It was the week before Thanksgiving. I was taking advantage of the sales to finish my Christmas shopping. It was one of my first attempts at shopping alone with two little girls in tow.
The aisles of boutique shops are rarely wide enough for two people to stand side by side, let alone for a mother to carry an infant car seat on one arm and try to hold a toddler’s hand with the other. I kept turning the infant seat, which meant relinquishing my hold of my little girl’s hand. In addition to lacking a nap, someone was not exactly having her most obedient day ever.
“Keep your hands in your pockets,” worked so well outside in the cold, but in the store it only meant elbows sticking out near the breakables.
“Do not touch,” I instructed her once again, as I tried in vain to find the perfect Fiesta dish for Katie in cobalt blue.
Meanwhile, my daughter was taking me literally. She wasn’t touching. Instead, she was smelling the breakable dishes—which necessitated sticking her entire head in the shelf!
Short though the afternoon was, it was a very long day in town. By the time we left Goodwill, both girls were crying. I heard, “She has her hands full,” more than once. And somehow, I always knew it was referring to me, even if not directed to my face.
I got the Christmas shopping done. But I was a frazzled wreck by the time I got home and told my husband about it. Later I posted something on Facebook to the effect of:
Note to self: don’t attempt Christmas shopping (for breakable gifts, no less!) with two little people, one in an infant carrier, and one running around beside you. You may frequently hear comments to the tune of “She has her hands full.”
My friend Amanda, herself a mother of two girls each slightly older than mine, posted a reply that stopped me in my mental tracks:
My mom would always answer, “Better full than empty!” I’ve taken up that statement myself now, on the ultra-rare occasion that I make such a venture out myself.
“Better full than empty…”
I have friends with empty arms. I know they would be only too grateful to trade their unhurried hours of shopping for a fussy babe to hold. I know they would gladly exchange their leisurely days at home for my days filled with dirty diapers and endless laundry. I know they would rejoice to sacrifice their time with friends for a baby’s needs. I know they would gladly give up their restful nights of sleep if only there was a little person to wake them up at night.
Forgive me, Father, for complaining when I should have been counting my blessings. Forgive me for letting the stress show on my face when my heart should be overflowing with happiness as a “joyful mother of children.”
I’ve been to town several more times since with my girls. And it’s been yet again necessary for people to point out to me that I have my hands full. Even if I’m a bit stressed, their comment reminds me to be thankful. I haven’t said it out loud yet, but I am thinking to myself as I smile in reply, better full than empty.