During my college course SMAD 256: Principles of Advertising, our professor organized us into groups and we competed to have our campaign chosen by the University Health Center. I will say that the class was challenging and a little stressful, but in a fun way. Once, as my group (which happened to be comprised of all women) met to brainstorm logos for our “agency,” one woman confessed, “Guys, I don’t know why I’m doing this. All I want to do is be a mom.” I remember looking at her wide-eyed, shocked. I was thinking two things:
- Great. I want to win, and I have a group member who isn’t up for the challenge.
- Who just wants to be a mom?
Here’s the thing. I was 20 years old. On the one hand, I had a lot of years behind me; but on the other hand, I knew so little. Also, I was a very serious student.
I’m kind of a serious person, too.
Check out this “Facebook Memory” from 2010. The three friends on the left have beers. That’s me off to the side a little bit with a book. There are similar versions of this photo throughout my childhood. (Uh, minus the beers. But with the book.)
Over summers during college I worked at Camp Hanover as a counselor. Early-on, I was assigned to lead a group of young elementary-age kids. I had to learn how to communicate with them. Initially, I would talk to them, and they would look at me with sweet confused, glazed-over eyes.
They had to break me in.
I didn’t immediately have that “knack” with kids the way some people so clearly do. But, I showed up and loved them. I did my best to be silly, and I did my best to bring out the best in them. Over time, I got sillier and sillier as the situation called for. On my desk at work I have a picture of me with two of my youngest campers, the three of us covered in mud. It’s there to remind me of those wonderful summers–and to lighten up.
Kids love silliness. It’s so good for them. It helps them get outside of themselves and take on a certain lightheartedness, a joyfulness. I see this a lot in Lincoln when my sister comes to town, because she is very good at silly. When Lincoln is around people who know how to be silly, his own natural silliness comes out. It’s adorable to watch. I also see this when Bryce wrestles with the boys. They’re always giggling.
I often feel as though my “default self” wasn’t really made for wrestling and silly songs. It was made for sitting in a coffee shop, reading.
Furthermore, I’m not sure my default self was made for household organization, baking, putt-putt, card games, or bowling. I do these things because they’re relationally productive.
But, I am good at nature walks and painting. I am good at managing creative projects. I am patient. I like to speak truth to my boys. I am good at hospitality (the friendliness part, not the baking part).
Where am I going with this. Here is where I am going.
Even though I am not the most silly, fun, and organized mom–and even though thirteen years ago I couldn’t imagine “just being a mom”–I know I have something to offer. Even when I am exhausted, I do a lot of showing up. God is good, and I get a lot of wisdom for the moment and strength for the bedtime routine.
When Lincoln was younger, before Hyatt was born, all I wanted to do was hang out with him. In the evenings when I got home from work, I was so disappointed if he was tired and we had to put him to bed early. On the weekends, I didn’t want to share him with family members. (I mean, I let them hold him and all, but I was jealous.) It wasn’t a working-mom guilt thing; it was a love thing. A new-mom thing. A wonderful thing.
As it happens for many parents, between work and Lincoln, a lot of my hobbies and interests went on pause. When we had Hyatt, it was a double-pause.
Over time, I started feeling…lame. Not lame like “Oh, I wish I were more organized or liked bowling or knew more silly songs.” Lame like, “Hmmm, maybe it’s okay for me to have interests? Maybe those people who say make sure to make time for yourself are onto something?”
I started cooking again. (Cooking for fun, with a glass of wine, not just cooking for utility.) I signed up for a running group and set up childcare. (Thanks, Dad!)
Then two weeks after I joined the running group, whoops, I got the breast cancer diagnosis.
Hmm, so much for becoming un-lame?
Last week, after my third cycle of AC, I slept A LOT. The fatigue is increasing. On Saturday night I went to bed at 8:30 or 9. On Sunday morning Lincoln woke me up at 6:30 a.m. I went for a 30-minute walk. I sat on the sofa, assuming we’d go to church as a family; but I fell asleep until 11 a.m. Bryce took the kids without me. And if I remember correctly, I also took a nap that afternoon.
There are parenting days when showing up is all you can do. You’re discouraged, you’re lacking peace, you’re not very silly or fun. You’re wishing you could break out old records and just listen to John Coltrane all by yourself. You’re wondering if you were cut out for this. You’re completely exhausted from single-parenting or too much working. But, you show up for your kids because you know you have something to offer them, and it isn’t just about you.
But, what about the days when you can’t even show up–when the best thing for everyone is for you to just embrace your own frailty and rest? Because, you are not well?
We live in a world where things are not 100% secure, and just showing up isn’t always good enough. Some of us have been laid off or fired. We’ve been broken up with, replaced. The fragility of our situations has never been more true to me than it is now. It can be scary around here, brutal sometimes.
On top of that, our own thoughts can be scary too. It’s easy to believe lies we’re told.
And yikes, we can get cancer.
As a mom before cancer I struggled with Proverbs 31 because I couldn’t see myself the way Jesus sees me. I saw myself through lame-colored glasses. Even though, was I waking up early? Yes. Was I taking care of business for my family? Yes. Did I go about my work vigorously? Yes. Was I bringing my husband good? Yes.
Things are becoming clearer now.
And when I check on my kids before I go to bed, they’re beautiful, frozen in motion like fossilized dinosaurs. My heart is touched, and the self-doubt and busyness calms down.
I’m thankful on the REAL “Mom is Lame” days–the blame-it-on-the-chemo-days–Bryce and the boys are letting me just show up, or, when necessary, just go lie down. And they’re letting friends and other family members provide extra support.
I’m even thankful for Bryce upstaging me constantly with his silly wrestling and general lightheartedness.
Proverbs 31: 25 (NIV)
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
Great is Thy faithfulness.