Back on The Old Road

I have come to think of motherhood like this.  Before you’re a mother, you’re cruising on the Interstate, driving 80 along with everybody else.  Then you have a baby, and you have to exit the Interstate and drive on The Old Road for a while.

You know what I mean by The Old Road.  In this part of Montana, anyway, it’s the two-lane state highway that runs parallel to the Interstate.  Lanes leading to homes and farms come right up to The Old Road.  Everybody drove on The Old Road back before the Interstates were built, before the entire world was going at least 80 miles per hour both figuratively and literally.

On The Old Road, with your new baby, you drive slower.  It’s safer because there isn’t as much traffic.  If you want to be a super-cautious mama and drive 40 on The Old Road, you can.  If you want to slow way down and point out the view to your kids, you can.  If you want to stop on the shoulder and feed the baby, you can.  If you want to take your time because the baby’s (finally) asleep in the carseat, you can.  As you’re traveling you’ll likely lift a finger from the steering wheel to greet people you know… or might know.  On The Old Road you’re not getting anywhere fast and you’re not accomplishing much besides being a mama.  You can see the rest of the world over there on the Interstate just zooming along… but you try to accept that having a baby changes your life.  Hey, at least it’s a pretty drive.

That baby grows and grows and finally gets to be two, or maybe two and a half… and that’s when you hesitantly get back on the Interstate and merge with the rest of the world.  You’re not in survival mode anymore, trying to keep the baby and yourself alive, and you have more energy.  You can think about doing new stuff and accomplishing big things.  You can travel more, be part of a committee, start a business, join a book club.

(Or maybe you’re like me and you never really stopped doing things when you had a baby… you just tried to drive 80 on The Old Road and it was kinda dangerous and hard.)

Mamas can spend years on The Old Road.  I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel for months wishing my firstborn was ready to get up and go… and then another baby came along.  Two years after that, another baby.  And two years after that, another baby!  I’d just get my feet under me and pick up some speed as we cruised down the onramp to join the rest of the world… and right away I’d have to turn on my signal light and exit at the next overpass.  Back to The Old Road, another two-year contract signed, and me wondering what I might be trading off in exchange for all these cartoons, cuddles, and PB&Js.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve loved my years of young motherhood.  But that doesn’t mean I’ve never (for a few fleeting moments here and there) lost sight of the big picture goal and instead longed to be in the fast lane — doing more than I was doing, doing better at what I was doing.  Forgetting, of course, that there can be no more important job than motherhood.

Now our family is complete.  And it’s been easy to think that I’m going to graduate from the baby stage, get back on the Interstate and stay there.  The littlest one turned two in January, after all.  We’re all gaining speed and independence around here, and from now on it will be nothing but productivity and efficiency for the Blake crew, right?

But life has ways of keeping us humble.  For instance:  for the last week stomach bugs and colds have forced our entire family back onto The Old Road.  Marsi was sick enough to go to the doctor (I wrote about it here), Emi threw up randomly a couple nights ago (as, I’ve found, kids tend to do), Asher has a sore throat, Muggins has a runny nose, and my own belly doesn’t want to commit to not having whatever the kids have.

Nothing terrible; just a couple bugs running around our house… and just like that we were back in survival mode.  I was up in the night caring for various kids, not sleeping much and not feeling so hot myself.  We were right back to not accomplishing anything spectacular, not Making Headway in Life, and in fact just barely getting the day-to-day taken care of.

I wonder if God puts us back on The Old Road sometimes to remind us that what we think is the point… really isn’t the point at all.  That when we’re speeding along on the Interstate, we’re missing a lot of the good stuff on this trip called Life.  Because when we get to wherever we’re going, I guess we’ll find out it was less about productivity and efficiency and more about the things God created (and, you know, taking the time to wave).

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I took this photo on The Old Road near my grandparents’ farm this past fall.  We were driving home from Billings and I think we were among the first to spot this rockslide.  We had such a wet fall and evidently the excess moisture resulted in the sand rocks above sluffing off and rolling down to the highway.

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Yesterday’s Weather:  It’s been super, unseasonably warm for this time of year.  We roped the dummy in the yard in the evening without jackets on.  Almost no snow left.

Yesterday On The Ranch:  I was feeling so poorly yesterday morning that Beau, God bless him, volunteered to take all four of the kids to Billings with him on a parts run.  So I was at home recovering from whatever bug has been haunting our home while he dragged the kids through Billings to track down new springs for one of the feed trucks.  He took them to Burger King for lunch — it’s his usual treat; there’ s a play area there so it’s always a big hit.

By the time they made it home I was feeling good enough to clean up the kitchen and together we all made Beau’s mom’s gumbo (recipe coming tomorrow!).  For family movie night we finally broke down to the girls’ pleas and bought Frozen II on the Roku.  Great music!

© Tami Blake

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