The day was busy, but it was also productive. Especially seeing as how I’m blogging after midnight at this moment (the BEST time to create). In reflecting on the day, despite its ups and downs, I am laughing at this one moment where my heart was racing for about 5 seconds before I breathed easy again.
It was when I thought company was coming over.
Now, if I were to share with you the details of my day and then magnify this one moment, you would probably think I was crazy because today was… interesting and at one-point, life-threatening (you can ask my husband). But seriously, I was so very nervous about company coming over that nothing else seemed to punch me in the chest as hard as that frantic moment did.
Check the living room… okay. Pillows are actually on the couch… with spider man. Glad he’s comfortable, but can he just tell me why there are 57 markers on the floor spread out like marbles in a game? What happened to the drawer they were in? Wait… WHERE DID THESE CRUMBS UNDER THE TABLE COME FROM?? Why so many and so BIG? Who FED these kids breakfast bars? Oh… that would be me.
Will my guest be here long? What if they need to use the bathroom? *Checks hallway/boys’ bathroom* Great. The boys have toothpaste running down the sink. Completely dry. And completely bright blue. Wonderful. Hm… I haven’t used their bathroom in a long time, and from the door, I don’t see pee stains, sooooooo yeah… that means they’re definitely under the seat. Oooor on. BOOOOOOOYSSS!!
Oh my gosh… the dishes. I haven’t had time today between the doctor appointments and the weekly grocery shopping! Wait… what if I organize them in the sink so it looks like there’s not that many? Maybe that’ll take the messy look away because there’s NO way I can get the dishes in the dishwasher- that have been there since yesterday- put away AND the dirty ones (all 105 because I decided to be Chef Boyar-E) before my guests get here. Or maybe I could throw a dish towel over them. Which color… hm…
You may be laughing hysterically at this point, nodding your head in agreement or conjuring up judgmental remarks in your head that probably slipped out of your mouth while reading about my normal life. Either way, I’ve sincerely come to this point of my life as of today: I DON’T CARE!
I am a proud stay-at-home mother of 3 under 5 who doesn’t stop moving until naptime or when daddy gets home/off or until she lays in bed. I used to be an OCD, everything-in-my-control single woman who was so stressed out that I ended up in the ER with an EKG machine and later on diagnosed with migraines so bad, they thought I had spinal meningitis. Do I like my house being the way it is sometimes – an undone, mess of a thing? Nope. Do I sometimes stress about what people will think when they walk through my doors in the middle of the day or otherwise with or without notice? Sure do. But I wonder…
Do I make other people – moms and dads alike – feel like they have to meet my expectations of what their home should always look like to be deemed a “fit” and well-off parent? I hope not. Because I don’t know how to do that myself. And if I did, I’d be back in the ER, going crazy and my kids would be crying to their dad to go live in a hotel so they could catch a break from my shenanigans. I’m pretty sure their dad would’ve come up with that idea himself. He would’ve thanked them in secret. 🙂
It is often so easy for us to look at the exterior of moms and dads- the upkeep of their dress, their hair, their cars, their homes, how their kids behave – and make a full and often final prognosis of how their lives are and who they are… yet we don’t see them from sun-up to sun-down. We’ve never juggled ALL of their responsibilities. We’ve never stopped to imagine life with one child. Two. Five. You know where I’m going. And one of those includes the spouse because we DO act like kids when it gets to that point. Ask my husband. Then ask me 🙂
The greatest gifts I’ve ever been given, aside from Jesus, salvation, the man of my fairest dreams and boys beyond my imagination have been people who have given me the ability to break their expectations of what they see and meet the reality of being me. To see my mess and not give suggestions. Not have side conversations. Not “act” like its okay when the motherly-instinct in me knows really well it’s not okay to them. They have been the ones who give my mess freedom to be felt.
They’ve been the man who saw my screaming 8 month old in Food Lion and asked if he could help me get my groceries to the van. He told the older two boys to “be good and help your mom because she’s trying to be a good mom to your baby brother like she was to you two.” He was so intentional about not touching or being near my kids. Like he knew our knowledge of crazy people in the world, yet he was trying to show me a hope of good & strange help still existing.
They’ve been the man who saved me from guilt on a cold and windy day. After putting all of the boys and the bags in the van, I realize the nearest cart corral was almost 8 cars away. I’m not a ditcher (leaves carts where they want… personal experiences), so I was annoyed. Walking from his car towards the store, my guilt-saver takes my buggy and says, “I’ll take that for you. I know how it is. You can’t just leave your babies. I gotcha. I know.”
They’ve been the woman at the dental office who squatted and talked to my 1 year old who decided that their sliding, file wall space was a great place to explore when I put him down so I could check out. Her talking to him (who was so sleepy, he started nodding off standing up) gave me just enough time to pay for a bill God provided for without a distraction (besides thinking, “Oh my gosh. I’m THAT parent now whose kids are everywhere… at least one of them anyway.”)
My gifts have been to people who stop by 5 minutes after they call to a crying baby walking around in socks & a onsie with smashed sweet potatoes still on his face, boys playing an intense Matching game on a Lego-covered table and me wearing sweats & a hoodie with a scarf on my head above sleep-deprived eyes.
I smile in these moments. Initially embarrassed because of MY mental but then relieved. And overwhelmingly happy. Because I know they know. They feel it. They know how much I want and do my best to care for my kids. Watch and try to keep them safe in public. Want and do often keep my house clean… and the kids. Keep myself (somewhat) up to par and put-together. But it’s just “one of those moments” when life lets the funk hit the fan and everyone can see, smell and feel it. It’s uncomfortable. Embarrasing. But guess what? It’s natural. Happens to everyone regardless of the self-righteous mask we put on. I smile because in that moment, my mess is beautiful and shared, so I’m free.
So as visiting family and/or dear friends reach down and pick up that smudged-face little boy, clean him off in the bathroom with the toothpaste-crusted sink and sit at the table to referee two intense game players, I can freely do the dishes, clean the bathroom and vacuum the floor. It’s amazing that even sometimes, none of that gets done while they visit. I sometimes just breathe. But Pft.. yeah right. I’m cleaning! (if you know me, you know that’s real)
As I stood in line at Target last week, the lady in front of me was paying for her items with her 2 year old daughter while holding her other, ADORABLE 6-month? girl. She was laden with a beautiful, winter hat. The hat on the baby caught my eyes because it was a tad big and with every waddle of her legs and hands in mommy’s left arm, it slide down until it covered her entire, small little face. Eyes. Nose. Mouth. And the mom was blind and unaware. *Mommy-instinct alert* I gently spoke to the mom and said, “Hey. Excuse me… can I just help you with that…” and lifted part of the winter hat off of the baby’s face (I was literally leaning over so as not to alarm the mom about my distance… take notes, somebody). The baby girl kicked and smiled. She was relieved.
I was relieved and nervous to do this small act because I know the grand feeling of trying to handle two kids and the simple or not-so-simple act of paying for something, not aware your child can’t breath through the hat covering their face or is chewing on an unpaid candy bar they grabbed or wandering to the next aisle to tell people “hi!” It can be embarrassing. Messy. Unbelievable because you almost suffocated or lost or had to scold your child in public. I don’t even know if the mom said thank you because she moved so quickly. I just hope and pray in that moment, she felt it was okay. That I understood. That she had some freedom to be messy. To receive a non-judgmental, non-harmful and helping hand.
So, the next time you see that mom with 5 kids in Walmart counting them out to make sure she has them… while one reading a book lags waaaaaay behind… or you see the dad who’s trying to find the right formula with an extremely fussy baby cradled in his arm… give them a smile. Tell them they’re doing a good job. Ask them if they need help. If they say no, understand this world has darkened the trust of many & you can’t control that. If they say yes, understand you’ve just released them from the hidden restrictions – social expectations of parents – and joined them in their mess they tried to handle. Later, with a tear or two (or grateful sigh from the fellas? You can cry), they won’t ever forget the stranger who shared in feeling their mess. And that makes those messes the most beautiful times they’ll always remember.