I sat on the floor of my baby girl’s room yesterday and cried. I don’t mean a sniff sniff wipe your nose kind of cry, I mean a sob into this blue smocked dress kind of cry.
When that kind of crying happens, there’s usually a few reasons behind it:
- I’m hungry and trying to starve myself.
- I’m tired because there are four people sleeping in my bed.
- I’m sad over the failure of an expectation.
- All of the above.
In all likelihood, yesterday fell into the “All of the Above” category.
I’m trying to lose the fifteen pounds I’ve been carrying since circa 2005, so my usual diet of fruit loops for breakfast, bologna sandwich for lunch, a late day chip and dip while I watch Dr. Phil, and a nice sized supper and dessert (usually with a couple of beers or large glass of wine beforehand) have been replaced with what I like to call “the stuffing you find in your couch cushions,” AKA, lean cuisines and vegetables.
I love and dearly miss food. (Which is why I did not find it hard to just about single-handedly take out a king cake last weekend. I told myself I’d loosen up on weekends, but I failed to tell my mouth I didn’t mean loose enough to eat an entire king cake–or two.)
And I’m tired (and cold), which explains the crankiness towards eating healthy and the desire to just shove carbs in my mouth at a fascinating pace.
But the third one, that failed expectations thing, that was the one that got me.
It’s very easy for me to laugh with others about all the mistakes I made as a young mother. I can haha til I’m crying; but the truth is, there are some moments when real tears hide behind fake laughter.
To say it’s difficult to raise a child at a young age (honestly, at any age) doesn’t even begin to explain how hard it really is. Add a few obstacles like college and work and a new marriage, and wow, you are begging for trouble.
We expend a great deal of energy judging others, I’ve come to realize, strange, since I’ve also noticed how harshly many of us tend to judge ourselves.
Oh, you wouldn’t know it, because we openly discuss the pain of everyone else while doing all we can to shield our own issues from a watching world.
For example, I had no problem chatting with a woman at the Kroger the other day about the little boy missing in Tennessee, but when she scolded the parents for not keeping an eye on their child, I sure didn’t speak up and mention the time my little blonde haired, blue eyed boy broke Alcatraz (AKA our front door) and wandered off early one morning.
We’ve all made mistakes.
There but the Grace of God Go I. I’ve never liked that saying, and only after I had children did I understand why. It’s a harsh statement, I think, for it conveys a certain tone of, “I got blessed but you didn’t.”
I also like to call this, “God likes me but he doesn’t like you.”
Your child is “special” and mine is “normal.”
You lost your daughter in that crash and mine survived.
Your husband left you and the kids but mine is still here.
You got pregnant but I avoided it.
That last one; that’s mine. And I had someone tell me that once, There but the Grace of God Go I, as if having a baby out of wedlock ought to be worse than death.
I wouldn’t say I was proud to be pregnant, but I sure wouldn’t say I was devastated. I honestly wouldn’t say I was anything at all; I had more pressing things to consider than what people thought of me.
Still, the consequences borne from any situation not made after careful contemplation is that a lot of the things you would have hoped for and wanted don’t always come to fruition.
This smocked dress. I pulled it out of the closet yesterday.
I remembered the first baby girl I bought it for; she wore it a total of one time. (Which, by the way, is more than the second baby girl wore it.)
I remembered when Clayford finally started earning enough money for me to be able to buy smocked dresses. We had been so “poor” (we have never been poor) that about the only clothes we could afford were the clearance rack of Old Navy or anything we could stick on a Dillard’s card with a $500 limit.
To me, that smocked dress represented more than a dress. It was my way of “moving up,” of becoming the picture on the Christmas card I wanted everyone to see. It was my strange way of proving that my family was just like all the others, that I knew what I was doing.
I was not crazy for feeling this way, I now understand.
Even older and experienced moms have these “markers,” these tangible items or to-dos that make them feel like “better” mothers.
The right house in the right neighborhood.
The certain brand of clothing.
The social club or travel team.
The right small group.
The perfect set of friends that you just know your child would have chosen by themselves had you not helped them along. (That’s our job right? Wrong. But that’s one I’m just learning myself, so I’ll save it for another day.)
I didn’t want my children to pay for my mistakes. That’s what I now understand about my younger self that I didn’t understand at the time.
I look back and remember more than a few off-handed comments made by people who definitely had no clue what our life was like and probably didn’t realize what they had said.
And I’ve learned you have to forgive people even when they don’t ask for forgiveness.
But the person I have to forgive most these days is myself.
I have to forgive myself for all those days I beat my head against the wall, frustrated that I couldn’t know or be something—anything—that would ensure my children’s success.
I have to forgive myself for not knowing that this is the impossible part of parenting, the cruel catch the doctors don’t tell you as you’re holding your bundle of joy.
You won’t be able to predict this child’s future, they should tell you. You are going to want to do everything you can to make sure they have a perfect, happy future, and in the end, you might just fail.
I have zero clues when the light bulb turned on in my head.
I think by the time I had my younger two babies I was older and wiser. I was beginning to know myself and understand what I really wanted, not the smocked dresses and the social clubs and the, “My
child life is better than yours.”
What I wanted were children who didn’t grow up scarred from a bad childhood. I wanted children who were confident enough to walk the halls of school unafraid that they would be tormented.
I wanted children who would not have the slightest doubt their mother and father deeply loved them, would move Heaven and hell to have them secure in that knowledge, so secure they could set their feet anywhere in this world and never question that simple fact.
There isn’t a smocked dress in the world that can do all that. Nor is there a mother, really.
I can’t promise there won’t be events in my children’s childhoods that will leave them hurting, things like death, illness, unemployment, or war, God forbid.
I can’t make every person in their schools love and adore them. I can’t be confident they won’t make their own mistakes, mistakes that might just hurt or embarrass our family.
But that last one? The moving Heaven and hell?
Oh yeah, that’s all me.
*Truth be told, what got me yesterday was packing up all the little smocked dresses this big girl tomboy will never wear. I cried because my last little gift is six years old, and the time is flying by faster each year. Hang on to the present, Mamas. It’s where you find joy.
UPDATE: They have found little Noah’s body. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.