This Is What REALLY Happened on Our Family Vacation

Ah, summer.

As a stay at home mom you start to long for it sometime around April, when every thrill of waking at 6:30 in the morning for carpool begins to wane.

Working mothers say they also feel different during summer, as if everything is just a little more relaxed.

At least, that’s how it starts.

We make it through June fantastically, am I right?

Working moms feel like super woman because they’ve secured the sitters, the weekly camps, and the days they will take off to spend with their gifts.

Stay at home mothers live for daily pool trips and evenings of no baths because, hey, pool water. It disinfects.

Everything is smooth sailing until around July.

Sitters fall apart, the kids are sick of the pool, and we start to X off days until August. We would give anything for 6:30 and carpool.

Even before July, if you’re lucky enough you get to enjoy a family vacation. (The word lucky makes me giggle because we all know a mother’s job before vacation: washing clothes, packing clothes, cleaning house, loading cars, etc. etc. etc. Sound lucky to you? I didn’t think so.)

I feel very, very fortunate to enjoy trips to the beach because my husband has an amazing job that allows him to work there.

If he didn’t have that job, we wouldn’t have a beach trip. No doubt.

However, vacations always seem to bring out the worst in Team Overby.

We’re gravy for about two hours into any car ride. We’re singing Kumbaya and eating Cheetos and playing devices and listening to music and sleeping and life is grand.

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my favorite kind of car trips
Then someone has to pee. (Usually Bear.) And someone is angry that we have to stop for someone to pee. (Usually Ry.) And someone is complaining that someone else’s music is too loud. (Also Ry.) And someone is saying that their music has to be loud (Bubba) because two of the four siblings (take a wild guess) are fighting over the only phone that has wifi (and guess what phone, mine, of course), and now they can’t watch YouTube videos of grown adults playing games online. (I. Still. Don’t. Get. The. Fascination.)

Since that’s largely been our experience, and since my older two gifts are not huge beach people (blame my father—he told them right before their first trip that sharks would eat them if they stepped into the ocean), the last couple of times we’ve gone to the beach, we’ve only taken Bear and Nims.

If you know Bear and Nims, you know they are precious, perfect angels.

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have you ever seen such angels?
Just kidding.

Listen, I raised the first two like a Ninja. I was hell-bent on not having a soul accuse me of being a terrible mother in my twenties.

But something shifted inside me when I had Bear and Nims at 28 and 30:

My give a damn over what people thought about my parenting busted wide open.

So I wouldn’t say my last two children are tiny terrorists, but I would say they are headed in one of two directions: Leading a company, or leading a bank heist.

All kidding aside, these two have kinda been spoiled rotten. They have four people meeting their every need on a daily basis.

But I don’t think I really understood just how spoiled they were until we took a trip to the beach last week.

They complained about EVERYTHING.

They whined about EVERYTHING.

They fought about EVERYTHING.

Every moment wasn’t bad. It never is with kids. That’s how they fool you.

Your angels will swim together, laughing and smiling and playing games. The pool is full of rainbows and sunshine.

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moments before Bear started beating Nims with a life raft
You feel safe enough to remove yourself from the water, maybe even recline on a beach chair.

If you’re really feeling confident, you might even crack open a People magazine or a good novel. (Grab mine on Amazon! #shamelessplug #sorrynotsorry ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

And then you hear it: STOOOOOOPPPPP IT!!!

LEEEEAAVVVEEEE MEEEE ALLLLOOOONNNNEE!!!

GIIIVVVEEEE MMEEEEEE MYYYY GOGGGGLLLESSSS BAAAACKKKK!!!

MAAAAAMMMMMMAAAAAA!!!

For the first few minutes, you pretend you are not the mama they’re screaming for. It’s not your kids doing the fighting. That’s what I did, anyway.

But then you notice that one of your kids is now holding the other under the water, and since it’s your job to try to keep them alive and all, you’re forced to get up and deal with the situation.

So you return to the hotel, make them take a nap, realize they’re not going to take one, and give them back the iPad you swore they were losing because of the pool fight. 

They watch the YouTube videos, complain when it’s time to get dressed, but eventually do it because they want food and souvenirs that they know you will purchase because they’ll whine until you do. (And you know those will last about a day before they are lost or broken.)

You shop, they get a happy, they’re happy for about an hour.

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favorite beach buy: new kicks
You eat, they make it through the appetizer, then complain the rest of the evening. Your attempts to sneak off and enjoy a margarita (or just straight up Tequila) fail miserably.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because this is what happens:

You will post your vacation pictures on social media.

It will look like you had a fantastic time, because, duh, that’s what you highlighted: the good stuff.

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“Man, I look good, mama.” He really said that.
Someone will come across these pictures and believe that your vacation is different than their vacation. That you somehow lived in a blissful state of relaxation while everything I mentioned above happened to them.

I wrote this because I want you to know that you are not alone, mamas. Vacations are wonderful, but they are hard.

Children are a joy, but they are a pain.

Mothering is a nightmare at times, but it’s an amazing experience.

Marriage is—well—I’ll keep this post about parenting.

And all of those feelings exist at the same time, and that’s okay.

My vacation taught me something about my own behavior:

My children often mimic what I do, what I say, and how I behave, even when I don’t realize they do—ESPECIALLY when I don’t realize they do.

All that complaining? Guilty.

Being ungrateful? So, so guilty.

Bickering? Well, it’s no secret that Clayford and I are in a struggle right now, even as we post happy pictures like the one below.

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happy moments
But you know what? I’m still going to post the good pictures, the happy ones.

I’m still going to post the pictures of my kids behaving, and I’m going to celebrate the moments because life is too short and too hard not to live for the good. 

Of course, we had a few of those too, good times where my babies were so content, so grateful and so happy.

At the beach they remained in awe of the waves and splashed and played forever. (Until Nims started screaming about sand being up her hoohah and I had to explain that we were literally sitting on an entire beach made of sand and there was nothing I could do about it.)

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can handle sand for exactly ten minutes
At Baytowne Wharf (our favorite place), they high-fived each other over jumps made on the trampoline and heights reached on the sky tower. (Except that Nims couldn’t flip and Bear couldn’t reach the top and they were both royally ticked over it.)

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who doesn’t love a ten dollar sno-cone?
Yes, there were happy, wonderful memories, mixed with some everyday pain-in-the-butt stuff we all go through in families.

So that’s what really happened on our vacation.

And if it’s not your experience, consider yourself one lucky parent.

Just don’t tell me about it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

What’s at the End of Your Rope?

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Scene from Steel Magnolias
There’s a scene in the 1989 drama Steel Magnolias where Shelby’s father, Drum, is fussing with his incorrigible neighbor Ouiser over a Magnolia tree dividing their properties.

Drum had cut flowers from the tree to use as pool decorations for his daughter’s wedding reception, and Ouiser was less than happy about it.

I am just about at the end of my rope with you, Drum Eatenton, Ouiser says after she’s exhausted all her fight.

Well then, why don’t you tie a noose and slip it ’round your head? he replies, laughing.

Have you ever come to the end of your rope and realized the place it stopped was your feet?

Have you ever thought that the only option left was to slip it ’round your head?

I have.

Not too long ago I had to admit two hard truths to my husband:

  • I was unhappy, and he actually wasn’t the problem, and…
  • I had lived 37 years never feeling intrinsically worthy.

For the past 15-ish years, I have been telling my husband that he makes me unhappy.

Easy to do. Not taking responsibility for our actions has been a human strong-suit since Adam and Eve ate the apple.

If it’s not your fault, it’s not on you to fix it.

But lately—especially since we moved to Oxford—victimhood has left me feeling a bit jaded. I can keep up a facade for ten days, but not eleven. I can continue to pretend I’m not to blame for my lack of joy, but only until I choke on my own words.

I’m unhappy because I’m unhappy. Not because Clayford, my kids, my parents, my past, old friends, family members or any circumstance made me that way.

I’m unhappy because it’s a habit. It’s wired into my brain. It’s a set point and I’ve been too lazy to change it.

But I’m also unhappy for an uglier reason, one that has shot poison into my body, soul and spirit.

I’m unhappy because for so long I believed my worth came from what I did, who I was, and what I brought to the table.

This is a lie from hell that has hovered around me nearly all my life.

I grew up in the suburbs of a city. In my community and the surrounding areas, there was a larger amount of money and status in comparison to the tinier towns and more remote places in my state.

Does this sound familiar? Maybe you grew up in a similar town.

A town where some families and children are known in a good way for what they have, what they do and what their last names are. Or known in a bad way for purposely seeking to be the opposite. Or not known at all because they fit neither of the above.

From reading my posts, it’s probably not so hard to tell where my family fell.

So even though I wasn’t specifically told to find my worth in doing, being or having, that was exactly what I gathered from all I saw around me.

I saw that pretty girls who dressed in the right clothes and did the right activities were liked.

I saw that boys who acted like men and played sports and wore a certain jacket were popular.

I saw that money, or the perception of having it, made all of the above possible.

And I saw that parents and teachers encouraged this, participated in it, and often schemed to make sure it happened.

I’m not judging a soul for this. I feel quite sure this same merry-go-round has been spinning since the dawn of creation.

But longevity doesn’t equal right.

However, longevity does mean that something probably won’t change anytime soon, and this same scenario happens in Oxford as in any other mid-sized, economically advantaged town.

Strangely, however, it never occurred to me that this was a false way to live until I was sitting at the Starbucks talking marriage with a friend of mine.

I told her some struggles Clayford and I had been dealing with.

When she asked me out of the blue if I felt worthy of having a good life, I said no, giving her a very solid list of all the ways I had no right to feel worthy of anything.

My past and present failures are great examples, I said.

She looked at me like I was crazy, and replied, I’m not talking about feeling good for having money or accomplishments, Toni. I mean, Do you feel good just because you are here and you are you?

This. Blew. My. Mind.

I knew in my head that one should feel valuable just for existing. I’ve even written about it before.

But in my heart?

My image of God and redemption has been so skewed for so long that the concept of worthiness has always seemed tied to doing everything right, having material ‘blessings’, and being graced with sheer luck.

Our greatest calling as humans—especially Jesus followers (love your neighbor as yourself)—is to make everyone feel worthy, because feeling intrinsically valuable helps you make good choices, choices that lead to feeling externally valuable too, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

I believe my lack of self-worth, as seeing myself as intrinsically valuable, has led me to do some pretty outrageous things.

I don’t need to vomit them on a blog post, but suffice it to say, I’ve looked for worth in a lot of wrong places, even places that seem good.

And I could wrap up this post all cute, but instead I’ll just tell you that this year has officially been titled “End of My Rope.”

I have zero clues where I’ll be come December. Every day feels like I’m peeling back layers of an onion and finding more and more rottenness underneath.

What about you?

Are you performing for value? Trying to sell something for money and success? Taking selfie after selfie for likes and comments? Living through your name or money or children? Hoping to be known for what you do as opposed to Whose you are?

Do you understand that you are entitled as a living and breathing creature of the Universe, created by a God who knit you together, to feel intrinsically worthy?

Do you know that no matter how long you live (or even if you had never made it here in the first place) your life is still incredibly valuable just because?

Maybe like me, you didn’t know that.

Maybe like me (and Ouiser Boudreaux, bless her soul) you’re at the end of your rope, and you’ve found it halts right where it started: YOU.

Don’t pick up that rope and tie it around your neck.

Burn it. Toss it. Get rid of it.

You don’t need it.

We don’t need to lasso value from other places.

It’s been inside us all this whole time.

It’s on you to know your worth.

It’s on me too. Any change I make, any happiness I accept, any trials I face, it’s my decision to pick which lens I see them through.

And for once I’m okay with that.

Because I’m starting to realize I’m worth it. ๐Ÿ˜‰