The box of orange Tic Tacs landed at my feet with a splat.
As I bent down to pick them up, I met eyes that were the same color as the sky on a perfect summer beach day. I smiled and cheerily said, “Here you go,” and attempted to deliver the candy to a chubby little hand.
“No!” she screamed, wrapping her arm around her chest and turning her face away from me. “No, no, no!”
I quickly took a few steps back, returning to my place behind my red shopping cart as to not upset this little girl any further. Hell hath no fury like a ticked-off two year-old.
“I’m so sorry,” the young woman standing in front of me in line said. She grabbed the little girl by the arm while simultaneously trying to keep the pacifier in the mouth of a very tiny baby in its infant carrier. As the toddler continued to scream “no” in a variety of octaves, the wallet the woman was holding underneath her arm turned upside down, scattering credit cards and receipts across the floor like chicken feed.
“Abigail, please stop screaming,” she begged as she dropped to her knees just as the infant started wailing.
We locked eyes as I handed her an American Express and Starbucks gift card that landed underneath the candy display. “Really, it’s okay. We’ve all been there,” I relished the opportunity to act as the senior statesman, an upperclassman of Parenting University.
She sighed and offered me a half-smile. As she handed over her credit card to the teenager at the register, she hurriedly explained: “I’m not used to two yet. My daughter is waking up from her nap when she hears the baby cry, and then our whole day is messed up. She normally isn’t like this.”
“No judgment here,” I quickly responded. “Just the fact that you are out and about is impressive. It will get easier.” I wanted to offer encouragement and support, which I knew she needed in that difficult moment. Despite the screaming, her children were beautiful, and the little girl reminded me of my own daughter at that age—a mix of sweet and sour poured into an angel’s body.
“I hope so,” she replied, sounding close to tears as both children continued to squawk. “It just doesn’t feel like it will. I think I’m just exhausted.”
And that’s when I blew it. I broke a cardinal rule of the sisterhood of moms. I said the unthinkable to a new mother going through the worst of it.
Without even thinking, I blurted out: “One day you will miss all this.”
That’s when she looked at me, tired and exasperated, and with a pursed-lip obligatory smile yanked on her little girl’s hand and walked away.
“Wait,” I wanted to yell. “There’s more that I need to tell you!”
But she was gone. I was left holding a box of Tic Tacs, with a side of guilt the size of the Grand Canyon.
I think about that mom all the time. What could I have said to her in that moment? How could I have better explained the emotions that were surging through my head?
I wanted to tell her that even though she is feeling exhausted and alone, I am so jealous of her.
I am jealous of how each night she looks deep into her infant’s eyes and knows that she is the center of his universe. I would do anything to feel my baby’s little hand wrapped around my index finger just one more time, holding so tightly that you feel it in your heart. I am jealous she gets to experience those exquisite moments of the toddler years, where each day comes with a new first. I am green with envy that she gets to snap photos of her daughter wearing her father’s work boots while buck naked. I’m jealous she gets to be the recipient of pretend tea from of a pink piece of plastic, that she gets to feel a tiny hand on her shoulder in an attempt to make mommy feel better.
I want the last thing I smell to be the head of a freshly bathed baby, the most magnificent scent in all the world. I want to go back to the days where one kiss from me could make any boo-boo feel better. I want to see their faces the first time they eat cake, or meet Santa, or take those first few wobbly steps like a giraffe coming out of its mother’s womb.
I wish I could still carry my kids upstairs after falling asleep in my arms. I wish I could still buy frilly tutus and tiaras and magic wands that make dinosaurs dance. I wish I could read Goodnight Moon every evening and watch Baby Einstein every morning. I wish dirty little hands would tug on my sheets at dawn with little voices asking if they could get in bed with Mommy, all of us knowing that sleep was not an option.
I’m sorry, young mom. I blew it. I am just so jealous of what you are about to experience that I forgot how hard it was, too. What you saw were your two children disturbing the peace. What I saw were beautiful memories hanging on to a red shopping cart.
When I see you again, and I know I will, I won’t make it all about me.
I’ll say: “I remember days like these, but I would do it all over again for just one touch, just one smell, just one moment of what you have. No one tells you that these little creatures grow up into big people. People that grow taller than you, read the same books, and steal your shoes. They learn to take care of themselves, and sometimes even take care of you. They smell, and not always in a good way, and getting a hug is sometimes only the result of a compromise for returning their iPhone.
And one day, when you least expect it, you will be standing in line behind a very tired mom, and you’ll say something dumb, even though you know better. You’ll say something dumb because you realize that the sun has set on that part of your life, the part when your kids are little and needy and exhausting. You will be just a little bit jealous of that mom because you’ll see your past self in her, and you’ll realize there is no turning back.”
I won’t say you’ll miss these times one day.
But the truth is, you will.
This essay was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs.
I am in a funk this week, and not in a Bruno Mars Uptown kind of way.
I am stressed at things beyond my control — stuff in the grand scheme of life means extraordinarily little, but at this moment, I am agonizing over it. My mind tells me to keep perspective, but my heart races with the anxiety of the unknown. Insecurity seeps out of my pores and self-doubt runs rampant over every decision.
I am a balloon on the verge of bursting. If one more person blows hot air in my direction, I will explode into a million pieces.
Because of these feelings, I know I am more sensitive to criticism, even from sources not directed at me. I take every look, comment, or even lack of acknowledgment personally.
I am aware, yet it is difficult to control.
This weekend, I read an article that discussed the lack of authenticity and being genuine in the parenting blogging space. It wasn’t my type of article. I’m not into name-calling or belittling other people for their life choices.
The blog post in of itself did not get under my skin. What did surprise me, however, was the visceral response to it. There were cheers from people who say that blogging as we know it is fraught with fraud and inauthentic dribble. Too many people are jumping up and down on the Internet saying “Look at me! Read me! Look at how great I am!”
Others stood up in defense of blogging and their work. And for the right of every person to pursue something they love, whatever the reason.
I wanted to fall apart. It was the last thing I needed to get involved with at the time but like driving by a car accident, I couldn’t look away.
On one hand, I understand the point. When it comes to social media, networking and engaging with readers and other bloggers is critical to your success. I am involved with several groups where bloggers come together to support each other. We “like” each other’s posts and share articles and leave comments so Facebook will show our work to more people. Sometimes these are things that I care about, sometimes not.
On the other hand, why should I promote material that doesn’t speak to me? Why should I give an audience to things that don’t touch my heart or evoke an emotion? Why do I support people whose work I don’t always love or interests me? Why do they support mine? Am I a fraud, too? Is it all for nothing?
So, as I sit at the crossroads of self-doubt and a nervous breakdown, I ask myself, what is the point of it all?
And that’s when I looked over at the Essential Oils vaporizer sitting on my nightstand. The one I can’t use because the oils give me hives and irritate my eyes. The one I will not put away because I bought it from my best friend who has transformed her life over the past few years, and I burst with pride when I think about it. And I would rather cut off my right arm than see her not succeed, so even though I don’t always buy into her holistic way of life, I want to support her.
It sits next to the “World’s Best Mom” figurine that my daughter gave me three years ago that she bought with her own money from her school’s holiday shop, which of course I told her I loved even though I despise trinkets.
Underneath it is an essay my friend asked me to read. She wants to publish a story that is close to her heart. We both know it’s not good, but we are working on improving it because she feels passionate about it. My red-lined comments are tempered and filled with “love this part!” and “great line!” because I don’t want her to quit. I believe with hard work and my help she can create something great.
I admit that sometimes I am not genuine or one hundred percent authentic; but if not, it’s because I am trying to be something else, something that is even more important to me. I want to be kind and supportive and help someone else follow their dreams, just as my friends have supported mine.
And I will never apologize for that.
Life riddles with insecurity. Sometimes we have thick skin and a rebellious nature that allows us to shed people’s opinions — or what we believe they think of us — with ease. For others, our hearts are wrapped in a weighted vest of self-doubt that often plays tricks on our minds.
We see it in moms that believe every missed event, every misplaced sock, every Lunchable packed is symbolic of failure. We see it in dads that view their kids’ athletic success as indicative of their self-worth. And we see it in bloggers so desperate for affirmation they forget the reason they started their blog in their first place.
But we all have choices in this life. For some of us our hearts speak so loudly that the only way to live life is only to be true to yourself.
And for others, we search for the delicate balance of finding ourselves while grabbing the hands of others along the way.
Maybe neither is wrong, but I’ll be the one with my arm stretched out.
Just let me know if you need my hand.
I despise the fact that I sometimes have to tell my daughters to go change because her shorts are too short or her leggings too tight or her shirt rides up too high. I do not for a single moment want to be the source for why she is uncomfortable in her body. But I also need her to be aware that — whether I like it or not — what she wears matters.
So despite all the other noise from social media and video games and friends, I will make sure she knows she is enough, exactly as she is. And then I’ll ask her to put on a new pair of pants…
I am now a regular contributor to a lovely parenting site named Her View from Home. I’m up today discussing the wardrobe war, which is killing me, battle by battle.
Too Sexy, Too Young
I watch my daughter walk into the room with her long, straight chestnut hair swaying side to side. I love watching her enter our kitchen each morning.
At ten, her sense of self is strong. She knows how to put together an outfit and creates just the right hairstyle to go with it. I am always impressed with her ability to match her older sister’s fur vest with a pair of leopard leggings or a jean jacket with a plaid skirt meant for the holidays. She does not get this trait from her style-challenged mother, who has worn her hair the same way for nearly two decades.
Her greatest accessory, however, is the confidence that exudes out of her tiny frame. She walks with her head held high as her voice booms against the walls of our home. She is a force.
I see her from behind as she bends over to pull out a waffle from the bottom of our freezer. When she stands up, I notice her shorts don’t move much. They lay perfectly still, roughly one inch under her buttocks. I think to myself that J-Lo would be envious of that perfect bum.
But then I remember that she is in fourth grade and not on a tour with backup dancers.
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