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The Full Suburban: It’s all about my family, not accolades and applause

Julia Ditto and her six children are pictured here in 2016.  (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
Julia Ditto and her six children are pictured here in 2016. (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

A little-known fact about me is that, in addition to being a connoisseur of grocery store-grade chocolate and an expert at wasting time online, I also fancy myself as a bit of an interior decorator.

I read design blogs daily, subscribe to three home decorating magazines and was so devoted to Martha Stewart in my young adult years that I would have busted her out of prison with nothing more than organic cotton bedsheets and a #18 pastry tip if I’d been given the chance.

It was exactly because of this design prowess that I was tasked with the very important job of making over the employee break room located in the windowless basement of my husband’s dental office. Talk about glamour!

Although the office itself is immaculate, the break room downstairs is a little depressing, embodying the motto, “The Employee Break Room: Where Dreams and Apparently Judy’s Tuna Sandwich Go to Die.”

All this planning and revamping has taken a lot of time, and I’ve been gone for hours each day picking out flooring, getting paint samples and delivering supplies to the office. I’ll get home three hours later, and one of my kids will say, “There you are! You’ve been gone forever!” And that’s it. Not a single question about where I was, what I’ve been doing, how it went – nothing.

I’m used to it. Being a little bit invisible comes with the territory when you’re a mom, in my experience. You’re like the earth underneath everyone’s feet, supporting them and providing the whole infrastructure for their every move, but not really being overtly noticed unless you suddenly give way.

There was one summer morning a few years ago when I had done nothing except tend to my children’s needs and deal with household chores. Finally, after hours of spinning my wheels, I sat down to eat breakfast. Five-year-old Emmett wandered up to me, raised his eyebrows and said, “Wow, Mom, you should get a life.” I laughed because, wow, ain’t that the truth.

Sometimes being the unseen one can sting a little bit. Last week, I was feverishly putting sack lunches together for my three youngest sons when one of them said, “Can I just get lunch at school? My teacher said they’re free this year.”

“It’s true,” Logan said after a quick search on the school district’s website. “Why have we been making them lunches every day? They don’t even need them!”

He thought I’d be overjoyed, but I felt useless. Here I was slapping together sandwiches that nobody needed and wanted, all along thinking it was something important I was doing for my family. Not so!

Just then, Lucy found a homework assignment Henry had written about one of his heroes and started reading it aloud: “My dad is my hero. He is so awesome. He is so buff.” And believe me, it went on and on, but I had left by that point to go have a good wall stare and silent cry in my bathroom.

Later that morning, I read a speech from one of my favorite religious leaders, Henry Eyring. He told the story of how his father, debilitated with cancer near the end of his life, worked all day on his hands and knees weeding an onion patch in a church welfare garden.

At the end of the day, someone said, “Oh, no! You didn’t spend all day working in this patch, did you? These weeds have already been sprayed – they were going to die anyway!” Instead of being upset at his wasted effort, Eyring’s father laughed.

“How could you laugh at something like that?” Eyring asked him later. “Hal, I wasn’t there for the weeds,” he replied. Eyring went on to say, “You’ll be in an onion patch much of your life. So will I … It may even be hard to see our work being of any value at all. And sometimes our work won’t go well. But you didn’t come for the weeds.”

As I read his words, I realized that I’m not here so my kids will give me accolades or applause. I’m here because I love God and I love my family. So, if no one needs my PB&J, that’s OK. If no one cares that I spent three hours picking out amazing flooring, it doesn’t matter.

At the end of the day, I’m not here for the weeds. I’m here for them.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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