I had planned to post a photo of a dreamsicle swing today, but after watching Modern Family last night I’m just not in the mood for cute. (Another day, perhaps.)
I woke up this morning thinking I should change the name of my blog to Screaming at a Princess Party and write about the seamier side of motherhood. Like the time my 12-year-old asked me to waterboard him. It’s for a story I’m writing, he said. There’s no way I’m going to waterboard you, I said. Fine, I’ll do it myself, he said. He put a bath towel over his face, pulled the kitchen faucet sprayer out as far as it would go, and leaned backward over the sink trying to spray himself in the face. After a minute or so of watching as he contorted himself to get the full blast of water, I said, You’re doing it wrong. (Like I know the right way to do it.) Andrew leaned back over the sink while I sprayed water onto his towel-covered face. I think this is more of a spa treatment than torture, I said after a while. Mmm-hmm, he said, warm water cascading over him. Blissed-out though he was, I’ll probably leave this incident out of the scrapbook.
So the Modern Family episode I watched last night was about Lily’s birthday party. Have you seen it? Clare tries desperately to keep her cool through various trials but ends up, in her own words, “screaming at a princess party.” You can watch it here. Poor Clare. That’s her in the photo, screaming her head off. At a princess party. Life can be so darn messy.
There are blogs out there that explore the messy side of motherhood with a vengeance. You know from the moment you arrive at their site what you’re in for. They usually mention vomit or substance abuse within the first sentence or two. I move on quickly, feeling a little guilty for not being more supportive, but not needing more vomit (or substance abuse) in my life. At the other extreme are blogs full of photos of happy children frolicking in perfectly staged scenes while the parents look on, beaming, in a world where nothing bad ever happens and no one ever yells or says fart. “Staged” being the key word, I suppose. Sometimes I wish they would admit that the three-year-old had a screaming fit for having to wear a tie and the 12-year-old had to be threatened to get him away from his iPod. What a lot of energy it must take to maintain that image of perfection. I think you’d always be worried about being found out.
Somewhere in the middle is where I live. A close friend once said, half-jokingly, that she’s waiting for A Mom’s Year to have a bad day. Oh, there are plenty of bad days, believe me. As terrible of a mother or person as you think you are, you most likely haven’t yelled at a former orphan. I mean, what kind of person does that make me? And even on good days, there are plenty of things I wish I had done better.
I started this blog because I need to write and this seemed like a good way to carve out time to do it. Along the way, I’ve discovered that writing the blog makes me more mindful about my days. I summon the extra effort to have the kids make homemade ice cream in a bag because I want to share it with you. Not in a “aren’t we great?” way—truly—but in a “if we can do this, anyone can do it” way. And won’t we remember shaking bags of ice cream outside on a hot summer’s day more fondly than so many of those “important” things we allow to suck our time and energy away?
Even at the ripe old age of 43, I’m striving to find my balance. I worry that if I’m too messy, people won’t like me (or want to read what I write) and if I’m not messy enough, they won’t like me. Frankly, it’s exhausting trying to be everything to everyone. The truth is that when I try to please everyone, I please no one. Least of all myself. So why try so hard? It’s better to be a “good enough” version of yourself than a cheap copy of someone else, as the saying goes.
At the end of the day, I don’t really want to write an angst-filled blog. I want a happy place to escape to in those moments when the kids are fighting, piles of laundry and dishes are growing, and people are disappointing. It’s not about pretending or being dishonest. It’s about putting positive energy out there and believing that “this too shall pass.” Messes will be cleaned up, sorries will be said, but what will remain are photos filled with smiling faces, recipes for homemade playdough, and espresso granitas. I can live with that.
My Lily is having her birthday party this week. Things will get messy, I’m sure, so my goal is not to scream at a mermaid party. I hope I can do it.