Sometimes I think we picture a “mother’s love” as evening snuggles on the couch with Goodnight Moon, or making cookies on a rainy day. When we don’t get to those things as often as we’d like, we feel we’ve failed. Those things are a mother’s love, but there are so many other ways that we “love” that goes unsung and unappreciated. I have friends who love their kids in the most heroic and the most ordinary ways, and their kids may never know or understand their depth of sacrifice.
Today I want to honor you and all the ways your love goes unseen.
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve read a lot of advice about strong-willed kids and none of it has “worked” for me. I’ve tried talking to them and matching their emotions (this was like adding vinegar to baking soda), I’ve tried whispering and it went as well as I expected (they were unable to hear me #theywerescreaming), I’ve tried validating their feelings, listening, comforting, and all kinds of discipline techniques…etc.
My most recent “method” has been pretty advanced, it’s called: surviving.
I had a few moms over for coffee the other day and one of them was telling me about the “imposter syndrome” among moms. I’d never heard of it before, but I’ve definitely experienced it. The imposter syndrome, she said, is a term for moms trying to appear to have it all together, probably because they feel less-than.
Look, I know that’s tempting. I dropped the F-bomb at the kiddy park today when my dog pulled over my stroller and later mom-handled a isntshetoooldforthis tantrum from my four-year-old. In that moment, I remembered how my friend used to use a fake name at the bar, and considered that that might be a good idea for me at the park. Hello, I’m Veronica and these are my kids Kevin, Stuart, Jenny, and Britney. You will not find us on Facebook. Please forget we ever met, kthanksbye.
I’m laying on my bed hiding right now. I can hear the kids bickering as they get ready for bed, and a little voice calling for water and a song. I’m tired and weary to my bones. I will get up anyway. I will go kiss little foreheads and pray a prayer. I will get the extra sip of water and I will listen while they tell me about their toe with the sliver. I will say, “Okay sweetie, no more talking. It’s time to sleep now, ” but then I will still say “uh-huh” a couple more times as I sneak out the door.
Now that I’m a mom, I’ve learned that motherhood is a lot more about showing up than it is about anything else.
It’s tempting to pretend that there aren’t ritz crackers hidden deep inside my shag carpet, along with some other things I probably don’t want to know about. It’s tempting to pretend my four-year-old doesn’t rock the same “favorite” dress three days in a row, and that I don’t currently smell like men’s Old Spice deodorant. Sometimes I’d rather my life looked like a Instagram feed of awesome. I’d also rather my butt looked like a bubble instead of a wide pancake, but we all have to live our truth.
The thing I’ve noticed is that when I don’t pretend, I find my people (the ones who don’t pretend either), and to me that reward is everything. Literally everything.
So to the women, the moms, the people, who don’t pretend…
Nothing makes me feel quite as overwhelmed as the words “enjoy every minute”.
Like do you mean right now while my kid is spread eagle on the Target floor demanding a slushy? Do you mean when I make dinner and half of the family is crying because it looks weird? Do you mean when I clean the toilets and I wonder how the pee reached the corner under the trash can?
I can do it; it’s worth it. But enjoying every minute is a different type of pressure.
In truth, there are a whole lot of minutes I feel annoyed or tired.
Today I met some friends in town for coffee and shopping. I ended up bear hugging my four-year-old on a bench as she screamed and kicked in a level ninety-nine tantrum. A shop owner came out of a pottery store with wide eyes, but her face softened when she saw me.
I’m so sorry I mouthed.
“You are totally fine!” She smiled encouragingly. A minute later a woman and her older daughter walked by and said, “You’ve got this mama! You’re doing a great job!”
I continued on as a human straight jacket.
Welcome my friend, you’ve got this. It doesn’t seem like it now, but you will grow into motherhood just as gradually and quickly as the brand new baby you’re holding in your arms. It will become you, it already has. You just went through the most mind blowing, godawful, gorgeous, magical, frightening event of your life. No one prepared you. They kind of tried, but they forgot to use the words “blow torch” and “freight train” and “concrete drill” to describe what you might feel when your little one was born earth side.
We are a family who loves each other. We love each other in a messy, beautiful, broken, and together way. Sometimes that means making messes in the kitchen with spaghetti sauce finger prints on the glasses and stains on the tablecloth. Sometimes it means trying to scrape together tiny remnants of sanity for bedtime routines. Sometimes it means kissing a dirty forehead as I tuck them in at night and thinking it’s okay, they’ll take a bath tomorrow.
In our family we fight. We argue about things. We say we’re sorry. We overreact and then we apologize. We take a minute in the other room to pull ourselves together. Some of us are more full of passion than others, and I take full ownership of my title as Queen.
We just moved into a new neighborhood and I met an elderly woman a couple blocks down the street. She looked at me in shock (almost horror) when I told her that we have four kids and she kept saying, “Four? Four??” Then she looked at me square in the eyes. “I guess that will be okay,” she said, “as long as they are quiet.” She was dead serious.
I laughed like it was a joke (because that’s what I do when I feel awkward).