|Mary Cassatt, "After the Bath."|
It was Monday. At breakfast, Fairy Girl suggested we do something extraordinary with the day. All I wanted to do was clean house after the playful neglect of the weekend, but I racked my brain trying to think of something that would qualify as more than ordinary. That's right, the yarn shop. An old two story factory full of everything fiber related. That sounded fun, and just down the block was a coffee shop the kids had never been to. Wouldn't that qualify?
Two hours later as we head toward the shop, I realized it's time to eat and proceeding to the shop with four hungry kids was asking for meltdowns. To be honest, I would probably meltdown faster than the kids, but it was their stomachs I was thinking about. I stopped at Chipotle. Found a table. The rest was a blur of impossible acoustics, bad service, food refusal by the four year old, asking stares from other customers, and BAM, mama was in no mood for an extraordinary day! Back in the car with the two youngest crying frustratingly from my embargo on chocolate milk, and the boy announcing triumphantly that he didn't want to go to the yarn shop anyway, I gave in to the pressure. That is, the pressure you feel when you have more than 2.5 kids, out in public during school hours. The pressure to make your counterculture family look shiny and perfectly coordinated.
I started explaining this to anyone not crying and willing to listen in the back of the car (Fairy Girl). In our culture there are people who don't like kids. There are people who think they should be in school and not out and about living life at large unless it is a holiday. Even then, children are seen as a temporary nuisance that will soon be back under control by public and private institutions. Like it or not, we are ambassadors for homeschoolers. Yeah, I know toddlers and preschoolers shouldn't be held hostage to any idea like that. But I just don't want to give those naysayers anything to say about us. Ugh. Then I explained how I didn't want to care about naysayers because I really like our lifestyle and I believe what we are doing is beautiful and good.
I am almost thirty-six and I am still learning to throw off societal expectations. You know, be the family no one suspects of going against the grain because we look so normal and non threatening. I do my part not to dress in denim jumpers or let my son wear snow boots year round. (That really bothers some people!) But could my children please be the paragon of cooperation when we are in public, even if it's developmentally inappropriate to expect?
Fairy Girl said, "You have given me a lot to think about. About stuff I never really considered." I replied, "well that's why I am bringing it up." But I was guilty. I was feeling so hypocritical. Conform, don't conform, resent it, fight it, but still service it? What's up with these insecurities? Mama needed to sort things out.
A couple of miles later while I was still feeling like a bag of poo because I was wrapped up in appearances, Fairy Girl asks, "Mom, what are your top priorities for your time on this planet?"
The brakes in my mind screeched. Yeah, my current thoughts were definitely not lining up with what I would say are my priorities in life. I fumbled to find words. I got something out like, "that's a really important question," still trying to buy time. But then she jumped in first.
"Mine are: making my Mom and Dad proud, helping others, and doing the best I can with what I have."
My eyes welled up. Bubba interjected something and my chance to respond disappeared. All I could think was, "I am humbled. How beautiful are her intentions! But I hope she doesn't live her life to try and make me and Grant proud of her. We are so full of flaws and, as I demonstrated thoroughly today, insecurities that I hope really hard don't thwart her true calling." I have baggage and I don't want to pass it on to my kids. They are hard-wired to learn everything they can from us. We've got to hold the space for them despite ourselves. The spiritual journey of parenting transforms us if we allow it. I want to be an authentic Mama. I thank God for sending Fairy Girl to remind me.