Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Carpet Bag

You know that mom with the matching purse and diaper bag?
The special matching diaper pad and color coded deodorizer pellet that ensures her days are beautifully organized and lavender scented. No smelly days for this one. You know her, or at least you've seen her.  She’s got a perfectly proportioned organic snack in her BPA  free container and she’d love to tell you all about how she is simultaneously saving the earth and commanding respect from her young brood.  I know this lady, and as much as I’d like to say she is as deep as a pudding cup (jealously has so many shades of ugly)….she is usually quite lovely.
She might even be crafty….which makes it even harder to be her friend. She actually does have her shit together- or so she projects.
This is not me.

I used to want to be this mama, or this image I should say. Make it look easy. The “Not only can I do it all, but it is so easy for me.  I can show the world how natural it is to mother, how beautiful it is to mother”.   I thought that if I could “master” it, I would be giving the role its due.

My version (and I do believe there are many successful versions of parenting) does not fall within the Vera Bradley handbag system metaphor.

Mine is beautifully, sometimes disastrously, messy.

Think Mary Poppins’ disheveled sister. 

There are times when I’m quite certain I may be able to reach into my carpet bag and pull out a miracle…maybe even a lamp shade or two.  Certainly, three of the food groups are at my disposal at any given time. A macaroni necklace. An overdue book notice. A flyer on karate classes, a sketchy looking “unused” diaper…..and if I’m lucky, a tube of lipstick with the tip gnawed off. Never cash.  Never that helpful quarter that could aid in a vending machine distraction as I try to pay the cashier with my insurance card.

Somewhere around baby #4, I had to rethink my criteria for “successful” parenting.

For us, successful isn’t always pretty. Ok, rarely.  Ask any cashier at Target.  I have actually sat down in the middle of the checkout lane with a kid on my lap and “waited” for the needed calm before moving towards the door.  I have dodged, yes dodged, boxes of tampons being chucked in my direction from a disgruntled  6 year old.  Had serious thoughts about running him over with my cart (when he threw down, tummy first, in front of the wheels) but then assured the concerned Target employee that I was, in fact, OK and didn’t need assistance to my van.  Subtle hint for me?

Successful doesn’t match.  There are some serious problems with “social justice” in our house.  We have a listener who needs 1 warning to comply with pretty much any request (God bless him) and then we have the stubborn-as-a-mule  darling who waits for the color blue to appear in my forehead.

Time outs range between comedy and horror….as he (see previous paragraph) is not afraid to launch the nearest vase, stroller, garbage pail or dinner plate for a request of attention.  Remove distractions/weaponry? Perhaps a Laundry Room? Welcome to an entire jug of Tide emptied on the floor.  Big personality, requiring BIG PATIENCE.

Frankly, there are some days I just pray to avoid an Emergency Room visit and days I swear out open windows while on route to that exact location.

It’s not always fair…..oh yeah, for them too. 

After what seems like a lifetime of beating my head against a wall of bricks, I have come to a new definition.  Success comes in the form of being present. 

“Mommy, listen to me with your face”, my four year old says.

And sometimes it means dropping the basket of never-ending laundry, by-passing the “soaking” sink, stepping over the uncapped markers that litter the mud room, and just being present for them.  Acknowledging the frustrations, joys, accomplishments and wonder that come with being fresh to this world. 

Hence the dirty purse.

I remember the first time I looked in the rear view mirror of my mini-van and saw it was FULL.  Of my own.  4 Kids: literally an army of chubby limbs and dirty faces.  Not a single one alike.  An overwhelming amount of responsibility.  Don’t even get me started on the expenses. 

And I felt so blessed. Deliriously tired, and unshaven…. but blessed.
Nope. No matching coin purses here.  But, in a way, a sticky reflection of my current role.

I try to have what we need, not necessarily everything we want.  I try to keep a little “magic” waiting to be discovered (who cares if the wrapper is “intact”) and the hell with that damn quarter……….