw a tree. You can't buy that kind of excitement.
My kids are my armor against self-loathing. I don't need to reiterate what you already know about our culture and the way it pressures women. But my kids are full of compliments. Just the other day, my 6yo told me I was gorgeous when I handed him a hamburger. The 3yo called me "beeeeeeee-yootiful" when I lifted him out of the grocery cart this morning, and the 2yo has started giving really loud kisses. I can feel pretty crappy about myself in the morning as I shuffle the house in my slippers, but then my 3yo looks at the same robe I wear every day and exclaims, "Mommy, I love your new dress!" And I think to myself with a smile, Ok, Cinderella, we can make it one more day.
I think it's weird to say that I "enjoyed" the funeral, because it was a solemn time, as expected. But it was wonderful to gather with people I love and catch up with some I haven't seen in a long time. But even better, it was great to be a mom and enjoy watching my kid be a kid. He blissfully ran around a church fellowship hall with two other kids he'd never met, who were of course, instant best friends because of the following conversation:
6yo: Hi, I'm Lincoln. Are you wearing a dinosaur shirt?
4yo: Yes, I like dinosaurs.
6yo: Me too!
By the end of the hour, they were growling together in a secret language. As the first-cousin-once-removed or possibly the second cousin (I always forget how those relations work?) left for his long drive home, he turned to my son and growled loudly. Linc waved, then got a little misty as he turned to me and said, "I know what that means. I can translate dinosaur. He said 'goodbye.'"
I like my kid.