Heavy Mettle

I am staring in the face of a hair appointment tomorrow – and I may have to bring the girls with me (YIKES!) Made me remember that I never posted my Mother’s Day article for SHE.

I knew better. I KNEW BETTER. But I did it anyway.

Chris was out of town, and I was feeling ambitious. I committed the unthinkable. I committed myself to an afternoon of appointments and errands with my six and three year-old daughters. I knew better. I realize that to some of you that’s no biggie, but to me it was a ghastly adventure.

I ran over people at Carson’s school to snatch her up and dash to a hair appointment across town at 2:30. Thanks to my turn on two wheels into carline, we were actually a few minutes early for our first appointment. Both girls sat angelically to have their locks shorn, and that, my friends, was the high point of the afternoon. After a potty visit and some quick check writing, we barreled to another section of town for a 3:00 visit with our dentist – where Carson and I were having our teeth cleaned and checked.

In my own utopia I had imagined that Carson would go into her own exam room, and we would be cleaned and examined simultaneously. Of course, Campbell would perch still and silent and watch with grave interest as I was the patient. Okay, so that didn’t happen. Carson was called before I was, so she finished just as I was getting started. She joined her sister in the room with me, and to say that there were way too many Cawthon girls in one exam room would be a gross understatement. I lay back, stretched my mouth open as wide as I could, my dental hygienist (if you are reading, I plead for your forgiveness! I learned my lesson, I promise!) began inserting her instruments into my mouth, and the melee began. I started to sweat and pray for a speedy cleaning. Campbell began beating on the foot of the dental chair, causing my head at the opposite end to bounce a little. Carson began to totally unpack my purse while wearing the requisite attitude that accompanies my obnoxiously large sunglasses. Then they began to fight, push, and argue over my personal belongings. My dear hygienist tried to ignore the fray, and I tried my hardest to teleport to another continent. No such luck, so I halted the cleaning, sat up, and informed both of my precious ones that certain punishment awaited them in their very near future. They were at least tolerable for the remainder of the visit.

So I slunk out of the office wearing mortification like a weighty backpack and loaded my offspring. Acknowledging that I was at least partly to blame for attempting such an asinine afternoon, I refused to sink even lower in my own estimation by picking up fast food for dinner. We proceeded to the grocery store. Okay, I’m not completely an idiot; I issued the standard lecture in the car before we disembarked. I reminded them of their looming consequences – which proved to be a tactical error – and off we went. Somewhere half way through our shopping, they threw all caution to the wind and embraced the certainty of their punishment. We were a sight! Without an ounce of brain power or dignity left, I grabbed only the bare essentials for our dinner and breakfast. All else would have to wait. I pulled into a checkout line and exhaled, knowing the end was near. If I can just get home I’ll be okay, I thought. At about which time, Campbell, who is seated in the spacious part of the cart, leans over and puts her hand on the cart in front of us and bellows quite loudly, “MOVE IT, LADY!” Oh no she didn’t.

Oh yes she did.

The lady turns around and replies, “I would if I could.”

“CAMPBELL CAWTHON, YOU APOLOGIZE TO HER RIGHT THIS MINUTE!” I declared with my head shaking in fury and shame; it threatened to make a few complete revolutions as my ire intensified.

“Oh, she’s fine. I have grandchildren their ages, and you just need to enjoy this time while they’re young.” Sometimes, easier said than done, sweet friend (if you are reading, I plead for your forgiveness! You are an angel, and I so appreciated your gracious response and your sense of humor!).

Somehow I made it through the next couple of hours and finally settled them into bed. Spent in every way, I flopped onto the couch and sat numb in the silence. What was that? I finally asked myself.

That, in all honesty, is how some days go for me as a mother.

At the end of some days, I feel like I did a pretty good job. At the end of others, I think I was just adequate, and then at the end of a few, I cry.

It’s hard.

When we trade in that high-dollar purse for a big, bulky though highly functional diaper bag, we need room to carry a lot more than diapers and wipes and bottles and pacies. We need room to shoulder the universal guilt of being a mom. We feel guilty if we work and are away from our children most of the day. We feel guilty if we stay at home and find it difficult, tedious, and sometimes even unfulfilling. We might also need to haul our exhaustion, our caffeine addiction, the extra weight we’ve gained from running ragged, our tears (happy and not-so-much), our embarrassment, our impossible expectations for ourselves, and sadly sometimes even our own judgment of each other. What a load!

But that’s not all. We also need room for all of the awkwardly spelled love notes and the brightly colored pictures. We need a separate compartment for the tears we dry, the boo-boos we kiss, and the snapshots we cherish of them sleeping, smiling, or performing when they don’t know we’re watching. We need to tuck their wet dog smell in a side pocket to help us remember spring afternoons spent running in the sun; we want to capture their tight squeezes around the neck in a zippered pouch, and there needs to be a special canister in the side that can be filled with their laughter.

I absolutely love being a mommy, and I wouldn’t trade a solitary second of my time spent with my girls. But it also often feels like a Herculean task. I find balance between the difficult and delightful in the reality that motherhood is meant to change me as much as it is meant to change my children. I find beauty in that.

The Spiritual Benefits of Tom and Jerry

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