I sat in a room full of mamas this morning, Christine’s amazing Halloween-everything goodies covering most every available square inch of the stowaway table. Throw me another spooky finger treat – that one, no, that one! We went around the circle and, like always, we said our names, and our children’s names and ages, even though I think by now we could probably give a proper introduction about our neighbor with our eyes closed. Because our children and our stories and even our pithy introductory comments are intrinsically woven into the cloth of each other’s lives. So we told stories of our Favorite Halloween Costume Ever (exclamation point), and we laughed at the American Girl Picnic Table and the Get In Shape Girl and other glories of the 80’s.
And then we got real, even though simply being with each other and by each other and for each other is real enough in and of itself. We talked about the book we’ve been reading together, Grace-Based Parenting, and we answered a question or two, but then a tangent would birth, and we’d get wildly off-topic – and, I’ve got to tell you, as the English Teacher Formerly Known as Myself, these sidetrack musings are my favorite. Because they’re unscripted, and they’re of the heart; it’s kind of like Show n Tell in the first grade, when you’re not getting an “E” for Excellent because standing up in front of the class with perfectly memorized speech, but because you’re baring your soul and your most favorite thing to your classmates. You pass simply because you’re YOU.
And so we encourage each other and we ask the hard questions. We’re reminded that the little things are the big things, even though it can feel more than mundane and lonely and unfulfilling taking the time away from having a wildly successful career to be with the littles. We embrace the tension and we acknowledge that whether you’re working full-time or part-time or – technically, though far from it – not at all, mothering is hard.
The battle wages within me because I want it all: I want to be the one primarily caring for my son, but I feel and I know that I’m a better mama when I have time away from the Little Bugger, when I have the time and space to write, not just during nap time or after Dada walks through the door. And through these moments, through the beauty and the muck of the Ordinary Everyday, I make choices: I choose to fling myself on the sleeping bag thrown in the corner of the room that should have been rolled up two weeks ago because Baby wants to play Fling-Yourself-On-Large-Objects – but then I also choose to open my laptop and write for 20 minutes, because it’s healthy for him to see Mama write and create and work.
I hold most everything loosely, because if parenting has taught me anything at all, it’s that Little Humans are far from linear, so what works today may not work tomorrow. Like the flexibility test held each year in P.E., I practice my toe reach, and when the teacher tells me that I need to do yoga more so I don’t end up a crippled old lady, I laugh and I stretch and I throw grace, grace, grace towards my own self, even when I don’t quite have flexibility down pat this morning. Or ever, for that matter.
But it’s in this inability to perfectly bend over and reach our toes that keeps us human – and I suppose for now, that is enough, at least for today. So friends, let’s keep being real about what’s hard.
If you’re a mama or a daddy, find some peeps you can let down your guard with, in and through the woes of toys doused in toilet water and murmurings of “aw sh, aw sh, aw sh” spoken from the mimicking mouths of babes. Did he just say what I think he said? Who’d he learn that phrase from? Honey…
And if your role in life is Friend, then be just that to the best of your ability: pick up that phone and schedule a date, or better yet, show up unannounced and ring the doorbell, with bottle of wine in hand. Practice being together, letting words and silence be a part of your time with one another, and then even if you think your Old Lady Married Friend might not get it, share when it’s hard not having that “other.”
Because in my life and in your life, the little things are the big things, and Friend, I want to see your Show n Tell.
What about you? Who’s in your life that you can let your guard down with? And more importantly, did you ever dress up as a picnic table for Halloween?