Watching my sweet Nyla perfectly position herself just where she likes, (a couple of feet from the TV, on her back, pillow under her head) is beyond adorable. But right now, more than cute, something looks…strange. With her short little legs bent at the knees, those wonderful feet look to be resting at the base of her hiney, atop a bulky, round, pillow-ish looking object.
What the heck is that!?
I walked a bit closer and quickly realized that her grotesquely droopy, saggy and FULL diaper had become her footrest. Wow…both creative and icky!
The diaper wasn’t REALLY that big of a deal. It was in fact pretty hilarious. I stood her up and had a good belly laugh over the amount of sag. I even took a few pictures because it was just too funny to see her diaper peeking out the bottom of her nearly knee length dress. But then I attempted to make some homemade wheat bread and it turned out to be the WORST homemade bread ever! It was super dark and hard on the outside. It was SO hard that if I’d knocked on it, my whole family would have likely stampeded to the front door expecting someone to be standing there. Plus, the middle was doughy and cavernous. I pulled it from the oven, let it rest a bit, and as the warm sweet smell filled the house I excitedly sliced it open and quickly noticed that I could see my kids across the room through my bread window.
Ohhh, it was such a low. I laughed. I cried (not really), but then I got this feeling that my periodic failures are maybe a beneficial thing. Do I enjoy being flawed?? Ummm…NO. But, as I stared at my “hole”-some loaf of bread (70% air pocket), I had a thought: being confronted with my imperfections is maybe better for maturing my mind and my soul than the enjoyment of constant success. Maybe that's just what flawed people say to make themselves feel better...or maybe these miserable moments keep me clear-headed. If I were able to retrieve a mental stack of picture-perfect performances (meaningless accomplishments), I might deceive myself into thinking that I have no issues because I bake lovely homemade bread and do other random lovely things too. It would sort of be my personal version of that nasty Facebook fallacy; the one where we convince ourselves that all those handpicked, perfect images are accurate representations of authentic life.
It sucked a bit to realize I’d overlooked my daughter’s overfilled diaper. Then I forced a little education on my resentful, resistant homeschooler and topped it all off by baking nasty bread. In the end, it was a pretty rotten day. After all my disappointment in myself settled, I heard God say “don’t allow yourself to hide behind your successes”. Or, in the words of Socrates, "The unexamined life in not worth living". A well prepared meal and my (sometimes) clean house have the capacity to push the weightiness of parenting out of my mind and give me amnesia towards the broken places inside me that require healing. But that looking-glass loaf of bread reminded me that we aren't meant to have hollow, cavernous insides.
Me…all alone! What an amazingly exhilarating thing! I’ve come to a place in my life where ANY legitimate escape fills me with delight. I never imagined that I’d be relishing the solitude of a medical waiting room, but I certainly am! In spite of the accentuated elevator music, I’m basking in this moment, not willing to let it just slip through my fingers undervalued. I’m beginning to wonder if my joy over my solitude is so obvious that even the chair (which is soooo squishy that it’s embracing not just my rear, but also my hips and my slight muffin top too) is also aware of my glee. Truthfully, even my hiney is happy! So…clearly I’m a mom, who, in this moment, is breathing in her own pocket of air, not sharing it with little people…and it’s completely brilliant!
Oh to be an acclimated mom! I remember the early days when solo excursions left me feeling far less than ecstatic. I used to venture out alone only to be filled with awkwardness and anxiety. The sort of sensation I imagine I might have, had I somehow misplaced one of my body parts only to find that there’s no hope for functioning properly without it…this appendage obviously being my child(ren). Today is NOT one of those times!! In spite of the ridiculous music, this waiting room is a perfectly lovely spot for creating a (childless) 'Cone of Silence'-esque space for my thoughts and my pen.
Being alone at home is NOTHING like being out! Something about finding alone time at home drudges up feelings of guilt and anxiety for me. There are always things pulling at me, reducing my ability to just exhale and appreciate the moment. Sometimes I force all memory of those mounding ‘to dos’ out of my mind, but then the thought that I’m not taking time to be present with my kids, fills me with disappointment in myself. Is it true that all mothers carry around with them a growing satchel of guilt? You know…a satchel: a huge and heavy hobo-ish guilt-filled bag, slung over one shoulder causing a limp and a stoop, reminiscent of a hunchback. I’m pretty sure all us mamas stumble around with a guilt induced gimp. It seems that there must be an emotional prerequisite for motherhood. Someone deemed us all perfectly fit for the task because we quickly and easily feel breathtaking levels of needless guilt. While we’re there, we should probably throw in codependency for good measure, because what good is motherhood without a touch of codependency…right??
Yes, clearly I’m being sarcastic, but being a mom is HARD! It’s a full day, every day, of trying our absolute best. We end the day by tucking our sweet little lovies into bed and promptly sinking deep into a sofa, flopping onto the bed (face and belly first) or melting into the floor for a good hardy cry, hoping we did it well and that we don’t have to ask for forgiveness for everything and then start from scratch tomorrow. It’s truly arduous!
But it’s also incredible, and only a parent can really understand that. All others (non-parents) easily connect with the negative and taxing portions of parenting. It’s understandable, they’re easily observable by the stranger who unhelpfully assesses, “Wow, you really have YOUR hands full!”, as I’m attempting to wrangle my 4 kids, maneuver a shopping cart and navigate the aisles of my neighborhood grocery store. But then, sometimes the day ends beautifully when out of the blue, after saying goodnight, I hear my son’s sweet voice holler after me, “I love you forever” and of course I answer, “I love you forever too!” and still he continues, “I love you even more than that!” Words like these seem to wash all the worries of life in the trenches of motherhood away, like a cleansing rain. They give me hope that in spite of the drama, the crazy and the mundane, all of my intentionality leaves an impression on my childrens’ hearts, and they know they are deeply loved.
Life can feel so heavy at times and so quickly I get weighed down by the heartaches of humanity and the struggles of daily living. And then enters the task or joy of parenting. Suddenly I’m a teenager again with emotions I don’t understand and a body I don’t recognize. Seriously…no seriously! I won’t spell it out for you, it’s just not necessary. But I can go from elation to complete sorrow and then back again to on the floor, crying laughter, all within a matter of minutes based on my interactions with my 4 little lovelies. Being a parent…it’s quite a wild thing!
As the “adult” I really do try my hardest to be a level headed, calm, loving and consistent parent. That’s what adults are, right?? Geez, it’s not easy! On some days my family looks completely sane (me included), loving and considerate of one another. I’m so extra proud of all of us on those days. Then some sort of an invisible body snatcher event takes place and everyone wakes up mean and growly. The kids bark at each other about how much space they require on the sofa and argue over the morning cartoon. Then suddenly I’m in the funk right along with them and trying to dig us all out of the rotten mood. Some moments I just have to laugh it off. Cause what else can I do…within reason?
I love it when my kids say ridiculously hysterical things completely unbeknownst to them! My daughter Sofia is possibly our family’s biggest culprit. She’s “spicy”, as we call her. She’s passionate and extreme. One minute she’s pouting and angry and the next she’s hugging and kissing me, declaring her endless love and devotion. She goes from the depths to the rooftops in mere seconds. She’s amazing and filled to the top with all of her emotions without reservation. I really admire that about her!
So…about Sofia and her unintentional humor: On one particular morning this last week, I woke up and decided it was the perfect morning for blueberry muffins. I got to baking and of course we ended up with extra. The very next morning Sofia enters the kitchen ready for breakfast and confidently asks, “Mom, can I please have a muff?” I should probably mention that I was sort of prepped for this possibility (well, not this exact possibility), but she’d started a new thing a week or so earlier of shortening her words down to a sort of nick-name. So “muff” of course was her cute little name for a blueberry muffin. I had such great giggle over it followed by a much needed clarification over the term “muff” and why it isn’t really the best choice of words to describe a muffin.
I have a confession to make… I’ve really had to learn to let myself laugh with my kids. I’m still learning. For many years, I unintentionally withheld pieces of my heart, feeling stuck in the role of boundary setter and enforcer. It felt like a constant, never ending task that stomped out my happiness. I struggled to simply enjoy my kids. Choosing to laugh with my kids is bringing joy to our relationship.
Laughter is so powerful, but it isn’t what holds me; it doesn’t carry me past my parenting fails. Laughter can only take me into my next moment where there’s a possibility that I’ll fail again. It’s God who brings me peace when nothing around me is peaceful. He brings me peace when nothing inside of me is peaceful. But laughter is opening me to love my kids in a way I wasn’t able to before.
Writer and fellow traveler on the road of life.