Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sorry I Judged You and Your Minivan

So many ideas we have about motherhood get thrown out the window as we gain experience. So, I'm sorry I judged you and your minivan.

This morning I discovered a covey of gray/white hairs on my head. Not blonde. Definitely white. Growing in white- since some of the hairs were baby ones, only about an inch long.

I kind of laughed actually, and I'm not sure I'll do anything about them for now. Another rite of passage, I guess. As I reflected on this discovery, combined with being 34 and pregnant with my 5th baby (yup, not a typo), I realized how many ideas I had about motherhood and adult-life in my 20's I've completely forfeited. Or that I have reversed my position on. Frankly, there are so many things I just didn't get because I hadn't experienced enough. So I'd like to say:

I'm sorry I judged you and your minivan.

I think I've only met one person in my entire life who said that owning a minivan was a life goal. If you start a conversation with a person who owns a minivan, it is bound to start something like, "Oh, I NEVER wanted to own a van. We were only going to drive an SUV," and the conversation will end with a story about  price, utility, convenience, and ultimately selling out to minivan practicality.

And I get it now because I'm there! I signed the contract! I'm living the dream! We tried the SUV, and loading kids was a nightmare. Plus, there was no room for stuff on road trips. Now we take road trips. It was like we bought the van and immediately we were like, "Let's go on a road trip with our 4 kids and your parents!" And guess what? It was sweet! The minivan was everything we had hoped it wouldn't be. It was comfortable, practical, and awesome.

So, I'm sorry I judged you and your minivan not so long ago because now I realize you didn't buy it because you thought minivans were sexy. You bought it because your husband thought you  were sexy a couple of times and now you have this group of little people to transport. And, if you're like me, the Suburban was just way out of your price range, and it probably wouldn't fit in the garage. (Though secretly I am hoping to graduate to one someday.) So you bought the van, and you will drive it, for the rest of eternity. And that's totally fine. It is time I owned it.

I'd also like to say that I get why your kid is wearing that costume...at the grocery store...in July.

I had this idea, (oh, young, naive thing that I was), that when I had kids they would be put together with hair done and clothes matching whenever we left the house. Definitely at school because my children would NOT be those kids at school with the crazy jeans and messy hair. I did pretty well with my first. Of course, school uniforms helped enormously, but we could pull off a sleek ponytail most days. Then I had my sweet Stella with her Rapunzel-like hair. Seriously, she had pigtails when she was 3 months old. And somewhere around mid-kindergarten I succumbed to the days old braid in exchange for her eating breakfast in the morning, or the messy bun when there was just no helping those tangles. To boot, she is very creative in her clothing choices and what "looks cute." Fancy dresses or jeans, a skirt, a My Little Pony shirt, 2 different socks and shoes that show them is her ensemble of choice. But it is fine. I'm fine with it, as long as she makes the bus. Which brings me to another point:

I'm sorry I judged you and your kids with the light-up Star Wars shoes and cartoon character shirts.

Because I get it now because I am here! The light-up Star Wars shoes just made your 4-year-old so freaking happy! So did that tacky My Little Pony shirt, or that Elsa dress that is 3 sizes too small and covered in stains, or the knight costume you bought at Costco complete with shirt, pants, and HELMET that your son wears in varying degrees of completion. Or the pirate outfit that has been just about everywhere. I get it now because you don't want to argue in the morning, or be late, or really because you realized it just doesn't matter! Why not let them wear what they want when they are young? Why not let them experiment and exercise independence in a harmless way?

I kind of love watching what my kids pick out now. True, I'll draw the line if we are going somewhere special, like church. But even then last week we got my son ready for church, but by the time we left the house he had lost his shoes, (so he wore his light-up Star Wars ones), he had ditched his tie, and was wearing one of my old belts slung across his shoulders like a pirate sword scabbard. Another week we won the presentable battle, but he had to bring his backpack to church, which was fine until in the the the middle of the sacrament he busted out his rocket launcher. I mean the kind that you stomp on and it shoots those foam darts up into the air. He brought the whole apparatus, tubes and all, and started whipping them out  across the pews during the quietest moment of the service. Now I figure God knows I got him dressed, God knows I'm trying, and God knows my Kells. I'm also counting on the fact that God has a sense of humor.

I'm sorry I judged your mom clothes, your mom hair at Chick-fil-a when I knew you were trying to look cute. I'm sorry for judging your mom lunch dates, never nursing your baby, nursing your baby until he was 5, for looking like you have it all together every day by 8 in the morning, or for never making it out of your pajama pants that day. I get why your house smells like maple syrup (holy cow, props to you for making pancakes or toasting Eggos!), why your windows have finger prints, why your kitchen chairs are always covered in spaghetti. I know the struggle of balancing expectations at work with expectations at home, and having to carefully budget your time. I get why you go to the free library activities and community days, and why you just spent 2 hours at Target  wandering the aisles like a woman in a trance.

I'm sorry for all those fleeting thoughts of judgement I had when I just didn't get it yet.

I'm not dismissing all the energy and enthusiasm that comes with ignorance. Sometimes, for me, it is best to just get an idea and jump in before you know any better. That was my approach to motherhood, and most things in my life, honestly.  For the most part that method works for me. But while I can't say I've done it all, man! If I could sit down and talk to my 21 year-old self, or my 27 year-old self,  I'd have a lot to say, if I was willing to listen.

Someone once told me that whether you have 1 kid or 9 kids you have to give 100%. I believe it. I cling to that. Because it is true, Everyday most of us are giving 100%. Sometimes it looks like a clean house, charming children, dinner in the oven, an excellent gym session, moments spent in meditation, and visiting a friend in need. Other days 100% is striving for mediocrity at best. And, as my sister loves to say, it gets to be okay.

You could read all of this as an insecure plea to not judge me. There could be a small bit of that in here, but mostly I think I'm finally to a point where I've accepted where I am at. I'm okay with being a mom. I've been so many versions of mom that I couldn't even count them. I've been the on-the-ball, I've-got-life-figured-out mom, the if-I-can-just-keep-us-all-alive-that-would-be-great mom, the there's-no-blood-so-stop-crying mom, the Valentine's-box-is-only-covered-with-coloring-book-pages mom. I've been the pajama-pants-and-messy-bun-at-Walmart mom. I've been the mom I swore I'd never be, and I've been the mom I never dreamed I could be. And I've finally realized that I haven't so much compromised my ideals as eliminated the battles that aren't essential. More importantly, I've realized that most of those battles had more to do with my own insecurities than with vans, clothes, and hair.

So many ideas we have about motherhood get thrown out the window as we gain experience. So, I'm sorry I judged you and your minivan.

I'm not advocating throwing out all expectations and ideals. I do advocate granting yourself and others an added measure of grace and allowing for flexibility. This mom-gig, this adulting thing, it isn't about stagnation. That's impossible. The crazy thing is that amid the mundane and tedium, there is joy, life and growth! What we do requires reflection and self-improvement, everyday- whether we realize it or not, however we do it. We can't spend every day on the couch waiting for things to be better. We, with help, are the ones who make things better. Not perfect, but better. And we should celebrate when we, and others, are getting things right.

I don't have that master's degree yet. My living room is currently a cushion fort, and I have on no make-up and my hair is in a wet bun. My life isn't what I planned. But, we made it to the park today. And my bathroom is clean. And I got kid number 1 to school early for an extra activity... in my minivan.

There's my 100% for today.

And it gets to be okay.

Bake the bread. Share the slices.

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