My response to the news over the past few weeks has been a mixture of anger, sadness, helplessness, and fighting for reaffirmation that my decision to bring my children into the world was a good one.
I brought my girls into this world promising them I’d take good care of them. I grew them and birthed them with hope they would prosper in our community and wherever they decided to go as adults. I made a choice as a woman, as a single woman at that, to take on this responsibility of providing them with the basic needs of food, shelter, love, and safety.
In a span of several days, I saw news stories of people dying in streets, in front of their children, in front of people peacefully protesting, while trying to provide for their family, and my response was to clean.
We live in a small apartment-about 670 square feet-and even at that size I cannot keep up on the deep cleaning. When I used to be a housecleaner, I learned the difference between light, maintenance-type of cleaning, like wiping counters and giving the toilet a quick brushing, and the deeper cleaning that is done from your knees. The deep cleaning that makes your arms ache from scrubbing marks off of walls, sticky spots off floors, and reaching behind the toilet to wipe away the dust and hair.
I started sorting through cupboards, throwing away expired food that I’d hung on to out of the old habit of not wasting anything. Some were years old, and I tossed them knowing I’d at one time carefully packed them in a box, bringing them to our new home that I could afford without needing roommates.
A living room free of dust and a hallway mirror without spots wasn’t out of my want to have a clean space, but my biological need to provide a safe home for my children.
I started sorting through my older daughter’s room, clearing out years’ worth of crumpled papers and past art projects she did on rainy Saturdays. If she’d been looking over my shoulder, she most-likely would have objected. But in my experiences in gutting out her room, she returns from visiting her dad, hugging me for helping her climb out of her tendency to save every special rock, every bottle cap, every Happy Meal toy.
For three full days I ignored work, fought through having a slight version of my daughter’s stomach bug, and cleaned. The outside world had turned into a scary place. I had to carve out a tiny space where they could run to, fall asleep in, and wake up to Saturday morning breakfasts.
As a mother, I sometimes resist the complete and total surrender that comes with caring for my children. I also fight to make sure I can say to them sincerely, honestly, and openly “I chose to have you because I wanted you, and I have never regretted that decision.”
Sure, there have been times that I questioned, or thought I’d grossly overestimated what I could physically and emotionally handle, but for the most part we get through our days just fine. Most nights I don’t long for a different life. I am content and often happy with the life I have chosen.
But I can’t protect them from heartache. I can’t shelter them from scary things happening in the world. I can’t keep important people from leaving their lives without saying goodbye.
But I can give them my arms, my beating heart felt through my chest, and a safe place to call home. I can give them food. I can let them fall asleep in my lap. I can sit with them. I can give them myself whenever they need.