Was there really a time when I woke up in the morning, marveling at the wonder of my children? I can vaguely recall it…They would call to me from their rooms, “Mommy! I’m hungry!” and I would skip up the stairs to carry them down. Then I’d dance around the kitchen to pour pancakes on a griddle. Everything they said was adorable and hilarious at the same time. We would read books for hours and color pictures together–I loved being around them.
When did the wonderment of parenthood lose its sparkle? It’s a bit of the chicken or the egg scenario. I don’t know if I became less enthusiastic or if they became whiny and annoying first. Was there perhaps a string of rough mornings that made me so angry about my alarm going off each day, only to pour cereal into bowls, thinking the entire time, “I’m an enabler and my children should be doing this crap themselves.”
A sweet mom friend of mine sent me a text message last night asking where I buy the boys their jeans and jackets. She said, “Your boys always look so put-together,” which made me laugh aloud. I told her where I bought their jackets (Lands End--40% off on one full priced item right now and the jeans are the Levi Denizen brand from Target. You’re welcome for free advertising!) Anyway, I also thanked her for the very kind compliment. I said, “I’m glad we’re doing a good job faking it,” because most days, I feel like we are. I suppose it’s not being “fake” as much as trying to seem like we’re doing all right; to make people think we’re not failing at life in a big way.
It’s like when last minute visitors are stopping by and you scramble to do a quick surface clean so they won’t be able to tell just how much you’ve let the house go. I usually throw all the dirty laundry in someone’s closet, wipe down the bathroom sinks and toilets and nearly break all the dishes in the kitchen that had just been piled to the ceiling on the counter top putting them away. In reality, my house is on fire and I’m serving you fresh lemonade hoping you don’t notice. We want people to believe we’re not so messy in our homes and hearts, but why? I don’t walk into other people’s homes and take note of their messes, nor do I judge their hearts because I can’t know what’s weighing on them today.
The fact is my heart is far messier than my dusty shelves, crumby floors, and nasty fridge combined. I am constantly screwing up. I am not as engaging with my kids as I once was. They want me to play Beyblades or Pokemon cards with them and I would rather watch paint dry. I am so far off the mark in most things in my life that I actually feel embarrassed when people tell me that anything about my life is “put together.”
As parents, we want to do the right thing, the noble thing, every time. But reality leaves us falling short so often. A bad night’s sleep makes us short-tempered. The kids acting out makes us feel like we’re failing at discipline. Lately I find I’m struggling to motivate myself at many things parenting related. Now that the kids are in school and I’m here at home still doing things mostly for them all day long, I’m feeling burnt out, maybe even a little resentful by the time they get home and need me to do even more for them. I am not excellent at being a mom or a wife. I am ego-driven and ungrateful a lot of the time.
But I would say, the fact that I wake up willing to try it all over again makes my effort good enough. And it’s the same for all of us. We’re not giving up or running away. The fact that we can see our flaws, push them aside and keep forging on is something in and of itself, isn’t it?
Life is hard and messy. You wouldn’t expect to walk through a giant mud puddle without getting dirty. And life is the biggest mud puddle of all. We all have to go through it. Maybe the difference is going through it finding either joy or disgust. It really comes down to perspective. I do believe if we remember how to think like a kid, it’s a little easier. Kids love the mess. They aren’t bothered by the germs or the grossness of it all.
I’ve been at the school a lot lately doing recess and lunch duty for Grace’s class or yesterday, I taught her gym class. I do find it highly entertaining when one of the kids pulls on my arm and says, “Watch what I can do!” and then proceeds to do the most awkward looking cartwheel, nearly falling on their face, but when they stand up, they’re beaming with pride. And of course I must clap for them and tell them they are amazing! Because they are.
I am a bit of an expert on the proverbial awkward cartwheel. I think I’m getting it right for a minute, but I know in my heart it’s not perfect and it never will be. I wonder if that is kind of how God feels watching us fumble through life. We know we don’t look like those spandex-clad gymnasts tumbling around at the Olympics, but we’re doing our best. Maybe just trying at all, never giving up, is good enough.
So if we see each other at the sidewalk for pick up, and one mom looks like she just stepped off a runway and the other looks like she just rolled out of bed, we need to remember it’s not a reflection of what’s happening on the inside. We can’t possibly know what each person is struggling with. It’s been written about so many times before, but it always bears repeating. We can’t compare our stories to someone else’s. We all are crossing our own mud puddles, but we will find it more enjoyable if we remind ourselves, there is no glamorous way to do it and not giving up is good enough.