I’ve managed to avoid writing a full-fledged mommy-blog post thus far but I fear, today, the straw broke this camel’s back. Today is the long-awaited Royal Banquet at K’s school. Despite my multiple attempts to get her to dress as a King or jester or kitchen help, she chose to be…wait for it…a princess. The very first words out of her rather perfect little mouth this morning were “Should I wear the white tights or the pink tights with my princess dress? I can’t decide.” If you aren’t familiar with Kate, she’s a do-it-herself kind of gal. Her first nick name was “my do” because that was her mantra. (Somehow we skipped over the typical me-do phase but never quite landed on the grammatically correct I-want-to-do-it.) She was the first one dressed this morning. She was thrilled that today was a school day. She was thrilled that today she could be a princess all day. She was thrilled that she got her pink tights on all by herself (no mean feat for a 3 year old!) She was thrilled that life has given her a wide open day of whatever comes her way. That’s the way she rolls.
The other child I’m responsible for getting dressed, fed, and to school wasn’t exactly on the same page this morning. He is sensitive and cautious and persistantly wary of change. In his core he is a home body. He’d rather be at home, playing chess or monopoly or wii with his family than any place else in the world. Yes, even Legoland or Disney World. We know this because not even a month ago we offered him the opportunity to go to those places – not in a “maybe one day would you like to go to Disney World?” kind of way but in a “hey kid, let’s go to Disney world TOMORROW!” He politely and delicately declined. He didn’t want to hurt our feelings, of course, because he thought maybe it was something we really wanted to do. He suggested that maybe he could stay with Grandma and Grandpa and Greg and I could go and have a date at Disney. That is both one of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching things ever. He is one beautiful, heart-wrenching person.
I think, worry, dream, wonder about my kids all the time. Even when I’m in the heart of writing or teaching, my kids are always there, sitting front and centre in my mind. I can be in the middle of teaching chi square tests and suddenly I will realize that it’s recess at J’s school and he’ll be running outside with his friends just in that minute. That makes me smile, it makes me feel connected. To them and to the world. When I can’t sleep at night, I often think about what adventures I can dream up to keep Kate’s world moving at the pace she loves. And on days like this, when Jack’s heart is so unsettled about going to school, I wonder ad nauseum what the right thing to do is – do I maintain a hard line and push him into school every day or do I soften and say, “you do the morning at school, I’ll pick you up at lunch and we’ll hang out together this afternoon?”
Don’t get me wrong – I love time away from the kids. I love my career. I love my friends. I love who I am. But my heart is tied so fiercely to them that they are never far from me. And yet in this place where my heart feels and lives and dreams most deeply I find perpetual judgement – by me, of me.
Today I walked Kate into school, so proud to be walking beside this girl who had the world’s biggest smile on her face. Who held her head high. Whose first words inside were – every one looks so BEAUTIFUL! Who loves herself and her moment and her world fully. It was one of those moments when I thought “Oh God, can I just stay right here in this moment for a little longer?”
The answer, incidentally, was no. That moment came crashing down when another princess’s mother stepped up beside us. She set her big tupperware cupcake holder, complete with like 100 mini cupcakes, perfectly decorated, down beside the cardboard box that Kate was excitedly opening to show Miss Jen the cupcakes she had chosen at the cupcake store. Bless her heart, that mother could have been generous. She could have said to Kate – aren’t those lovely?! But no. Instead she said, “oh my, how nice that your mommy took you to the store to buy the cupcakes. We had to make all of ours last night! But I’m just one of those kinds of moms, always wanting to make things with my kids!”
This was a hard moment for me, folks. I wanted to commit an act (or ten) of violence. I wanted to shake this mother and say, “hey woman, don’t bring your judgemental garbage into my daughter’s world or mine. She and I are perfectly happy in our world where baked goods get purchased instead of made! And, by the way, I think you bought a pair of those see-through Lululemons!” In truth, the anger froze me. Because the anger was laced with guilt and shame and that deep feeling of inadequacy. Her words were like the early morning mirror we try to avoid until after our shower and coffee. She was right. I would probably be a better mother if I baked cupcakes with my three year old.
Kate, my hero, saved the day. She said (and I quote word for word) “those are beautiful cupcakes. But my mommy and I were busy last night having an adventure at the lake.”
And there you have it. The tupperware container had no coded message for Kate. The connotation that one activity was better parenting than another was lost on her. She was just thrilled that there were so many cupcakes. And that they were beautiful. Whether they were homemade or bought. The judgement didn’t phase her. It didn’t even enter her person. That’s an awesome way to live. I continue on my journey to that place.
As fate would have it, I had just written these words to a dear friend earlier in the week.
Motherhood is unlike any other role I’ve ever had. It is so easy to truly, truly believe that I am falling short in this role, that it is all a fraud. Like mega short, over and over again. I’ve been measuring myself against every mommy measuring stick there is. And along with that measuring comes immeasurable guilt! I long ago stopped feeding them only organic whole foods. I didn’t sign them up for all the extra activities because I didn’t want to fight Jack on it every single time. I’m not a fun, hip mom who comes up with fantastic home made backyard fairy castle parties. I gave up on only speaking French to them. I sent them to day care. I find it hard at some point almost every single day to be a mom. What kind of a good mom finds it hard to be a mom?? What kind of a good mom thinks about playing hide and go seek so that she actually has five minutes alone in the garage by herself because she knows the kids won’t think to look there?
Me. That’s who. I think I’m learning that those measuring sticks are bogus. What I want for my kids, more than any amount of ingested quinoa or mandarin lessons, is for them to be solid people. Solid in who they are, as they are, without feeling shame for their mistakes. I want them to be free and alive in their persons. I want them to know that they are worthy people. That they have great gifts to share (that they already share) with the world. That they are going to make mistakes in the process of living out loud. And that mistakes don’t take away or obscure their value but that mistakes owned only augment the richness of their lives. I want them to love fiercely – themselves and those who come into their lives.
When I look at my kids, I see that they are so far beyond excelling in these things. They are leaps and bounds ahead of me in being real, authentic, loving, free people. They of course deserve the majority of the credit for this. But somewhere in all of that, I must being doing somethings right as a mother. Even if they eat Kraft Dinner once in a while. And that is something I want to remember and own and keep working toward.
Kate will soon be sitting down to a plate full of home-made and store bought royal goodnesses. And Jack will be watching the clock, knowing that his mom will be picking him up at 12:25 so that we can hang out together this afternoon. And I will try to cram in a couple of hours of work this morning so that when the time comes, I can sink into the joys and challenges of parenting two kids with totally different road maps. Hoping that at the end of the day, we can all say – we were busy last night, having an adventure at the lake.
And P.S. If you happen to be looking for some kick ass cupcakes to purchase for your child’s Royal Banquet, we happen to be particularly fond of this little place in Montreal. Though if you wait too late in the day, the cupcakes may be gone!
P.P.S. This woman loves to make cupcakes. Who am I to take that joy away from her?!?!
P.P.P.S. The cafe is called Cocoa Locale and is located at 4807 ave du Parc