Something struck me as funny last night as I was hurrying my children out of the house and into the minivan.
I thought, I’m not as good as I used to be. Yet, I also think, in some ways, I am better.
We were heading for the school Christmas program. My 13-year-old son wore his shirt untucked, along with a pair of khaki jeans I ordered to pick up at the Target drive-up that day, because God forbid, I have to go into a store.
Thankfully that morning I decided to actually look at the note, which was probably sent home weeks ago, and it politely told me, “Please dress your child in happy holiday attire.” Great. Pretty sure my teenagers don’t have a happy, yet alone a holiday section in their closets. As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure they don’t realize they have closets.
I wanted him to wear a sweater because I think he’s dashingly handsome in sweaters. But the kid hates sweaters and was already experiencing what he considered the worst day of his life, being forced to sing on stage. So if he wanted to wear an untucked shirt, so be it.
My 10-year-old daughter also donned a freshly bought outfit, and she pulled it off as though we had planned it all along. Little did she know I spent half of my day running around pulling it all together. Yes, I even had to get out of the van and go into a store.
As I balanced the tray of chocolate dipped Oreos, (the best I could muster during my busy day), while heading toward the van, that is when the thought hit me: I used to be so damn good at this! What happened? Life. That is what happened.
Back in “the day,” I would have known what all of the children were wearing a month ahead of time, and they absolutely would have all coordinated well together, myself included. I was a planner. I had books that showed me how to make elaborate schedules for a family. I used to spend days planning out our lives. Just planning—literally every minute of our lives.
I planned because I wanted their lives to be perfect. Turns out life will never be perfect, and you can reach a state of joy without a tight schedule, perfect outfits, or homemade cookies.
My life is no longer full of fluffy Christmas dresses and matching Gymboree outfits. (Oh, how I loved that store!) It is now full of teenagers, raging hormones, a career that too often gets put on the back burner to manage said teenagers, one little 10-year-old who thinks I hung the moon and is a tad needy of my attention, adult children whom I miss dearly and will drop anything to spend time with, a grandchild, (cutest little tornado ever!) aging parents, a fiancé, (also a bit needy), and oh, one other minor change—single motherhood.
Life got crazier for sure, but it also got more laid back. And that is where I think—I hope—I am better.
I have learned what is important. I fail constantly. But I pick myself up, straighten my tattered crown, and start again. Each time reminding myself that the children want a happy mom, not a stressed mom creating a perfectly planned world.
One of the greatest blessings of a large family is you learn lessons and hopefully keep improving. You get a bit of another chance with the younger ones. My older children love to remind me of how much stricter I was with them. Sorry, guys.
I’ve learned that the kids and I won’t remember what cookies I brought to the school program or what they wore. They possibly won’t even remember the program at all. Hopefully what they will remember is my presence. Not that specific evening, but in general, a comforting presence.
When I was the “young” mom, I felt I needed to prove myself constantly. I worried about what everyone thought. Sure, the kids were dressed in matching outfits, and I wouldn’t dare bring store-bought cookies anywhere—but I wasn’t really all that happy. I was too busy worrying about how my family looked to everyone. Now I just don’t care. I haven’t become lazy. I just care more about who my kids really are, and who we are as a family. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
I enjoy their personalities and want them to make their own life choices. I miss fluffy pink dresses and big hair bows on my daughter, but she likes skinny jeans and Vans shoes. What did I expect? She came from me.
When my son looked at me that evening and said, “Mom I am really uncomfortable in this sweater.” I gave him a knowing smile and said, “Just go without it.” He returned the smile and looked so relieved. That warms my heart. It is tough enough being the awkward age of 13. I want home to be a safe haven where my children can relax and be themselves. I want them to look at me when they are 10, 20, 30 and know I understand and love them no matter what.
More than anything, I want them to know I love them exactly as they are! I have no expectations except that they live their lives on their own terms. Then I will know I have done my job. It is such an honor to be that person in their lives. I absolutely cherish it.
Christmas break is coming up and I can hardly wait to have downtime with the kids. I have no great events planned. I just want to enjoy the simple, comforting moments as they sleep in, relax, and giggle in their safe place. No pressure. There is enough of that in this world. It is my job to train them up, but also to just let them be.
One last thing, chocolate dipped Oreos are fabulous and I highly recommend them.