Moulin Rouge and Moms

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”– so opens the 2001 colorful, poignant, moving, artistic, movie-musical, best picture Oscar nominee, film Moulin Rouge! 

What I like about the quote is the dualistic calling of love- the two parts- 1. Loving and 2. Being Loved in Return.

Today is Mother’s Day. I sit thinking and typing in the blessing of my life. I am surrounded by a husband, strong and intentional who makes a wicked French Toast and will not let me in the kitchen today, and two children- unplanned, surprise blessings handed to me, from the very hand of God safely and with promise of a complete life change and lots of fun, and with a 19 week old fetus growing inside of me, planned and prayed for, developing with the potential only God’s creative and divine hand could craft- I am grateful and in awe. I’m happy and full.

I’m also thinking about the first half of Toulouse’s line about love. As a mom this past year, I’ve been learning to love without always being loved in return. In the beginning of their lives, there was no doubt my kids loved me- even if the primary way they showed it was by simply and vulnerably NEEDING me. They loved me innocently, freely, without concern for what I did wrong, and never noticed what I knew or didn’t know. When I left them somewhere, they were excited to see me show back up. I sang and sang to them in my terrible singing voice and they listened and cuddled and stopped crying. They were delighted that I fed them, played with them, took them to parks and playdates and brought them safely home to take a nap.

And all of a sudden, last July, everything shifted. Elijah turned 5. He turned a very conscientious,even more curious, deliberate and inquisitive, daddy-obsessed, and memory black-box, kind of 5. Turns out he didn’t need me as much any more and wasn’t delighted as often as demanding to be free of my control over his decisions, actions, and desires. He is an incredibly sweet and kind and thoughtful boy- he is careful to obey most of the rules and respect people- peers and elders. But there have been times this past year when he’s flat out told me he wants to “get me and make me miss” when we play ball, that he thinks he could do better, that he’d rather have Daddy do it, and that he’s ready to go to school next year instead of stay home with Andi and me. And thank goodness- he does have to go to Kindergarten in August!

At church today, both Eli and Andi made flowers for moms with their class. When Drew and I walked in to get them, they were singing with all of their friends, “Thank you God for Mommy’s for Mommy’s for Mommy’s…” which was completely precious. On the brink of tears already, Andi and Eli came running up to hug me and give me their flowers. After I held Eli’s flower for a fraction of a second he took it back and said, “This is for you but I’m going to give mine to Daddy.” Pretty much summing up our year together- the love for me is there, under-girding daily interactions and deep in the security of his heart and soul, but seldomly demonstrated as it was so frequently in the days of his pre-5-year-old youth.

To be honest- I’m learning how selfish and egocentric I can be! I want him to want me, love me, need me and choose me. In desiring his love, I act like a child, get my feelings hurt and have to walk away sometimes. (A quote here from Joan Kerr- Please Don’t Eat the Daisies- “The real menace in dealing with a five year old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.”) So in my reversion to a 5-year-old myself, I’ve been reminding myself that love is to be given away, not demanded in reciprocation. I have to remind myself I am the adult and that this is the first of many times in his life when he might not like me, or say that he loves me, and that I have to love him without being loved in return.

And for this, I rely on the love God has for me, often given and sporadically returned in my life of faith. Given self-sacrificially, without conceit and concern for self but to uphold and uplift the other. And I rely on the love I have for Eli. For seeing him for who he is, not what he does, for knowing he is mine as a gift and that I receive him just as he is, and do, and always will, love him relentlessly.

In about 11 months and 2 weeks, Andi will turn 5. And 5 years from this October, Baby Booyah will turn 5 and hopefully I’ll be more ready to love whether or not I am loved in return. Being a mom is an astounding calling- one I am being more and more equipped for each day and enjoying the moments of love along the way.


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